In August, when I said goodbye to my family in the airport ready to head off to college, I didn’t shed a tear in front of them. It was a sad parting, but I was also excited for everything college promised: new adventures, new friends, essentially a new life. Yale in many ways has met that expectation, and I couldn’t ask for more.
I flew back to sunny California for Thanksgiving break. I spent a beautiful week playing mahjong with my family and methodically checking off my bucket list of favorite food places. It was wonderful, yes, so wonderful that when it came time to say goodbye, I broke down in tears at LAX, clinging onto Mom and Dad.
I don’t have anything against Yale. In fact, I’ve fallen head over heels for Yale, and I think it’s more than a first-year puppy love. But I cried anyway, dreading not the return to Yale, but rather the separation from my family—even if I was going to see them in less than four weeks for Christmas break.
My mom texted me the following picture. It only made me cry harder on the journey back to Yale, knowing she was taking it just as hard as I was.
The fact was, I was leaving my family behind. Thanksgiving break was a return to tenants of my previous lifestyle: heart-to-hearts with my mom, jokes with my dad, and games with my brother. After break, I was convinced no one could show me that same degree of kindness at Yale. After all, how deep could connections go for first-years in a brand new environment? Jaded thoughts began taking over. On the shuttle back to Yale’s campus, I prayed the ride would last forever.
Arriving at Old Campus, I planned to make two trips to lug my heavy suitcases up five flights of stairs (no elevators in my building!). Instead, I was greeted by a kind stranger who spontaneously helped carry them all the way up to my suite—and suddenly I was reminded that I was not alone. That people here—my roommate, suitemates, classmates, frocos, professors, ministry fellows, and yes, strangers—have consistently wrapped me in their love and care. This random act of kindness was a timely reminder of this loving community. It was the simplest, yet loveliest welcome back from Yale.
The cycle will repeat itself—no matter how much I want to delay it, I’ll have to say goodbye again to my family and dog at the end of Winter Break. I might break down in tears again. I might throw a tantrum in the middle of LAX. I might never master the art of saying goodbye, but maybe that’s okay. Because every goodbye is accompanied by a welcome back. And while not everyone may bump into a Good Samaritan with the strength to lug a 50-pound suitcase up five flights of stairs, I hope you’ll find your own little welcome back in the new year.