How are you feeling? This is often the question on everyone’s mind. It’s also the question nobody ever answers truthfully. Who wants to open that can of worms? It’s always the same.
“Hey, oh my gosh, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m good! How are you?”
“Good, good. … Alright, see you!”
The substance of these interactions is gold. As in gilded. As in seemingly valuable, yet actually worth nothing. People these days have neither the time nor the energy to actually tell each other how they’re feeling. But that’s okay. It’s okay to assume that we’ve all been better. We’re all sitting on a ghost campus, eating food out of cardboard boxes, waiting for — what feels like — the inevitable email telling us that Zoom is here to stay. Without the presence of our cautious optimism, things will begin to feel like fall 2020 all over again.
Don’t get me wrong — I had the time of my life during my first semester at Yale in fall 2020. Yes, all of my classes were over Zoom. Yes, every building was basically closed. And yes, it was to-go dining with no options and no portion control. But to be honest, what I remember most about that time are the people and experiences, not the endless hours I spent staring at my computer screen. I remember eating with my suitemates every day in the Branford College courtyard and running to East Rock. Just being there — online classes or not — was exhilarating.
But now … now that we had it all last semester — minus the masks and the performing arts restrictions — we can’t go back to the way things were. We didn’t know any better in fall 2020. I mean, how can you not love something inferior if you didn’t know what you were missing in the first place?
My friends and I made the absolute best of our situation, striving to find joy in a restricted world. One of my most cherished memories was my suitemate’s 19th birthday: we all walked to Long Wharf to experience the food trucks on the water. We somehow got lost multiple times on our way, but eventually, we reached the water and found ourselves at the end of the boardwalk. New Haven’s waterfront was definitely not the same as the beaches in Florida, but the pictures we took together were more precious than any landscape photo. The food truck lines were unbelievably long, but what mattered was that I was with the people I cared about. Spending that quality time with my suitemates outside of an academic context on a windy Saturday morning was more than I could ever ask for.
Fall 2020? The absolute dream. Fall 2021? Even better. Spring 2022? Who the hell knows? We’re not even a week into classes, and Zoom is already unbearable — no doubt the professors feel the same way. And not only do we have to use Zoom for class, but also for club meetings and rehearsals. There’s only so much our eyes and brains can take in a day.
However, what pains me more than the Zoom classes is the uncertainty about the semester as a whole. How much longer will these online classes really last? Supposedly only two weeks, but the verdict is still out. How much longer will the delightfully unoccupied residential college gyms be closed? Walking to Payne Whitney Gymnasium in the winter weather is tolerable, but the convenience of a college gym is wholly incomparable.
And let’s not forget about the elephant in the room. Will the to-go dining last? It’s gotten to the point where I’m eating a French toast casserole dinner outside on a bench in 30-degree weather. Thanks, Ezra Stiles College. It’s either that or walking all the way back to Vanderbilt Hall. And with classes starting, I’m starting to spend my days in the library — getting a meal to-go and going all the way back to Old Campus only to return to the library is inefficiency at its finest. It’s also such a pain when I forget to bring a bag to stuff my eight miniature cardboard boxes into, which I’ve done more times than I care to admit.
Yet, despite all of my frustrations, I couldn’t be happier to be back. Truly. When the semester was delayed, I even booked a different flight to New Haven on Jan. 14, two days earlier than I had originally planned. All because I missed everyone here. No matter the class, meeting or dining situation, nothing can compare to simply being with the people I care about at Yale. Dying of laughter with my suitemates in our common room about the most ridiculous things. Studying in the Egyptology room with my friends and then proceeding to not actually get any work done. Talking about life until insanely late hours on the deceivingly comfortable suite couches. Exploring the different areas of New Haven on my runs. Experiencing winter for the first time through snowball fights — one of my suitemates even dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night to watch the snowfall.
I’m not a difficult person to please. In the Camp Yale-esque week before class started, I realized that with the people I care about, I could be ecstatic doing absolutely nothing.
I can’t help but be nervous about what the future holds for this semester. However, with very little power to control this future, I am trying to just enjoy the life that I’ve built here at Yale.
So, how am I feeling? Slightly anxious about the time to come. Desperate for the betterment of the situation at Yale — and also the world. But overall — though this might be an unpopular opinion during these tumultuous times — grateful and happy to be here, COVID-19 restrictions and all. I know a lot of people are feeling deja vu at the moment with the recent increase in restrictions. It’s almost as if we’re back to where we started, and to a certain extent I feel the same way.
Yet, I’m not the same person I was a year and a half ago. My friendships are not what they once were: they’re deeper and more precious than I could have ever imagined. I’ve honed my interests and improved my health. I’d like to think I’ve experienced life and grown as a person since my first fall semester.
So even though Yale might seem to be the same restricted place it was more than a year ago, what I’m bringing to the campus is different. It’s somehow more comfortable, yet exhilarating in its novelty. It’s a new experience in a familiar place, and I can’t wait to see where we all end up.