Jack Devlin

Entering Yale kindled the novelty I felt as a child when I went camping for the first time. Every part of the trip was tinged with uniqueness. Similarly, Yale was a blank slate: The word “new” was brought alive. From meeting my roommate to wild club initiations, each moment in my first month felt both terrifying and liberating.

The only way to approach the terror, I thought, was to tackle it head on. I waded through the sea of posters and people at the chaotic Extracurricular Bazaar, dozens of clubs circling through my mind. I eagerly danced through mixers and late night events, projecting the most amiable version of myself. I wanted to absorb every detail of Yale.

As new Yalies, we are eager to color our blank histories. To do so, we may assume that our lives must revolve around the amazing opportunities Yale has to offer. With every chance to add to our repertoire of Yale experiences — parties, meals, clubs — “yes” becomes the automatic reply.

But for some of us, the desire to experiment was a guise for indecision. We spread ourselves thin because we didn’t know what we wanted, or we were too preoccupied with finding new faces. In the attempt to preserve all roads, we became products of Yale’s opportunities rather than our own wills. We lost what was interesting about ourselves.

Many of you may enter college wanting to move on from your pasts. With COVID-19 spoiling graduations and the final months of senior year, the lack of proper closure burns deeply. Even so, your old self and beginnings from home still form the foundations of your new beginnings at Yale. You are still defined by the high school best friends, old teachers and activities that you come from. As you intertwine these elements of your past life into your Yale experience, use them to discover what you really want.

One night, I returned my father’s missed calls. Hearing his excited voice roll off a string of Korean instantly reminded me of home and of how much my life had changed. As I spoke about my discontent with my social life and insecurities about my abilities, he recounted the stories I had long forgotten : The meltdowns I had in golf and my forays into theater. He knew my imperfections and the rough edges in my personality. Each time I talked to him, he reminded me of life outside Yale and helped clarify my struggles and desires.

While these stories of the past matter for ourselves, they have a larger impact on Yale as a whole. Yale is interesting because of the rich trove of backgrounds each of us carries. People at Yale want to delve deeply into each other’s narratives.

“Why do you care about it? What’s the story behind that? Is there a deeper meaning?”

As these questions linger in the air, people’s eyes may light up; they may ponder for several moments. Embrace the pauses in conversation. It may be uncomfortable, but the air doesn’t always have to be filled with noise. In fact, silence often indicates the highest level of comfort and trust — it means we are thinking deeply and with care.

Last year, the most memorable nights came when I lounged around in my friends’ suites. Whether it was through a game or a natural conversation, we opened up about ourselves. I listened to my friends discuss their passions for art, struggles with illnesses and commitments to faith. With each story, I began to know these people. As we grew closer, we were able to be there for each other and confide in one another. Moments like this are what truly write our histories at Yale.

As I look back on my first year, I regret that I didn’t have enough of these moments. For much of my first weeks and months, I was caught up in the rush of everything new. I blunted the sharp edges of my personality. In the awkward silence of the FroCo meetings, I held off on comments. In seminars, I reined in eccentric thoughts. I traded my originality for social favorability.

I hope that as you enter your first year, you maintain a strong sense of self. Be active and, as opportunities come your way, take the time to shape Yale according to your desires. Remember that the person who you have become — sculpted with imperfections, strengths and quirks — is waiting to be accepted by others. It is the totality of this self that brings Yale to life.

The class of 2024 makes up one fourth of Yale College. You are interesting people with the power to make an indelible impact on the culture at Yale. It is my hope that you come as you are.

EDWARD SEOL is a sophomore in Berkeley College and a staff columnist. Contact him at edward.seol@yale.edu .