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On melancholy: tuition, Netflix and the Times

Published: March 21, 2008
Section: Opinions


A friend of mine once said that when life got him down, he’d go outside and fire his guns at the sky, trying to kill God. I’ve been having a pretty lousy week and I’m starting to think he may have been onto something.

Is it just me or does the college life bum you out sometimes? Having eight dollars in your checking account, sleeping in a glorified cell, realizing how sub-par Brandeis’ St. Patrick’s Day festivities are—I mean, these things aren’t fun. And you can’t complain about them without sounding like a total douchebag. Earlier today, I was telling my friend about how I was annoyed that I couldn’t get on the wireless network for a good five minutes before I remembered there are people with real problems.

It’s not like I’m usually cheerful, but sometimes I get in such a funk that my usual coping strategies (drinking in the middle of the day, spitting on government buildings) don’t work. When I’m in that mindset, I tend to think of everything as directly related to the fact that my parents pay an inordinate amount of money for my tuition—you know, like, “I can’t believe my parents pay forty-five thousand dollars a year so I can sit in a lecture hall and listen to this idiot blabber about philosophy of history” or “I can’t believe my parents pay full tuition and the mailroom won’t even give me my Netflix envelope.” This doesn’t actually alleviate my grouchiness, but it does help justify it, so I suggest you give it a try.

There’s a new book out on just this sort of melancholy: Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy. I didn’t actually read it because I only read books that will improve my social standing among my peers, but I did read the review in the New York Times. They had Garrison Keillor from A Prairie Home Companion review it, which was stupid, because Keillor is obviously unfairly biased towards happiness (I don’t get A Prairie Home Companion, by the way. It’s not funny.

If anyone tries to tell you they like A Prairie Home Companion, call them out on being a faker. No one is amused by gentle, Midwestern irony—not even gentle Midwesterners). Anyway, Keillor slammed the book, but it’s nice to see we have at least one player for Team Unhappiness, even if he’s the less famous one.

My suitemate, Dan, is an excessively cheerful man. I just walked out into the living room to turn the heat down and I saw him lying on the couch, reading a Stephen King novel. He was eating one of those gross salads from the campus center and he looked as happy as a clam. It made me feel like I was being a downer. Sometimes it’s just best to go to bed and start over in the morning. Tomorrow will be a new day—it has nothing better to do.