Stories of Yale Women

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Lessons in Imperfection

The imposing Harkness Tower, looms above us daily, a pillar of excellence and a stark reminder of the special place we had the joy of calling home for four "bright college years". Over the course of those 8 semesters, we learned, we loved, we failed, we excelled - but most of all, we challenged ourselves daily, in a continuous effort to be better.

I would be remiss not to remark that the brilliant professors, rigorous coursework and unique internship opportunities offered at Yale did not constitute a big part of that transformation. In my mind, however, those will only come second to the kind, empathetic, intelligent, and (yes) flawed people I found myself surrounded with during my precious Yale journey.

Over the course of those four years, I had the privilege of getting to know some of the most special humans I have ever encountered. People who, when initially crossing my path, I considered to be too cool/intelligent/funny/special to spend their time around me. Gradually, however, those people made Yale home. And, gradually, each and every one of them allowed me to see their not-so-perfect side; and to encourage me to embrace my own imperfections. 

I learned to open my heart wide open - even though that always carried the risk of having it get broken. I learned to approach others without expectations, and to allow them to blossom and impress me with their wonderful colors and brilliant hues. I learned to always speak my mind, with courage but with caution - willing to allow others to question or challenge my views. And I learned that, while being there for others is important, it is not always possible, nor is it always the right thing to do. 

Yes, at Yale I learned how to be better. More importantly, however, I accepted the fact that, while I can always improve, I will never be perfect. And I learned that being imperfect is a crown to wear proudly on my head, not a secret to be hiding away in some dark corner of my being, masked behind a constantly smiling facade. 

Four Joy-Filled Years in Yale's English Department

To arrive at Yale means to already be accomplished, but to be striving for more, for better, for greater. These are admirable traits, and characterised the way I approached extracurriculars, leadership roles, campus jobs and the eventual career search. Outside the classroom, I filled my days to the brim with these commitments, social engagements and trips to Blue State Coffee. But, color-coded Google calendar aside, what will always stay with me were the four years of unquantifiable joy that being an English major brought me. 

The acceptance that I would never be the best in a room full of scholarly students dedicated to academia and research turned out to be a permission slip to embrace the hours of thoughtful discussion in the seminar rooms of LC, to find a comfortable chair in the L&B room and read until closing time, and to enjoy every second of studying English for the blissful sake of it. To allow myself to fall in love with so many textured forms of human expression, in classes ranging from "Love and Desire in the 19th Century" to "The Politics of Emotion", working hard at countless essays, but knowing that the fulfilment these classes brought me and the ways in which they expanded the perimeters of my thinking were more validating than good grades.
How humbling it was to spend four years in the company of inspiring classmates, engaging professors and more brilliant books than my heart could ever desire, and how refreshing it was to finally allow myself to evaluate just one aspect of my life using the metric of joy.
As someone who has not (yet) pursued further education since undergrad, I'll always be grateful that my last academic experience at Yale was fueled by enthusiasm and curiosity - rather than the need to excel for the sake of it. Now, working my first corporate job and writing more emails than essays, I count my Yale degree as an accomplishment, but also a reminder that finding joy in something does not always come from seeking to be the best.
- Veena McCoole, Morse College '19