Dear first-year me,
Next fall is our final fall at Yale. It wasn’t the smoothest of rides, but it definitely was as good as it could be. I am grateful for all that has and has not happened and for making “my Yale” one that will make it so hard to say goodbye to.
Speaking of goodbyes, last week, on my last night on campus, I was talking to a senior friend — yep, that sophomore guy you happened to sit next to on your flight to JFK your first-year spring — about his time at Yale. We talked about things we would have done differently, choices we regretted and things we were glad to have done. As we leaned against the wall at our usual spot, holding onto my mug of hot tea as the spring breeze cooled it off, I realized this was the last of our late-night Canal trail talks. Talks that were at times existential, at times silly, but always there when we needed them.
I’ve had people close to me graduate, and I know that my daily interactions with my friends will change when I graduate. We are layering memories and people in time, all associated with Yale in one way or another throughout these four years.
I wish, as a first year, I had known that with every little choice I made, I was layering memories that I would keep for a lifetime. And that every little choice I made would lead to larger things in life. Not in a scary way. Definitely not in a “this is the decision of your life” way. Actually, more in a way that the decisions that I thought were the most important decisions of my life ended up not being that way. And the little things I decided to do naturally, the things I did without overthinking, left marks worth remembering when I look back. That one class I randomly decided to join, the people I texted for my first math group project, that one college formal my friend barely convinced me to go — all seemed trivial at the moment but made Yale a better place for me in every possible way.
We all are layering memories in the exact same places at different times. I have walked through Cross Campus hundreds of times, my headphones looping the songs I was then obsessed with, my mind rushing through ideas that were then really important to me. I’ve sat at the exact same table in Franklin with so many different people, over so many different meals, over so many different conversations.
It makes me happy, in a way, to think about how there are other people who sat at that exact place and talked about things I would never know about, which shaped their experience of Yale.
Every fall, there are some people I miss and new people I meet. This next fall will be my last fall here — and to the class of 2027, it will be your first. Try and enjoy every hot summer day at the beginning of the semester — but don’t buy too many fans, the weather will cool down faster than you think it will — and when the weather finally cools down, try and enjoy every rainy, mushy, gloomy day, too. I made one of my closest friends when my umbrella turned inside out as I was walking up Prospect Street.
There will always be times when the day just won’t be enjoyable. Live those feelings to the fullest, too. Once, a dear friend told me about all the places she has cried on campus. I also have cried at many places on this campus. My reasons changed, and the people I cried with did, too, but they all made my experience at Yale what it is now.
I’ve realized that there will be moments of Yale you love and moments you hate, work that you enjoy and work that makes you question your major, people who stay and people who leave, people you’ll keep around and people you’ll let go of. One doesn’t come without the other.
This is the final season of my Yale, and I am really happy that I met the people I met, took the classes I took and joined the groups I joined. So to the class of 2023: I hope you’ve had a version of Yale that makes it really hard to say goodbye. And to the class of 2027: I hope you create for yourself a Yale that makes it really hard to say goodbye, too, when the time comes.
Until then, take care of yourselves and keep on making great memories.
Elifnaz Onder is a rising senior in Benjamin Franklin College. She previously was a Production and Design Editor at the News.