Sophia Zhao

My second-floor bedroom window looks out over York Street — and coincidentally, the YDN building itself. Pulling back the curtains every morning, I check the weather and watch students rush to pick up their coffee or make it to a discussion section on time. Sometimes, when the light hits just right — or maybe wrong, actually — I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection with bedhead, tired eyes and all.

As this year comes to a close, and I prepare to move out of my suite and off campus, I’ll miss my little morning window-watching routine.

This article is the conclusion of a selfish and exhausting project: documenting a year in the life of myself through weekly personal essays. I’ve spent, by my estimate, 26 weeks and 18,000 words on this effort. I’ve talked about trivialities like coffee, Geronimo Stilton and orange sweatshirts, but I’ve also tried to share semi-existential crises about summer jobs, abandoning my major and coping with rejection at Yale.

While I suppose the primary reason for writing — especially in a newspaper — should probably be to share something with readers, this journey was largely motivated by my own self-interest. I wanted to become a better writer. The unintended consequences have been much more defining.

It’s forced me to alter how I perceive the world. Knowing that next week’s deadline was always right around the corner, I kept my eyes peeled for inspiration. I found meaning in parts of my life that I otherwise wouldn’t have known to appreciate. The people in my life — suitemates, basketball buddies and family — have all featured prominently. My most mundane rituals — gratitude journals, showering and watering a plant — carry much more weight upon further reflection than I had previously realized.

Some people meditate, some people go to therapy, but I reflected with a public pseudo-diary. 

But the audience matters, too, and I think I always was somewhat aware of that fact. I’ve never been entirely sure who reads these pieces, if anyone. My parents, editors and three dedicated friends claim they’ve read them all. And one visiting prefrosh said she was a fan, which honestly spooked me a little bit. I forgot that people could be out there consistently reading and getting to know me through my ramblings.

Why would anyone read this? That’s the bigger question I’ve been pondering. If it really is just about me, I don’t get the motivation for someone else to spend their time checking the YDN website every Friday.

Thankfully, I don’t think it’s just about me. I would like to think that this column — I don’t know if it formally qualifies — is a window into not just my life, but into a broader community of Yalies or college kids or humans. Maybe that last part is a little ambitious. I have tried to treat myself as a self-appointed scribe of some sort of collective diary. To be clear, it is far from all-encompassing, and there are so many writers more talented and thoughtful than I who have brought life to so many other dimensions of this campus. 

However, I tried to capture at least some sliver of life at Yale through a relentlessly optimistic lens. If this were a true diary, there would have been a lot more negativity over the course of the year, not because it’s been a bad year, but because there are always difficult, exhausting days where all of the bad things from every area of life stack up. That’s not what I wanted to share, though. This was, fundamentally, an exercise in happiness.

Nearly all of the feedback I have received centers around the most joyous or humorous aspects of these pieces. And I’m glad. I wanted to not only write about joy but to share some as well. 

However, what I really hoped to achieve — and the type of response that meant the most to me — was this: I wanted people to look through the window of these little articles, expecting to see me, but instead, the light would refract just right, and you’d catch a glimpse of yourself as well.

I wanted anyone following this journey to appreciate breakfast and hot chocolate just a little bit more, to remember the days of half-fighting, half-joking with their siblings and to know that doodling as a twenty-year-old is still totally acceptable.

I’m still a sophomore, and I’m sure there will be more of these half-sweet, half-joking, half-rambling, entirely self-indulgent articles to come. However, writing weekly was a unique project that I hope produced a unique cumulative effect. In my mind, the natural course of that project was a year, and it’s run its course.

I began the year by creating a window into the struggle to find my place at Yale. I’ve tried to leave that window into my thoughts, feelings and experiences wide open all year. Now, grateful for what I saw and hopeful that it illuminated something worthwhile for you, I’m closing the blinds — at least until next September.

Andrew Cramer is a former sports editor, women's basketball beat reporter, and WKND personal columnist at the YDN. He still writes for the WKND and Sports sections. He is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College and is majoring in Ethics, Politics & Economics.