Living the Good Life!

I spent most of my high school experience, well, wishing I was somewhere else.

At the time, I had built a utopian version of Yale in my mind — a paradise whose imagined landscape was piecemealed together from brochures and my visits to campus and the recollections of the students I’d talked to. College, I told myself, with its change of setting and new promises and realities, would be the antidote to all my unhappiness: a fresh start with the potential for so much abundance. There would be lots of work too, — rigorous work at times — but also, I hoped, just as much joy. 

When I got in, it did seem like a wish uttered for years had finally been fulfilled. And even if the actual version of Yale wasn’t the fantastical version I’d constructed, it still unfolded into a chapter of my life that at times, felt like it had to have been scripted: something too cinematic or lucky or bright or content to be both real and mine, and yet it was.

Now that I’ve been here a while, as much as I enjoy Yale, there are times when I do need a vacation from it (or at least, a good, replenishing break). Am I a bit of a restless person? Maybe. But I’ve also found that even your most fervent wishes — your dreams, your dream schools, your realized aspirations — euphoric and rewarding as they may be, can still be tiring. And, that if you wait for the perfect moment to rest on your way to those goals, if you wait for a completely ideal atmosphere of serenity, you can unwittingly stumble into forgetting to take any breaks at all, and fast-forward through your own life. So, ever since my sophomore year, I’ve been trying to not miss out on my own experiences — to enjoy where I am when I’m there, as much as I have the capacity or means to.

The Good Life Center, located on the fourth floor of Silliman College’s Byers Hall, is meant to help students do just that: relax, and take breaks! A place to sit in a really, really comfy chair and accidentally (or purposefully) fall asleep! Play board games or write a thank you note or work on arts and crafts or journal! Maybe you take a nap instead of working, and then you take another nap after that! Maybe you literally just do absolutely nothing and vibe! However you want to quietly unwind, it’s all good.

As you make your way up the final flight of stairs (if you didn’t take the elevator) you’ll be greeted by this!

So what is the Good Life Center, exactly? Opening in 2018, during the fall semester of my first year, it’s essentially a space dedicated to student wellness on campus. The GLC hosts a lounge (with pillows, cushions, blankets, couches, flameless candles, speakers, yoga mats, amongst other things!), a study (with thank you notes to write for anyone you might be thinking of, arts and crafts to do), and the sandbox (a room with, as you might’ve guessed, a central and circular sandbox, white noise machines, cushions, and a no-phone policy, if you need a space to deeply relax). While it’s also expanding to a second space in the newly built Schwarzman Center (which I will be checking out and taking many naps in soon), the first location within Silliman is the one that holds the most cherished memories for me: the first performance poetry event I ever saw here, writing with my friends for fun or to race towards a deadline, scarfing down tater tots, popping up to see them during their work shifts at the Acorn, laying splayed out on beanbags, listening, wandering around, finding ways to become a little bit younger and little more restored.

The logo of the Acorn, the student run coffee shop that’s right next to the Good Life Center on the fourth floor of Silliman!

The giving tree, which has notes of gratitude, and notes with affirmations and inspirational quotes for leaves!

One of the decorative flags in the Good Life Center

The study! Picture credit: the Good Life Center website.

The lounge! Picture credit: The Good Life Center website.

The sandbox! Picture credit: Yale Daily News

Of course, as much I try to convince myself that one truly excellent nap and two hours of getting sidetracked watching recommended YouTube videos in the lounge will heal my soul and vaporize all of my problems and inconveniences, I know it’s not a true substitute for longer, more regenerative rest. Still, allowing yourself the time to find peace in whatever little ways you can, can be restorative in its own way.

In high school (when I was immersed in a cauldron of academic stress), I hardly ever made little spells of calm for myself within my schedule. Through that I think I lost, simply put, little corners or bundles of seconds of my life that could’ve been kinder, more distinct memories than what they became. When you’re stressed, it’s possible to enter a state where you become suspicious of your own happiness, and of being gracious and gentle with yourself. You become wary of relaxing too much, for fear you’ll fall further behind. But what the Good Life Center has done, for me at least, is serve as a reminder and a space for making room for little (or big!) joys and rests. In college, maybe I don’t have all the time or perfect circumstances I wished I had to unwind, but in this way, I can commit to taking what moments I do have for myself. And to not feeling guilty when I eke out more time for myself than I think I have. 

My hope for you — if you’re a high school student reading this, and even if you’re not a student — is that you find places and moments to create what peace you can for yourself; to craft little milestones that reshape long, potentially difficult stretches of time into something with temporary tranquility.

You simply cannot tell me that falling asleep on a big comfy couch in a warm room in the Good Life Center is not the solution to all my problems. You can’t. Why? Because I won’t listen to you. And also, because you’d be wrong.

Am I stressed? Maybe. Does taking one nap in the Good Life Center help me temporarily escape my work? Allegedly.

The last couple of times I was in the Good Life Center, I was with friends: us, working on poems for the WORD fall show, and writing up creative nonfiction essays for our writing workshop course. I was staring down the barrel of some intimidating deadlines, sure, but I wasn’t alone, in my relaxation or my burdens. We laughed, we commiserated, we focused, we got distracted, we inhaled mozzarella sticks, we sighed, we worked, we played.

During my most recent visit, far into the night, typing furiously on my laptop and trying to transform the blank void of a Google doc into an essay (due the next morning), I felt deeply present. The world seemed to condense to just the fourth floor, and then just our room, and then just our corner of the Acorn. Time narrowed to what I could watch in front of me. And yet it didn’t feel claustrophobic. I looked around at my friends, all of us in our own parallel worlds, alertly and quietly together, and thought that here was something about right now worth sitting with. Rather than hoping to fast forward through college to my future, the way I had lived in high school, I wanted to linger here just a bit longer. (Not pause or stop though! Sleep was calling my name, and the coffee I’d drank was, well, not working at all. The caffeine was slacking.)

Even when now isn’t perfect, I think, at Yale or elsewhere, I remember that there’s still so much in “my now” worth beholding, worth resting for, worth slowing down for, however much I can — and perhaps it’s through these ways, great and small, that I try to keep myself from wishing to be anywhere other than where I am.