IN PHOTOS: Remembering Photography by Sydney Bowen '21. Words by Kelsey Bowen '21.

Ode to Our Youth

Remember how fall smelled on Old Campus. Sharp and clean and sweet. The way the trees glowed iridescent yellow in the sunlight as we walked to class. The way we nodded at familiar faces, a silent salute suspended between passing smiles.

Remember how the Harkness bells reverberated through the courtyards, echoing within the space between our souls. A ballad of belonging.

Remember how we danced, our shoes sticking to the tacky floor, our bodies pressed together. How the air was humid and thick, laden with passion.

Remember how free we felt, skin against skin, hearts pulsing in time with the pounding bass. Young and reckless. Alive.

Remember how small we felt, bathed in the silken twilight of the stacks, the dust particles illuminated by the slant of the fading sun. Enshrined in a hallowed temple of wisdom, breathing in the papery musk of the past. Reverent and still.

Remember how our hands cramped as we scribbled to fill blue books. How the smell of chalk and nerves blended together in the drafty auditorium. The anxious jitters. The frenetic energy. That final rush when the exam was over, and we stumbled bleary-eyed back into daylight.

Remember how we cried. When deadlines loomed like icebergs and time was fine sand slipping through our fingers. When we fell too hard and too fast, when we felt too deeply.

Remember how the tears stained our cheeks when the world felt unspeakably unfair. When life’s gauntlet was unimaginably cruel. When we were homesick, and lonely, and scared.

Remember how we loved. How shy glances and clumsy chatter stretched into endless summer nights. How first dates became pizza on the dorm room floor. How life felt more saturated — unfocused and overexposed. How the world felt lighter, safer. How this became Home.

Remember how we slept, arms wrapped around us. Warm and untouchable beneath the duvet, our breath synced in the rhythmic trance of slumber. Peaceful at last.

Remember in the morning how we lingered in the space between waking and sleeping, reality tugging at the edges of our dreamscape. How, for an instant, everything was possible. How we longed for one more moment of bliss.

Remember how alive we felt at 1 a.m., singing “Living on a Prayer” at the top of our lungs. That first breath of cool night air as we filed out of Toad’s Place. Remember how the drinks and the music and the night made us fearless. Invincible.

Remember those nights in that bar. In the library. In our suite. When we lingered at the table while the ice melted in our empty cups, until the bartender rang for last call. When we curled over computers until the librarian tapped our shoulders and murmured, “We’re closing.” When we danced in our sweatpants to Oldies, wired and exuberant, cursors paused mid-sentence in our awaiting essays.

Remember how we persisted when COVID stole our year. When masks covered smiles and the air stung with the acrid stench of antiseptic. When the aisles were barren, the streets abandoned. When uncertainty hung like heavy fog in the distance. Remember how we connected, through texts and calls and glowing squares of video. Together, despite the distance.

Remember how we raised our glasses. To this. To Yale. To the friends forever. To the ones we’ll never see again. To the faces and places that defined us. That molded us like wet clay. That threatened to break us. That saved us.