My brain has changed, but I think it’s my fault. I betrayed it. I didn’t protect it enough.

Ever since I transferred to Yale last semester, I’ve been excited to nourish my brain with knowledge, experiences and especially with new people. Yale is the perfect place. Dog trainers with perfect GPAs. Frat boys who intern at the White House in the Summer. Polyglots who think about taking a shit in more than one language. You want to find a niche talented person? You find it at Yale. It is the same all around. In classes, residential colleges, Good Nature Market (G Heav) late at night after having gone out partying, the Yale Running Club. Everywhere, but there is a place where all these people congregate. There is a place where all this talent goes to the trash and it’s reduced to raw instincts.

Dining halls.

Back in Miami Dade College in the Padrón Campus, people shared funny stories after class.  Almost always, the conversation would move to OTG (our version of the dining hall). Friendship made. At Yale? There’s a protocol involved. Let’s break it down. Okay, well, it’s followed by two questions.

  1. “Would you like to grab a meal sometime?” which translates to “could I use your name to finish filling up my G-Cal this week?”
  2. “When are you free?” which translates to “tell me you’re free so I can tell you all the ways in which I’m not free.”

After getting used to my system, which helped nurture some of the best friendships I’ve ever met, this protocol felt like my fifth course. Now? Well, I’m already in level two.

Back when I arrived at Yale, I loved this system. Everyone is so busy, but they are nice enough to open their brains to you … I know, right?! Kindness overflows here! Community service? Bah! I already opened up my time to five people in need this week.

With that out of the way, let’s explain the brain idea. I’ve always loved to read. I went through a dystopian era, to a thriller era, to a literary fiction era. This obsession for appreciating literature turned into my obsession for writing about crazy characters in fiction and immortalizing my emotions in poetry. My brain thrives off of writing and reading. However, it took me a long time to realize that it’s extremely difficult to maintain both activities in check. When I wasn’t writing, I was reading a lot. And vice versa.

I never realized the same could happen with people. I’ve shared meals with a bunch of people at Yale, and again, I used to find it fascinating. I would call my mom after every meal ended and exclaim, “you won’t believe whom I just had lunch with! This person wants to work for NASA! They have created an app! They are also Venezuelan!” But the most hilarious one is the following: “I think I finally made a friend.” Week after week, I went through these interactions. Serotonin rising. Illusions about staying up late gossiping. Sometimes, I eat with people I find cute. I find myself idealizing the “afterwards” of eating with a cute girl. I call my friend back in Cornell, tell her everything.

Spring semester of 2024 comes. I realize how much I have been appreciating cool people, longing for being closer with some of them, imagining these interactions leaving the dining hall. But, I also realize something in my dorm stinks. So, I spent weeks looking for it. What is it? What is this smell that’s not letting me sleep? What is this smell that makes me not want to be in my dorm? Or not to be with myself … ? Damn, it’s me. My brain is rotten. It lost all its color, all its shiny appearance, all its original knowledge. I fried my brain.

How many of those cool people are my friends today? Well, conversations with my mom got shorter. “What happened to that girl who invited you to that party?” Oh yeah, it was all part of the community service package she was offering that week. “What happened to that girl who loves writing as much as you do?” Oh yeah, she looks the other way when I try to smile at her on the sidewalk. 

That’s when I realized I’ve done the equivalent of reading a lot and not writing. I’ve been appreciating the grandeur in other people and not appreciating and further nurturing my own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still fun to get to know new people while struggling not to get my sweater stained with the meat from the arepa in Commons (and spending the next 30 minutes cleaning the stain in the bathroom to not lose that precious sweater). But, I gotta be careful. It’s the same as with writing, a good writer can’t get consumed and discouraged by all the good writing there is out there. They can consume a lot of it for inspiration, but there comes a stopping point when you just gotta do a lot of writing and not put anything else into your brain.

As someone who thrives off of knowledge, I have to keep a balance between obtaining it by exchanging information with other people and obtaining it by creating and retrospecting. On another note, I’ve learned that not all conversations at Yale will get you to find people you can trust your murder history with. They might inspire you to add more people to that (fictional) record, though. Too many of these, however, can fry your brain as they did mine.