Cate Roser

As a sophomore in high school, I fell in love with the concept of liminal spaces while discussing the “Aeneid.” Those moments where the epic exists in the in-between — having just left one space but not yet having entered another — appealed to me in a way I can’t quite explain.

I remember the words that captured my imagination: “the wooden horse halted four times on the very threshold of the gate, and four times the weapons gave a noise from the belly.” If the Greek horse failed to make it past the threshold, Troy would survive. And if it passed into the city, Troy would be destroyed. We know how it ended, but for those four shudders back and forth across the city limits, the fate of an empire hung in limbo. 

I may not be invading Troy, but I’m experiencing a similar feeling of uncertainty. Relationships from last year changed over the summer. Some of my friends talk about career plans, but I’m not thinking that far ahead yet. I am much more comfortable here than I was last year, but I still feel quite inexperienced compared to the upperclassmen I know.

For my first week or so on campus, I found myself overwhelmed by my own feelings of liminality. They left me confused and tired and a little bit stressed. 

I tried going out more, but that just wore me down. I tried sleeping more, but then felt like I wasn’t doing enough to get back into the swing of things. I threw myself headfirst into clubs, and that was fun, but I felt I wasn’t spending enough time with my friends. 

On and on it went. Each potential solution for my funk seemed insufficient. With everything in a state of transition, there was no single resolution.

The answer should have been obvious: I had to embrace the liminal spaces. I had forgotten that there is nothing inherently bad about being in a state of transition.

If everything is settled and clearly defined, there is no room for growth or exploration. My current lack of certainty means that I have the chance to determine my priorities and pursue them with intentionality. Instead of succumbing to an overwhelming wave of uncontrollable chaos, appreciating the power of a liminal moment has allowed me to reimagine what my life at Yale could be.

This change in mindset, more than any change in action, has brought me comfort. It forced me to be purposeful. If I was tired, I slept. If I was lonely, I saw friends. I didn’t ask myself what I “should” be doing, but rather what I needed to do in that moment. 

It’s been four years since I started reading the “Aeneid,” but the image of the horse faltering on the threshold of Troy won’t leave my mind. I’m not quite sure why. I still don’t even know why I fell in love with it in the first place. My best guess is that as a high schooler feeling like every moment was a transition from adolescence to adulthood, I latched onto a description of soldiers on the precipice.

I think it’s strange to realize that the last four-plus years have been one prolonged liminal moment, or perhaps a series of smaller liminal moments connecting one mini-phase of my life to another. I don’t know if or when I’ll feel a little less uncertain and a little more settled. But that’s okay.

Worst case, my liminality ends in the violent destruction of a great city. Or maybe I’ll just declare a major.

Andrew Cramer is a staff writer on the Sports desk. He has previously covered the Yale women's basketball and men's baseball teams, although he's willing to dabble in a little bit of everything. He also writes occasional pieces for WKND to let the world know how he's feeling. He is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College and remains undecided about his major.