Updated: Jan 4, 2020
My first memory is of a long car ride with my dad, his booming voice dramatically sharing the story of The Princess Bride. When I was eight and I discovered that the story was written by S. Morgenstern (and not my father), I felt betrayed and indignant. Upon confrontation, my father explained that while the he did not birth the Princess Bride, he tweaked the story in ways he knew I would enjoy—lengthening the romance scenes and forgoing the scary forest with rodents of unusual size. After seeing the movie, I discovered that I preferred my father’s version of the tale, truly an original created because he loves me. Many people loved the timeless classic, but the story still belonged to my dad and I. As scholar Stephen Greenblatt (BA '64, PhD '69) has noted, "When you open a book that was written centuries ago by someone who couldn't possibly have known you, or anything about your life, and discover that it seems to have been written for you, that's an amazing experience." Every book I read expands my mind and feels like a direct conversation.
As I began my freshman year at Yale, my grandma was diagnosed with late-stage Parkinson’s disease, and she was moved to a senior living facility that could provide her with the care she required. Her inability to express herself broke my heart. At the heart of the matter, my grandma taught me how to be a good person. Each day, she told me a “Do-Be and Don’t Be” story. The concept was simple. Each story featured two siblings, one was well-behaved (the Do Be) and one who was rambunctious and always did the wrong thing (the Don’t Be); every story focused on a different outing and a different opportunity to make the right choice—or the wrong one. As a child, I was chomping at the bit to see what creative punishment my grandma would devise for the Don’t Be and what type of reward the Do Be would receive. However, those stories imprinted more on me than just the crazy antics of a pair of twins, my grandma showed me through a daily twenty-minute episode how “being a Do Be” reaped rewards and built a good character. I plan to convey lessons to my own children in the same way.
Everyone in my family was deeply saddened by the change in my grandmother, and I mourned the loss of the woman who filled my life with the silliest, yet thoughtful and meaningful, parables. My grandma was on my mind all the time while I was at school. One day, I had the funniest conversation with my suitemate in the dining hall, and I texted my grandma the dialogue. Within minutes, her caregiver replied to the text and said she read the text aloud to my grandma, who laughed louder than she had in months. One spur of the moment text profoundly altered my daily routine. Every day for the past four years, I make note of one anecdote, embarrassing incident or personal triumph to text to my grandma right before I fall asleep. Sending these texts maintains the relationship my grandma and I have always had, and adds more nuance. My grandma is unable to communicate with me the way she did in the past, but that does not mean she cannot be a part of my present. Now, my grandma hears my unfiltered stories as a twenty-one-year-old, figuring out who I want to be and which stories I want to tell.
In tandem, my time at Yale was filled with incredible academic experiences that enriched the way I approached situations in my daily life. I majored in psychology, but I also continued my love of stories, delving into the classics. Each Classical Civilizations course, from Norse mythology to Roman architecture, fulfilled my desire to explore the nature of the human heart, and the resulting actions of the complex and multi-faceted characters who possess them. It is the conflict in classic literature that takes hold of me most deeply, specifically the human heart in conflict with itself, the very conflict that we all experience, in our own hearts, every day. The classics introduced me to complex and multi-layered characters. By absorbing ourselves in every aspect of those characters, we can see the story more clearly, and eventually complexity untangles into understanding. Before, I immersed myself in books for enjoyment; as I studied in college, I immersed myself in studies of classical civilizations to develop the interpretiveskills to identify common themes and understand why people behave the way they do. Combined with psychology, studying classical civilizations holds the key to understanding both ancient and modern civilization, revealing the story of human nature, a story I want to decipher and unravel.
I feel most at home in a story, whether classic literature, ancient myth or modern romance novel. My feet in fuzzy socks, my hair pulled back and my nose in a book: that is my happy place, my place of refuge, yet also the place I feel the bravest and most daring. I come alive within the confines of a tale.; my heart beats to the rustle of turning pages. I root for the heroine, I rally against the obstacles, and I search for redemption in the dastardliest villain. My secret self-doubt used to be that my passion is reading the words of others instead of creating my own. Now I know that I can use words to create my own stories, positively impacting the lives of my loved ones. My truest desire is to wield words to help others. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than read stories (though reading will always be a pillar in my life), I want to impact the stories of others in a meaningful way.