story | Lynn Lee
photo | Yale-NUS Admissions
Hoa and I sat quietly as the rain fell. The soft wet darkness of the evening seemed to bring the lively sounds on campus closer to each other and to us, as we sat on cold tiles with echoes of song around us. It was the start of senior year and I had just returned from studying abroad.
“I wish I had done more in my first year.”
I looked at the blob of light coming from the Multi-Purpose Hall, flickering with the frenzied movements of little long shapes. Across, a group of students was meeting on the steps below Café Agora, and just next to us, acapella groups filled the Performance Hall with music and laughter.
“You can still do things this year.”
Being on this campus makes it hard not to be doing things. Compared to my semester abroad, my time at Yale-NUS College was constantly filled with schoolwork, extracurriculars, suite late-night movies, Rector’s Teas I never even knew I was interested in, and so much more. But we were going to be graduating, and things were going to be different. I would no longer have easy access to a court and a team to play volleyball with, nor casually spend my evening hearing a world-renowned linguist discuss East Asian script, nor have the chance to take introductory level computer science courses as a Literature major, ever again.
This was big for me, especially as I reflected on how I had spent my freshman year in 2013. Back then, the combination of the realization that I didn’t actually have to officially join a group and the start-up climate of the school meant that my participation in various activities was very, very casual. Three years and many changes later, I found myself in my senior year and hugely dissatisfied with the lack of seriousness and variety in my choice of activities. I was doing the same things that I had always been doing, and in a too-casual-to-actually-improve manner. That got me thinking, and I decided to spend my final year of college differently than I had spent my first few. I guess that’s when Senior Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) kicked in.
Mariel had always talked to me about rock climbing, and the past two years had seen me toying with the idea a little before my hands would become filled with deadlines and distractions. This will be the year, I decided, I will make sure I do the things I have been saying I would for the past three.
And so it was. I bought my climbing shoes, went to the wall every Thursday and some Saturdays, and got myself certified. Things were going as planned and I was eager to bring this new adventurous spirit into other parts of my senior year college life too.
So of course I would take Introduction to Python in my final semester and learn to code. It would be a refreshing change and it was for only half a semester—low stakes, I thought, perfect. Soon, I will be the rock-climbing and coding college graduate I never thought I could be, and make up for all that I had not done in freshman year.
At this point, I became increasingly conscious of my Senior FOMO tendencies, and had also discussed it both jokingly and seriously with my suitemates, who, unlike me, had had their FOMO days safely ticked off their college experiences. As all good suitemates do, they remained teasingly supportive. Some of my days were long and draining, but I remember feeling in them an energising kind of exhaustion, wherein I constantly looked forward to the difficulty of doing the next new thing. It was particularly apt, too, that in starting these activities, I also had the chance to soak in the energy of underclassmen who were not as chronologically deviant as I was in quenching the FOMO thirst.
Gradually, things gave, as we expect in the stories of even the hardiest protagonists. I saw, quite literally, physical manifestations of my frenzy when an eye allergy acted up. Family also began asking why I wasn’t going home on weekends, and while they understood when I explained that I really wanted to make the most of my final year in school, I could tell that sometimes my parents really wanted me to stay home for the night rather than just that few hours.
As with Freshman FOMO, Senior FOMO comes to a screeching halt once the realisation hits home, whether in the form of a bad grade, an injury, or in my case, after a particularly challenging meeting with my Capstone advisor one afternoon in the second semester of senior year. It was then that I felt the effects of half-assing a load of activities rather than giving my best in what I truly want to do.
So I decided to change a bunch of things. I dropped a class, told some people of my change in commitment for practices, and redrafted a new plan for my time. It was initially unsettling, as with all decision-aftermaths. The guilt, the humility, the realization that I had an afternoon free…
I learnt valuable lessons about time management, but have also realised that I wouldn’t have done things very differently anyway. I guess FOMO never truly runs out, and I won’t be surprised if this were so even next time, in grad school, in the workplace, in anywhere else one ends up. It almost feels like I’ve absorbed an energy that is distinctly of Yale-NUS: a place brimming with the coming together of people so eager to create and witness and be a part of crazy new endeavors they believe in, be it starting a club or a conversation or a brand-new school.
Perhaps the most challenging FOMO, however, emerges in the final days before graduation, days long with empty hours, yet short with the anticipation of the end. The time with people I’ve lived and studied with for the past four years remain closest to my heart, and is what I fear most to miss out on.