For the first time this year, I got locked out of my room.
After I called Yale Security I lazed about in my common room, waiting for my saviors to arrive and unlock the door. I thought of all the work I could be doing, but everything–my phone, my laptop, my textbooks, notes, homework–were all locked inside my room. Life came to a momentary stop… and then I began to notice things.
Room decor in the common room.
I read and reread the Bible verse decals I had put up in our common room, letting the words really sink into my soul. I looked at the decor on my suitemates’ shelves, and reminisced about the time I had broken the ear off the Moose Oscar our suite won at the Stiles Film Festival (in Ezra Stiles college, we’re extremely proud of our mascot: the moose). I painted my nails a burgundy red, perfect for fall, which reminded me about apple-picking trips with fellow Stilesians.
Moose Oscar from the Stiles Film Fest!
Apple-picking on the annual Stiles trip!
As my nails dried, I fell in love a little more with the life I had managed to carve out for myself at Yale. This momentary interruption in my life of doing nothing allowed me to treasure the unstructured times in my life. The reason why I could fully enjoy this brief respite was because of something I’ve come to guard and treasure with my life: the white space on my Google Calendar.
My Google Calendar, a hallmark of nearly every Yale student, is truly a chaotic work of art. It is reminiscent of Mondrian in its primary colors, Van Gogh in the sense of movement it conveys, and Monet in reminding me to step back and look at the bigger picture. They represent almost all aspects of my college life: default blue for classes, green for Christian Union-related events, orange for anything performance-related, red for important meetings, yellow for the Chinese American Students Association, etc
Screenshot of my G-Cal!
Close-up of G-Cal white space
But my favorite part of my calendar is not a boxed event. It’s the negative space: the all-encompassing white background where my life momentarily remains unplanned.
The white space is when the adventures happen. It allows for unseen interruptions and delays, like getting locked out of the room. Sometimes it means late night runs to the buttery for cups of cookie dough. Best friend talks in the stairwell that go until 3am, when we really meant to depart to different floors four hours ago. Deciding to stay longer at an event to help with clean-up. Impulsively making cookies or dumplings in the Christian Union ministry house. Games of Avalon and 3D Mafia that run too long. Impulsively attending panels featuring prominent speakers and experts in niche fields. Using Yale “Facebook” to look up my friends’ room numbers and dropping care packages off for them. Ultimately, white space gives me a chance to unwind, to take life a little slower, to ultimately spontaneously brighten up my life, or someone else’s.
Friends in the buttery enjoying their cup of cookie dough!
Cookie dough in a cup, served by residential college butteries.
At a game of 3D Mafia.
Last year, a friend of mine who was a Froco (that is, our First-Year Counselors who are senior students tasked with guiding us through life at Yale) told me that he always made sure to leave chunks of white space on his calendar. The unexpected could always come up, whether in the form of fishing someone’s ID off a rooftop, or hour-long conversations with a homesick frosh. By protecting the white space on his calendar, he gave himself the ability to live in the present, knowing that tomorrow’s white space would allow him to make up any work he missed.
Taking it day by day on my G-Cal has allowed me to dwell in the moment. The white space is the grace I need to take care of myself, and others. Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, but I know just where they’ll fit: the white space on my calendar.
Baking with the Chinese American Students Association in the Stiles kitchen!
Our finished product… Captain America themed cookies!
Friends making dumplings.