For the first time, I am aware of the sad reality that in less than a year I will graduate. The finality of it is weird, unsettling almost. The paradox is we arrive at Yale knowing when we will leave. Yet the possibility of leaving one day never truly sinks in while we are on this campus. It feels as if all my life revolves around this school, my time structured around the academic calendar. Perhaps that’s why everything that happens at Yale feels so magnanimous. Only when we leave here do we realize that everything we worried about was not that significant or unsolvable.
While coming to terms with my impending departure, another sad realization recently emerged: that I am not ready to leave this campus just yet. This was a slow and somewhat shocking moment of self-awakening, especially after I kept telling everyone that I was so ready to be done with Yale at the end of my junior year. I felt burnout; tired of sprinting to classes, writing essays with no tangible conclusions and trying to keep up with generic conversations that lacked personal touch and empathy.
What followed this frustration was the summer that offered a refreshing new beginning. It was a different and less boring kind of tiredness, coming home after a long day of work and trying to make plans with friends whose schedules were often even busier than mine. But the thought of getting a return offer and following company layouts and push-back of start dates brought life after Yale into perspective. There was a touch of fear and anxiety in everything I did — not the kind of stressful but temporary rush that I felt before a deadline, but more of a constant tingly feeling of apprehension.
Maybe that’s why the moment I stepped foot in New Haven, I was filled with an indescribable thrill, more hopeful than I had felt in a year. I couldn’t suppress my smile as I climbed Hillhouse. I beamed as I hugged all my friends, the people I genuinely cared about and the people I am not ready to say goodbye to.
I also wonder though if this reluctance to leave is a common sentiment for all seniors. We often question whether we did Yale right, if we should have met more people, being involved in more groups or putting ourselves out of our comfort zones more often would have made us accept the ending much easier. But I also remember that the original class of 2024 did not have a proper first year. If I had that one extra year, I would feel more content and ready to face the real world.
My first week here, I found myself sitting on Old Campus after a night of going out to watch the first years and see friendships and couples in the making — young and fresh faces, still shy and almost fearful. Most of them tend to move in large groups, most likely with the people they have just met and stuck with out of necessity. There was a lot of small talk with occasional personal questions. Couples awkwardly saying goodbye, not sure whether to hug one another while still lingering at the door for five more minutes of conversation.
That whole night felt like a movie scene that I didn’t get to act in myself. The sophomore year for students in the class of 2024 did feel like first year, without the support and the sweet naiveté that everything at Yale would fall into place.
In retrospect, being deprived of a proper first year only made me chase Yale more. Once the realization that there was so much to be experienced hit, I was only too eager to be a part of as many groups as possible, try many new things and meet many new people. It is not an exaggeration that I was the epitome of “Let’s grab a meal soon” every time I saw someone I remotely recognized on the street. I don’t remember a day when I ate lunch alone. This cycle was not fulfilling by any means, but it was a necessity to make up for my lost time.
Coming into senior year, though, the advice I’ve received couldn’t have been more different. Everyone told me to prioritize the things I enjoyed the most, the people I would miss. Of course, our goodbyes won’t be as gleamy and final; they will bring a strong sense of physical and emotional distance. Our roommates, the people we woke up to, will have to be reduced to annual dinners in which we give major life updates instead of debriefing a five-second eye contact with our crush. No more unexpected Bass run-ins that turn into extended existential contemplations of life past midnight. No impromptu decision to “do work” on Cross Campus on a slightly warmer day only to end up people-watching and joking around.
Then how do we even enjoy the moments we have left here while we know how it will end? Can we even enjoy them truly and fearlessly? I don’t know. And that’s okay.
What I am realizing and telling myself, maybe more as a consolation, is that there is also no single recipe to senior year, or any year, honestly. We must embrace this feeling to be present in every remaining moment, to not get lost in the Yale rhythm of things, to remember. Maybe the acceptance and readiness to leave will finally arrive in May or maybe they won’t. But until then, I will not chase anymore.
SUDE YENILMEZ is a senior in Berkeley College majoring in global affairs. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.