Ivy League Idler
My dear leisure-loving grandparents in Princeton had no power for a week. After several nervous calls that went straight to voicemail, I finally got a hold of my grandmother. No, they weren’t submerged in feet of saline water after all. They were just camping out in the library because the house was too cold.
Often my yearning to do nothing stems more from a fear of work than an actual pleasure in idleness. In an effort to conquer this fear, I have tried to disguise my schoolwork as best I can. For Halloween, my thesis dressed up as a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts (and the Prudential Center for a spot of shopping). It was a great costume. It utterly fooled me into spending the afternoon after the museum visit working on my thesis. And I actually had fun. I actually wanted to be in the library. As a devout “idle-ist” I rarely set foot in Lamont because it fairly reeks of productivity. The harsh lighting, still air, and somewhat tense silence stifle all hope of doing no work. But yesterday the fluorescent bulbs seemed inviting, the absence of noise peaceful, the stillness calming.
Reading back issues of the New Yorker is arguably as useless as pinning things to boards on Pinterest, and yet I feel less guilty doing the former. Do I feel less guilty about doing nothing at my grandparents’ because I am doing so in a quaint, retro, vaguely ’60s-ish way? Because I bake pecan pie in between naps on the chintz sofa? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because for my grandparents, who worked well into their seventies, this environment of calm is utterly deserved and appropriate. As a visitor to their idle abode, I too am entitled—no obligated—to do nothing. Doing schoolwork would be a disruption. It would be rude.
This idea is so institutionalized that the very thought of class on Friday fills most students with horror. This summer I worked in a particular industry, which I will neglect to name here, in which not only Fridays but (gasp!) even Saturdays and Sundays were fair game for work. It was with a heavy heart and heavier footsteps that I dragged myself—literally, I was on crutches for most of the summer—to the office many a weekend, knowing how ludicrous it was for me to be there at all. In Harvard land, weekend class work is as alien as arriving on the hour for section.