I remember the week my sister left for college in flashes of memory. A red shopping cart pushed along a Target aisle, the patter of feet across a quad littered with amber leaves, dimmed lamps in a Mexican restaurant, blue bed sheets, a last supper, stuffed closets and tight hugs – each a different swirling shade of memory, distorted by the flood of tears that characterised our last few days with her. And despite that week’s overt, recurrent sentimentality, time rushed by as we clung onto the uncertain comfort of our protracted goodbyes.
For the past six years, motivated by the events of my sister’s departure from home, I publicly claimed that I wanted my own adieu to be drastically different. I proclaimed my desire to renounce any maudlin reminiscences of my first steps, my first day at school or any other celebrated milestone, hoping for a collective, albeit resigned, acceptance of the journey I was embarking on. And yet, as I reflect on the hurly-burly of my first few days at Yale, my previous pronouncements ring hollow and false.
It is impossible to open a new chapter without closing an old one, to say hello to new experiences without saying goodbye to old ones. And while crying furiously on the flight as you read a saccharine farewell letter to your best friend does not seem like an emotional state to aspire to, there is some catharsis to be found in the experience. Whether in the bright glow of hindsight or through the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia, saying goodbye allows you to reflect on the experiences and the people that have shaped your life and embark on new journeys with an unburdened heart.
And yet this year more than ever, the Class of 2024 has been deprived of the experiences that typify the transition from high school to college. High school graduations have been postponed, cancelled or truncated; “last suppers” and farewell dinners with friends and family have been limited by curfews, closures and confinements; and the joy of spending the last-ever summer in our hometowns has been eclipsed by the uncertainty of departure. How could someone say goodbye to home when they weren’t sure whether they would be back in two months or 10 months, whether they would get their visa in time to go to campus, or if they wouldn’t leave home at all? And then, if the cosmic jigsaw fell in place and they suddenly had a flight in two weeks, so much time would have slipped between their fingers that they had none left to say goodbye.
So, to my fellow new Bulldogs, here is my unsolicited advice, as well as a necessary reminder to myself. As you bask in the glow of a completed first week at Yale or prepare for your upcoming journey, find time to cherish the precious moments that led you here. Rewatch the last episode of your favourite TV show and tear up as you see Monica’s empty apartment, Luke’s diner or Wilson’s ride into the sunset. Band together your friends for a (socially-distanced) hike or virtual visit to high school to look at the place you called home once upon a time. Embrace your past and get ready to face the future as you ride the incoming wave of orientation, residential colleges, professors and friends you will remember for a lifetime and all the wonderful things that await us at Yale.
PRADZ SAPRE is a first year in Benjamin Franklin College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .