The day: May 10th, 2016. The time: roughly 5pm. The feeling: RELIEF. I had just slapped my final final exam on top of the pile at the front of the lecture hall, rushed back up the aisle, and made my way through the heavy wooden doors out into the balmy weather. A whole year of the most rigorous coursework and exams, the earliest mornings, and the latest nights I could have imagined had come to an end. I wanted to stick my alarm clock in a storage box and never hear it again.
However, trekking back the familiar path to my home for the past nine months, the lightness began to turn into something a little...heavier. While I was incredibly excited to go home and see my friends and family after being away for so long, I didn't want to think about how much I was going to miss all the people who had made me so, so happy at Yale.
That night ended up being one of the best of my freshman year. I celebrated the year's end with friends, sushi, and plenty of eleventh-hour packing. After staying up all night, we still managed to run up Science Hill to catch the sunrise of our last day at Yale. I will always remember how we stood together, staring groggily out over the trees at the pink and orange tendrils slowly creeping up over East Rock to cover the spring sky.
Our chock-full summers passed quickly and, suddenly, we were sophomores stepping back onto New Haven turf, unpacking our boxes, and settling into our residential colleges for the new year ahead. This year, though, was different. Instead of struggling to remember seemingly hundreds of names and hometowns and majors and residential colleges, we sauntered into the dining halls calling out to friends we had missed, explaining our summer projects, and remembering jokes from the year before. Instead of being overwhelmed by the 2000+ courses listed in the Yale College Programs of Study, we; in groups ("Natalie, you'd love Clinical Neuroscience--I took it last semester...Mike, you should definitely shop Research Methods in Astrophysics with me!). Instead of wondering how to start our first problem sets and essays, we grabbed coffee together and headed over to our well-worn study spots: special corners in the stacks of Sterling, benches in secret courtyards, beanbag chairs in our best friends' rooms.
I have found, during my time here, that many facets of life at Yale seem to exist in a kind of purposeful symmetry. One of the most obvious manifestations of that symmetry is the pair of events lending a firm beginning and end to each Yale career: Commencement and Graduation. One of the things I think is so special about these two events is their close proximity to each other, with students at Commencement seated in concert seats at Woolsey Hall, a mere block away from the Graduation lawn chair seats on Old Campus. Indeed, if the two events were held at the same time of year, the students would almost face each other.
This pair of events serves to bookend our time here, and while there are many obvious bookends in our young lives, be they commencement and graduation, or even just freshman year and sophomore year, there also exist bookends of less temporal distinction. Instead of framing a period of time, they mark the boundary of a set of objects, or places, or ideas.
If my mind is a row of books, some dog-eared and tattered, others crisp and new, from all different places and featuring all sorts of world conceptions, then the people and ideas to which I have been exposed at Yale are my set of bookends. They keep me steady and sure, and function as the edges of my knowledge. They are where my collection of interests and experiences end and the world begins. With each discussion, each revelation, each night of laughter, I feel soft paper touch sparkling glass and know that I am getting closer to glimpsing that person, still years away, grasping her diploma on Old Campus and beaming out into the crowd.