I turn to face Phelps Gate and see Cat’s smiling face as she jogs through the archway. “Cat!” I screech, breaking into a full sprint towards her.
Our shrieks echo off the first-year dorms as we collide in the middle of Old Campus, wrapping our arms around each other and squeezing so tight it is hard to breathe. “I can’t believe you’re actually here,” she says.
“I can’t believe you’re actually here.” When we pull away, there are tears in our eyes. It is a reunion straight out of a movie, one meant for childhood best friends who haven’t seen each other in years.
This was August 20, 2022: the night before first-year move-in. Cat and I had only met once before, during Bulldog Days, but already I felt like I’d known her for my entire life. We’d met on social media the day we both got into Yale early action, and stayed in touch through senior year and the summer after. When we finally arrived on campus, our FaceTimes and text exchanges turned into girls’ nights and sleepovers on each other’s couches. Nothing changed, and everything changed — we kept growing closer.
I got lucky because I met so many of my best friends early on. One messaged me on YaleConnect simply because my bio said I liked Gilmore Girls. I had no idea she would become my lifeline, there for both Monday lunch debriefs and late night rants. The aspiring director from my early-action group chat became my favorite writing partner, fellow musical-watcher and one of my most trusted confidantes. And of course there were my suitemates, the three rays of sunshine that the Branford housing office randomly paired me with. We still live together today.
Like most people, the idea of this ever-elusive “friend group” was appealing before and after coming to Yale. I wanted to find my Ross and my Monica and my Rachel and my whatever-the-rest-of-their-names were (I’ve never actually seen “Friends,” but I’ve heard it’s a whole thing). So I tried, and in the first week I met a group of girls who seemed very nice. Some of them stuck around, but most didn’t. I quickly realized that you can’t force friends. Sometimes they stayed surface-level, no matter how much you wished it would go deeper. It took me a while to realize that was okay, and moreover, that it was normal. It took me even longer to realize that you don’t need a “friend group” to have friends. Most of my closest friendships formed from one-on-one connections — not because of any distinct “group,” but because we simply liked each other.
Just as I’d met some of my best friends early on, there were just as many that I didn’t meet until first year was well underway. I spent all of first-year fall break bonding with a friend of a friend who is now one of my best friends, someone who had been there for me for post-rehearsal chicken nuggets and random adventures up Science Hill (a fascinating, faraway land for a non-STEM major). I put up my first show with the kid from my first-year seminar who always wore cool outfits, and the girl I met outside of my first audition is one of my favorite people to talk to about literally everything. I’m constantly inspired by the kindness of the guy I met at the theater department info session, and spent most of my first day back on campus this semester catching up with him. Some of my closest friends today are even people that I met much later on, through second semester classes, the Dramat commencement musical and the midnight line at the GHeav hoagie counter. The beautiful thing about Yale is that you never know who you could meet nor what value they might add to your life.
At the beginning of my first year, I unintentionally started a tradition of setting a personal goal at the beginning of every semester. For my second semester of first year, that goal was to prioritize the people that made me the happiest. It’s cheesy, but ever since then, my time at Yale has been extra special. If you take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this: life is too short to waste your time on anyone but the people who would answer the phone at two in the morning and give you handwritten notes just because they know you’re having a rough day. It doesn’t matter if they’re someone you’ve known from the first day of school or someone you met last week — if they bring joy and add value to your life, hold on to them. Tight.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to finding your people at Yale, or even in life at large. I just know that somehow, I got lucky. I lived on the right floor. I sat on the benches outside Vanderbilt Hall. I signed up for a lot of clubs that I never went to, and I tried to pursue the passions that made me apply to this school in the first place. In the pursuit of joy, I hit the lottery. Now, I’m trying to spend my winnings well.