How can I search for the truth in a place that seems so separated from reality?
Last winter, as a senior in high school, I realized that I had grown out of my space. I felt locked into my daily routines: the subway ride to school, the blocks I walked, the hours I spent in bed contemplating my busy work. The only thing I wanted to do was leave home and go to Yale. My dream had come true: I was heading towards a beautiful intellectual utopia. Maybe that made the anticipation worse.
Finally, I got to August 21. My family and I overloaded our Subaru and stopped at Phelps Gate. My suitcases, a cluttered curation of my own, were quickly unloaded into my L-shaped room. I hung up a poster of Edward Hopper that reminds me of my mother and loaded up my rental mini-fridge with hummus snack packets: my lifeline for late-night study sessions.
As I made my room my own, it became clear to me that no decor or familiar taste of packaged conservatives would connect me to what I now understood to be my “other life.” Something about getting into Yale’s abundance felt permanent and grand. However, I had no definition of the feeling of pressure that the separate presence of Yale brought, until I came across William Blake.
During my seminar on the humanities, I took a trip to the Yale Center for British Art to see “Jerusalem” by William Blake. One panel, in particular, depicted a curious man under a Gothic vault. It looked like many passages I’ve taken on campus, whether in the courtyard of HQ or under the portico in Davenport.
As I looked at the shiny pieces, the docent explained that Blake believed that to enter the Gothic was to enter the truth. I imagined how much Blake would have relished young minds drunkenly hopping through the gothic wonders of Branford and I –– at 2 a.m. en route to GHeav –– showcasing the most honest versions of themselves . But it also struck me that Yale was the model for finding truth in Gothic; I finally got proof of the pressure from veritas which dragged me into my adaptation period.
There is no other campus that, in my opinion, looks more like a precinct than Yale. At our residential colleges, we’re hugged by gothic architecture that’s only accessible by swiping — unless you’re in Morse or Stiles, in which case I apologize for the FOMO. We struggle with outdated and extremely heavy doors that lead to stories of buildings that have meaning, creating boundaries and emphasizing the greatness of knowledge available to us. The extraordinary architecture is meant to inspire us and connect us to a history of thinkers who have gone before us; it contains Yale’s most extreme attributes within narrow confines. We’re kind of expected to feel like it’s ours alone to enjoy.
While I experienced many firsts at Yale, this otherworldly private place is inspiring. It impresses me the most when I go to the library late at night when no one is on campus except for people in the same compound. However, this explicit definition of place also means less fluidity for me. I’m here now. I’m not going anywhere.
As I settle in, I am acutely aware of the boundary that is naturally created between those who are “in” our Yale community and those who are not. I don’t know if I’ve gotten used to Yale’s abundance, and I don’t know if I ever will. Yale will forever be in my mind – just as it is architecturally designed. But I also began to organize my own space within the sprawling campus. Although I do not yet understand the extent of Yale’s treasures, I have allowed certain experiences to help me.
After just seven weeks, my home life feels more relevant than it will in a few months. I try to be aware of Yale as a precinct as I make room for myself here. Having the unique opportunity to settle also comes with the decision to be flexible: welcoming people into your suite, leaving campus to teach young children. When I arrived at the end of August, the Gothic architecture was an obstacle to building something new. However, as I grow through life at Yale, I continue to find places where the truth transgresses the past.