There are some things we Yale folks do that I’d like to disqualify as hanging. We like to do homework in the same room, looking up from the screens of our laptops every few minutes to fire off a sentence or two. It’s nice to breathe the same air as a couple of friends while you read Wittgenstein, but it ain’t hanging. It’s just sweetening the bitter horse pill that is German philosophy. We like to sit across a table in a dining hall and compare notes on summer internships, midterms, hookups. We call this “catching up.” Important in its own way, but still not hanging.
A few nights a week, many of us crank music and pound booze, then go out in search of the night’s best available action. Sometimes there’s dancing, sometimes it’s the same conversations that happen in dining halls except you’re standing up in a crowded room and trying harder not to slur your words. This is called “going out,” and on the right evening it can be terrific. Here again: close but no cigar in the hanging department. Every once in a long while, we sit cross-legged on a futon once our homework’s done and start touching the void. “Am I living up to my potential? Where do I fit in here? What am I missing? Do I have the right friends?” We guzzle tea or wine depending on the night and give answering these questions an earnest shot. This is called “having a talk,” but it’s still different from hanging.
Each of those has got its place and purpose. Blowing off steam, untangling an emotional knot, coming up with a plan of action for the summer—we need to go out and have talks and catch up. But the troublesome bit, the pothole that blows out a whole lot of our tires, is that we’ve coached ourselves out of ever doing anything that isn’t goal-oriented. We’re in love with the Means to an End and Time Well Spent. We’ve got friendships that are slaves to the clock: 45 minutes for dinner with Emily, 35 minutes for coffee with Jim, got to make sure we don’t forget to talk about his ex. The skills and neuroses that got us in the door here—time management, impatience, efficiency—don’t always jive when it comes to human connection or personal sanity. Be productive with your errands, when you’re working on an essay, when you’re trying to milk a couple of extra dollars out of the Yale Corporation’s ample teat.
Then forget about productivity for a little while. First off, it’s wasted energy. We’ve got M.C. Escher to-do lists at this place—we’re never getting to the bottom of those sumbitches. But we don’t have to. We’re all fighting a losing battle in a war we’ve already won. Because you will be fine. You’ll graduate from one of the best colleges on the planet with a sharp brain full of good ideas and a phone full of the names of fantastically interesting people and Honey, now, just listen… you’re gonna be FINE! Second, it’s destructive. If we can’t cool it on the Creed of Productivity and Potential, we’re going to wind up with minds and souls that look like downtown Shanghai—all cranes and smog. And then the bottom’s gonna drop out and it’ll look like Camden, New Jersey—burned out and lonesome. Ditch the productivity.
Here’s what we’ve got to do: we’ve got to talk about farts. We’ve got to leave some of our goddamn emails unanswered for a while. We’ve got to get the asses of our friends onto the couches of our homes, and we’ve got to breathe deep and we’ve got to drink deep and we’ve got to spend long hours getting nothing but laughing done. No getting smarter, no getting further ahead. No summer plans allowed. On a Saturday afternoon or a Wednesday evening or any time at all. Just smiling at people we dig and letting the music play, because that’s good stuff.