First Year, First Fall

When I went home for fall break, I looked through my old journals, from the first-grade diary with a lock and puppies on the cover to the understated blue Moleskine I thought was the epitome of sophistication in junior year of high school. From every year of my life, there were two entries, the first in August: Dear Diary, Why does everyone hate me? I am so alone. I have nothing, and I hate seventh grade. Then, radio silence until around Thanksgiving: Dear Diary, I am so loved. Feeling so grateful for all the warmth that surrounds me in my home lately. The leaves are so beautiful, the air is crisp. I feel so fulfilled. Every year, if I wrote anything in my diary during August and November, it was those two entries almost exactly, with varying degrees of melodrama. 

I have always felt best within the confines of a routine. The unstructured time between June and September combined with the summer heat of New York City feeds my anxious brain. Perhaps the warm fuzzy feelings I have about fall are just a symptom of my relief that the school year has arrived again, and with that, the subway has once again reached normal temperatures. But this year, I’ve started to wonder if there is something universally special about the season. I haven’t been keeping up with my journal (frankly, I think I’m scared that I’ll leave it exposed and my suitemates will read it), but I’m still sensing warm, fuzzy fall feelings all around, even in those who prefer summer, or those who have never seen changing seasons. 

Is it the marketing? Courtnie Bui, SM ’27, tells me that fall has always been her favorite season. Being from Orange County, California, she admits that “it doesn’t make sense.” She recounts the gloomy skies over Family Weekend, saying that they made her feel a “genuine and inconsolable sadness” and that upon leaving her suite and realizing she had to walk in the rain, her “fists were balled and shaking in rage.” While she has never experienced real variety in weather until now, Bui believes that she has the same understanding of fall as anyone born and raised on the East Coast. “So many places in America don’t experience changing seasons, but we all have a collective sense of what it is to be in autumn because we’ve been fed the same pumpkin spice goodness. Consistency in perception of fall comes from somewhere—most likely branding and the media. I love it.”

Is it the clothes, perhaps? Nneka Moweta, BK ’27, remarks that she was a little disappointed by Yalies’ fashion choices at the start of the semester but is feeling hopeful about outfits to come: “everyone is bringing so much to the table…there was fall in [Los Angeles, CA] but there’s so much East Coast-ness here.” 

Is it simply the lack of knowledge regarding the sad, long winter that is to come? Abigail Hu and Priya Gill, both MY ’27, have been trying to pick out winter coats for about a week and are just excited to be in a new place with crunchy leaves. They are not yet anticipating the stretch of gray skies and boredom that comes between January and spring break. “We’re in a different space; we’re not used to seasonal depression,” says Hu, a native of New Orleans, LA. “I went to New York for a day trip with my friends and saw these beautiful autumnal colors for the first time ever.” Gill echoes this sentiment, saying that the changing leaves have made her feel “peaceful…we don’t have many trees in [Fresno, CA].” She also remarks on the coziness of the season, saying that the cool weather makes friends want to curl up together indoors: “I feel better because I’m spending time inside with friends.” 

These fall-loving first years, who do not yet associate summer’s end with fall’s beginning, seem to find the same comfort in autumn as I always have. What truly creates those warm and fuzzy fall feelings is likely a combination of everything my friends from warmer places told me. While I do believe that we’re all influenced by Starbucks campaigns and Thanksgiving stories, there is something inexplicably wonderful about fall—something that cannot be explained away by marketing, clothes, or first-timers’ excitement. I’m hopeful that when I muster the courage to take my journal out again, it will contain lines about the joy this first New Haven fall has brought me. And then, silence until next August.

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