Sophie Henry

He asks if I’ve finished the week’s problem set. I laugh. No. I don’t elaborate. 

We eat our last two slices of barbecue chicken pizza, fuzzy blankets tossed over our legs and sticky sauce dripping down our fingers. I leave the crust — not because I dislike crust, but because I should probably start that problem set. 

In truth, I haven’t even looked at the week’s problem set. I don’t want to think about the week’s problem set. I want to distance myself as much as possible from the week’s problem set. Better yet, maybe I can just pretend that the week’s problem set doesn’t exist. But I don’t tell my friend any of that when he asks if I’ve finished the problem set. I just say no. Not yet. 

Life at Yale (or, let’s be honest, life in general) is rather crazy and somehow, the week’s problem set always finds a way to make it into the very back of my mind. Every week, I manage to convince myself that there are bigger things to worry about. I should really be deciding on my major or thinking about future jobs or asking myself how many children I might someday want to have. By the time I’ve finished thinking about all that, it’s already Friday. And, well, I’m not going to make myself do the week’s problem set on a Friday. I guess I’ll just have to save it for Saturday. 

On Fridays, I try to forget the fact that I am not even remotely close to being the perfect Yalie. You know the one. The one who starts the week’s problem set on Monday, who has time to jog in the morning and eat a balanced breakfast and get to class five minutes early, who belongs to 10 clubs and two sports teams and seems to have it all figured out. The one who is not me. On Fridays, I try to forget that I may as well be the poster child for imperfect Yalies. Just remember — it’s Friday and on Fridays, we forget. That’s what I tell myself. 

By Sunday, I have abnormally large purple bags under my eyes — a massive waste of my new concealer. I haven’t showered since Thursday and my hair is a knotted mess. I could try to brush it, but then it would be a frizzy knotted mess, so I choose to leave it as it is. I tried to party on Friday night, until I realized that while everyone else was getting ready to leave, I was dancing alone in the middle of the room, shouting the words to my favorite song and jumping around with my arms in the air and making a complete fool of myself. Then I stopped. I hope the windows were closed and the curtains were drawn. I wanted to take out my trash on Saturday morning, but clearly the universe did not want me to take out my trash because just as I pushed open the door, I felt my phone vibrate. My mom’s contact filled the screen. I tried to sound pleasant — trash bag in hand, one foot out the door, listening to my mom talk about the weather — when the metal buckle on my shoe somehow managed to hook itself onto my trash bag. And before I knew it, the bag was sliced open and the floor was covered in old orange peels and crumpled-up pink sticky-notes and chocolate muffin crumbs and some strange brown liquid. Oh, and apparently my mom is coming to visit on Wednesday. I should probably vacuum. In case you were wondering, the week’s problem set was total hell and I want to forget it ever happened. And everyone should know that I am not at all prepared for Monday’s quiz.

This week is not an outlier. In fact, it’s the usual. Every week seems to be a wildly imperfect mess. Occasionally there’s some additional drama — snarky comments and angry glares and ugly crying and eventual forgiveness — if my friends and I are feeling especially emotional. Perhaps a bit of additional excitement if I meet a hot guy — before I find out that, of course, he is either taken or gay. Maybe a touch of additional anger if it’s snowing outside because while everyone else seems to find it absolutely beautiful, I hate the snow. I hate it with a passion. 

Sometimes, I almost think I have it under control. Things are crazy, but somehow I am happy amid the crazy, so maybe I’ve finally figured it all out. But just when I think that I might somehow be able to survive in this crazy chaotic happiness, something new and wild and totally unexpected happens — some mystery person knows my debit card number and used it to go on a shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret, the one boy who had piqued my romantic interest suddenly has a ginormous ego and my Instagram account has been hacked. Well, that’s life — that new and wild and totally unexpected and completely imperfect thing. I guess we can never really have it all under control. Because if we could, it wouldn’t be life. It would just be a beautiful daydream.

In the end, I think that being an imperfect Yalie is absolutely exhausting. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be a perfect Yalie. I suppose it would be incredibly awesome. But perhaps there’s some charm in being an imperfect Yalie too. Because sometimes, when you least expect it, you find some pretty perfect bits amid the imperfection. 

A best friend who will certainly laugh out loud — and make me laugh with him — when he sees my floor covered in old orange peels and crumpled-up pink sticky-notes and chocolate muffin crumbs and strange brown liquid. A benchmate in orgo lab who reminds me every week to turn the stopcock on my separatory flask before pouring in my yellowish chemical liquid thing. A professor who calls us every morning when we accidentally sleep in, reminding us to wake up and get to class. A soon-to-be roommate who lets me borrow her clothes and reminds me to shower because apparently we should get out and socialize.

And, although I still have to start this week’s problem set, we somehow find time to share those last two slices of barbecue chicken pizza. Maybe this time I’ll even finish the crust.

Rafaela Kottou | rafaela.kottou@yale.edu