“-Hi mom! Ah yes, everything is perfect. Oh no, the food is completely fine, it’s just a bit different. Yeah, yes I feel like I’ve already adjusted. Classes? Things are a bit busy here, but I’m completely managing. Yeah I’m definitely having fun and spending time for myself. Nothing to even worry about, love you, byee!”
At the end of every FaceTime, I hang up with this pink world of perfection. But as I hear the beep sound, the reality of my endless to-do list sinks in. I pour the fourth mug of coffee that day. It’s 2 a.m…
Is everything really okay? Are we really completely managing? Or more importantly — do we really need to be completely managing?
Going to college has many costs financially, psychologically, and even socially. Choosing to go to college is a major decision, and with COVID, the stakes are dramatically raised.
As an international student from Turkey, this choice was even harder for me and my family. I have always wanted to get my college education in the US but it was only when my admission package came that my family realized their daughter was leaving. With America’s response to COVID, my family’s worries about sending me here only increased.
But despite their concerns and tears, they let me leave because of Yale. To my family, Yale seemed like this perfect place: where people excel at academics, spend time on their personal needs, work out, have fun, read for pleasure, go to parties, arrange trips, etc. A place where people are happy all the time.
I, too, believed in this fairytale. For many of us, college is a place where we “should” be doing everything we hope to do. We expect ourselves to get involved in various extracurriculars, be active in our friend groups, attend every social event, spend hours just having fun conversations, have the best academic record, and easily plan all our responsibilities. We want to change and grow, continually striving to be the best version of ourselves.
When people constantly strive for this illusion of “best college experience,” they end up acting happier than they really are. I understand the undeniable urge to appear as a burst of positivity. But this so-called happiness is a self-generated burden.
I did not realize this easily. Personally, and I am sure for many others whose families have given so much for them to be here, it feels like a responsibility to be at your best all the time. And because my home is thousands of kilometres away, all my family, friends, and neighbors are curious about my experiences and memories. They all want to hear how perfect everything is, not how I struggled to get my p-sets done. They wait for instances that prove how good of a choice I made and how their children should take me as an example of success. The downs are underestimated because we feel like no one wants to hear about those, even ourselves. Apart from all of this, I too want to make sure every checkbox of my ideal college experience is ticked off.
But while trying to pursue this artificial happiness, we do not realize that we are constantly rushing and trying to catch up a perfect life – something we don’t seem to be able to catch.
This past week, I saw clearly for the first time that I was trying to live in a pink bubble. I formed some sort of a protection mechanism –– I filtered what I said about my life here to my family and friends, and excluded or trivialized the challenges. But that’s exhausting. It is exhausting because you are trying to convince yourself of something that’s not real.
It is understandable to want to feel like we’ve made the right decision, and that we’re living the time of our lives: coming to college was a big decision for all of us. But negatives can and should be a part of our experience. After all, how will we learn and grow?
Everyone is so busy acting like everything is going just the way they imagined that they don’t realize the reality of what is happening. I understand why we may want to adjust our experiences in our mind, but we have to be real with at least ourselves. The easiest thing we can do is to make sure we understand the reality and not romanticize the problems. Grinding until the next morning is not a Yale thing, sleep deprivation is not an Ivy League culture, thinking about ten other responsibilities during class is not as okay as we might think. We should remember to take a moment and acknowledge what is making us stress out. How many many invitations did we say yes to, even though our schedules were screaming no? The first step to find a solution for a potential problem, or even a minor inconvenience, is to actively see the problem as it is.
There will be times when you will feel overwhelmed or down. It may have already happened to you, maybe it is happening as you are reading this or maybe you have a bit more time until you feel this. Things will feel like they’re not going the way they “should.” Relax — if it feels like things are out of your control, that’s actually the way it should be sometimes. Don’t put up a front, saying that you got this, because sometimes, you just don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Yale isn’t a pink world, it’s just not that pink. And that’s okay.
DILGE BUKSUR is a first-year in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.