I set my homepage to The Economist in a pitiful attempt to keep up-to-date on world news. Most of the time, I jump to Facebook or YouTube instead, but occasionally something catches my eyes. “On ‘bullshit jobs’” struck my biggest fear: being stuck in a monotonous 9-to-5 job comparable to what you see in the movie “Office Space.”
A Northwestern degree probably provides some insurance against that but no guarantees by any means. As I am about to enter my senior year, these fears make me uncomfortable. Getting into the wrong career and then being “sucked into it” is about the worst thing I can imagine; for much of last year, it made me averse to working altogether, which is largely responsible for the fact that I didn’t do much this summer except take classes.
All of this called to mind an essay I read right before I entered college during Welcome Week of 2010: “In Praise of Idleness” by the English philosopher Bertrand Russell. Published in 1932, it reflects what today most of us think is totally naive optimism, suggesting 15 hours was the optimal work week, and the rest of the time should be left for exploration of one’s interests and hobbies. Up until recently, I thought his idea was brilliant and – despite being quite the hard worker myself – wondered just why I was caught up in the rat race to begin with.
But looking back, I’ve realized that what I want is less free time, not more of it. Having finished my summer classes, I’m stuck at home doing precisely nothing all day, bored out of my mind, loathing that we don’t start class for another month. My free time is completely squandered. I’m not out developing my passions or creating art. For the most part, I sit around and watch TV or cross my fingers and hope one of the few friends that haven’t left for college is around and wants to hang out.
From my experience, that’s what happens to most of us. Despite how much I grunted and groaned during the first few months of summer, I’m begging to go back and have more things about which to grunt and groan. Maybe it’s my first stroke of adult wisdom – of course, it could equally well be more adolescent naivety – but I definitely believe that those things which keep us occupied, often including the bullshit, are more important to our happiness than we think.
Summer columnist Julian Caracotsios is a rising Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, leave a comment or send a letter to the editor to [email protected]