A few things: my parents liked Ben Franklin well enough, but they absolutely adored the Beinecke and walkways on Cross Campus. They tried out Sherkaan and Basil and ultimately gave the edge to Ashley’s over Arethusa — I suppose the pictures of ice cream-licking dogs must have done it.

They crossed off all the usual touristy check boxes, too — gawking at the overpriced hoodies in the bookstore and walking off to see Long Wharf. Visiting Harkness Tower, then revisiting it. Taking an embarrassing number of pictures that either featured me, Theodore Dwight Woolsey or me standing beside Theodore Dwight Woolsey.

Still, family weekend was slightly strange. I felt the overwhelming relief and comfort of seeing three shadows trailing close behind mine. I was surrounded by loved ones after more than a month of meal swipes, room cleaning, laundry and classwork on my own.

Yet, I had always secretly craved independence. At some point in high school we must have each been guilty of entertaining fantasies about what self-sufficiency would look like, weren’t we? We celebrated our entrance to college because it meant the chance to indulge ourselves to pints of ice cream in the middle of the night without nagging parents behind our backs. We’d choose our own courses, purchase our own food and clothes and wield the control we deserved over our lives. Now, we’re the main characters in our own stories. We make all the decisions; we earn the audience’s full attention.

This isn’t just teenage angst and ornery. If anything, our country was plenty prone to egocentric individualism from the start.  It’s always the Tom Bradys and Lebron James, isn’t it, those billboard-sized superhumans single-handedly resurrecting franchises and perennially threading new championship rings through their fingers. The linemen? The frontcourt? Well, they’re statistics for SportsCenter data analysts to parse through come 11 p.m. We worship the outsized individual, since teamwork has no place in a culture of headlines and perfectly packaged stories.

But at Yale, individualism morphs all too easily into pride. Self-sufficiency blurs and blends to become self-obsession. Exceptionalism is the expectation: we’re lavished in praise from the very start of our schooling, as teachers and parents alike promise us that we’ll do something great. That we’re either budding politicians or future prize-winning scientists or to-be entrepreneurs destined for some measure of fame or future fortune. We can save the world. We can accomplish anything once we put our minds to it.  Me, me, me — that’s the tone and tenor to much of what we carry as we set foot on campus.

The effect is more neurotic than aspirational. So often those self-curated stories we tell ourselves do more to pigeonhole us in myopic measures of success than open our minds. It has to be about us, never-ending camera footage carefully documenting our honors, future six-figure salaries and that coveted trinity of finance, law and tech. A single bombed test becomes the end of the world. A botched essay is enough to shatter our professional careers. Our egoism constricts. It distorts, it blinds.

None of this should dismiss the fact that we are still very much the protagonists of our own lives, the ones worth rooting for. Old-fashioned hard work did punch at least part of our tickets to here, too. But when we streamline our stories and narrow the spotlight, we compress all the love, laughter, and life into 10-word blurbs or racks of accolades. We pin our badges to our own lapels at the risk of erasing the vast, colorful cast of characters that has accompanied us through all our growing pains, many of whom we don’t give enough credit to and even more of whom we’ve simply forgotten.

I still have the callus on the side of my middle finger to show for all the numberless afternoons my dad spent helping me guide my wobbly Ticonderogas across the surface of the paper. I can also probably find my first scrabbly sentences — something about favorite seasons and ice cream that my mom had written with me on the kitchen table — buried deep in my mess of a computer hard drive. And just before leaving for school, I’d uncovered my second-grade teacher’s Captain Underpants book sandwiched in the corner of my basement shelf. Somewhere deep inside us, in places we might not realize ourselves, we bear the marks of the thousands of hands that have guided us through our daily transformations.

It takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes a hug is enough to keep them — and all their love — along with us.

HANWEN ZHANG is a sophomore in Benjamin Franklin College. His column is titled ‘Thoughtful spot.’ Contact him at hanwen.zhang.hhz3@yale.edu