As the school year roared rather than dwindled to a close in May, I looked toward the summer with hope. I was moving into my first apartment and had no real plans for the next three months except to relax and take a much-needed break. I was overwhelmed and tired, and designed a summer void of any internships or time-consuming activities. But in the time I was back home in Georgia before my lease started, I found myself consumed with Instagram and LinkedIn. Almost no one I knew was taking the summer for themselves. My worries soon morphed into: Did I make the wrong choice? Am I falling behind? 

It’s ironic that a summer of nothing, one that I optimistically planned to be filled with endless and exciting possibilities, brought such a pessimistic train of thought. I suddenly felt as if I had spent my first two years at Yale in a rat race, trying to arrive at some imaginary goal post so far in the distance I couldn’t even see it. It quickly became clear that a summer doing nothing wasn’t getting me any closer to whatever that nebulous goal was. As I scrambled to fill my empty days with something meaningful and notable, something that would make me feel like I wasn’t falling behind my peers, I discovered that bad things really do come in threes. 

In the span of a month and a half, my childhood dog passed away and both of my grandfathers died suddenly. I went into my job at the library one morning and two hours later I was on a plane to Orlando, hoping that I would make it in time to say goodbye to my granddad. 

He died twenty minutes before I landed. 

My worries about Yale melted away and I was consumed with grief. It’s strange to realize that you have no grandfathers anymore. My granddad was almost 90, but I never imagined he would die — at least not any time soon. I learned a lot from him. He was the type of person that could tell you how to fix something and the type to tell you not to pay for anything you could fix yourself. He served twenty years in the Air Force and spent part of that time teaching physics. He helped me in high school and occasionally college with my math homework. He was one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. Such a wealth of knowledge gone in an instant. 

But when I talked with my family about what we remembered most about my granddad, it was not just that he was smart. Everyone remembered his dedication to his friends and family. There wasn’t a story that I wrote for the News that my grandfather didn’t share on Facebook. There was never a time when I doubted just how proud of me he was. At 88, he drove with my family all the way to Connecticut and made the walk up to my fourth-floor first-year dorm in blazing heat just to see me move into Yale. 

Looking back on all these moments made me realize that when I myself look back on my college experience, I want to have good memories, and good memories only. I don’t want to think about how miserable I made myself worrying about what the guy next to me was doing. I came to college to improve myself, to get a better education than I could have going to college back home. I came here to put myself out there for the first time and to make friends. None of these goals are dependent on a summer internship, perfect grade or sparkling resume. It’s hard to remember that there is a life out there beyond the Yale bubble and the corporate world. It’s not a race to some unknown point in the distance. You don’t have to be the smartest person in every room. 

At your funeral, how do you want to be remembered? As a brilliant person, or as someone that was brilliant, but also kind? Or brilliant, but overwhelmingly true to themselves? I know that I’d want to be remembered the same way I remember my granddad: one of the kindest, most helpful people I had ever met.