“See you at 9pm in the Head of College house for your mandatory fireside chat!”
Or, as my Head of College caringly and gently rephrased as we all sat in her living room, “I’m forcing you all to take a study break and eat snacks.” After walking across the courtyard, almost slipping on the slick grass, panickedly flapping my arms like a goose that had just been hit with the combined effects of a 5-Hour Energy and significant amounts of coffee, before ungracefully regaining my balance, (my talent for slipping in any Yale location is unparalleled) I wobbled to my destination.
My fireside chat, or an hour-long talk between a small group of sophomores, our Dean, and Head of College, was tonight — a quick chance to slow down, stop, and look back on my time at Yale so far. Surrounding a living room that had the warmth and soft, wavering glow of a fireplace (but no actual burning fireplace? I felt deceived) was a table furnished with a cornucopia of snacks, drinks, and autumn treats. Almond milk, tea, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread again but cut up into small cubes and speared with those little toothpicks that have the colored plastic at the end, which surely and most definitely must make you feel just a smidgen more refined as you discreetly wipe away sticky crumbs from the edge of your mouth — it was all there.
Some of the treats that our Head of College prepared for us (all fall-themed and pumpkin-infused!)
Despite foiling my best efforts to not eat so much sugar so late at night, (sorry mom) the fireside chat still felt good for my health — in the rush of midterm season while taking five classes, I’d forgotten to both appreciate each day individually and the semester collectively. As we munched on pumpkin desserts and inevitably went back for seconds, all of the sophomores wrote down a list of six of our most important values, then pared them down to our core three, before asking ourselves how many we truly practiced in our daily activities. Some felt like routine self-maintenance, others like little rituals, and some active moves towards using our time how we wanted to. Our Head of College prompted us to fast-forward to June of 2022 — a world in which we’d graduated, and ask our simulated past-sophomore selves what we wished we’d done more of with our time at Yale.
As much as we were all here to pursue our ambitions, working ourselves rigorously in the process, we were made to wonder if that same commitment created a sort of tunnel vision that could deprive us of Yale’s little treasures. How could we change and reimagine spending time to finish college with no regrets? I thought of my college bucket list. Using the bookbinding studio. Getting lunch with a professor. Hiking. Going to the beach. Taking a hip-hop class, even though it likely wouldn’t count towards my major. Write a play. Commit to less, maybe, and just enjoy my free time — relish in the empty space and find some purpose there.
Essentially, you could call the fireside chat a vibe check. A reminder of not only the lowkey, informal, and friendly support system we had behind us, but also how vast yet short our time at Yale is — like a Ferris Bueller “look around” moment, but more contemplative. Leaving the cozily decorated living room (and taking another slice of pumpkin bread to go! It went off, that recipe might’ve just done something) I realized I could be mournful about the things I’d forgotten to do — but there was also just as much room for excitement and the idea of taking more time for myself amidst the bustle of the year. What I wanted out of “my Yale” still had time to manifest itself — it was happening already. I just had to remember to be present and look around once in a while.