I think my freshman seminar is starting to mess with my head. I have been awake now for 31 hours and 26 minutes. The sky is outside is gray. The air is chilly, but not cold. I just ate, but I was not hungry. I am on my bed now, but I am not sleeping. I have been awake now for 31 hours and 28 minutes, and I think my freshman seminar is starting to mess my head.
The only reason I made it this far is that I do not drink caffeine. At least usually I don’t. So all it took was half a can of Amp ($2.49 at Durfee’s), and I didn’t even think about sleep until 10:15 the next morning. The seminar wanted an essay, and I was going to give it an essay. (It’s an anthropology course and right now the focus is on conceptions of space and time. And time and space are feeling weird to me right now.)
Right now, I’m in a twilight zone where I can never quite be sure if I’m at work or at play. There are no clear break-off points. If studying on a couch in a corner of Bass with friends is work, then studying on the common room sofa is pretty much the same thing. And then what’s the difference if we put a little music on or talk every 15 minutes? How about every five? What if we’re talking a lot, but we all have our laptops open? You can draw the line wherever you want, but they still flow right into each other. The scale is as grey as the cloudy New Haven sky.
The weirdest part about my first ever work-required all-nighter is that today I feel the same as any other afternoon. As the sunlight gets weaker and shorter, I spend more time under electric lights, and the days start to flow into each other.
Are my extracurriculars, or even my social life, work or play? There is always a schedule. Free time needs to be rationed. And on weekend nights, there is research to be done to find the right parties.
On Tuesday night I did the proper collegiate thing and drank when my state (Jersey!) went blue. Outside on Old Campus with about 700 other screaming freshmen, I belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” until my throat was hoarse. But I still kept my celebration limited enough that at 2 a.m. when the crowds dispersed, I could pull out my laptop again and return to writing.
Everything was so blurry that there was a part of me that enjoyed editing a paper the whole night through.
Yale is essentially an introductory course to the time schedule of the professional class in America that most of us are headed toward. I see these symptoms in my parents. They constantly check e-mails because their work can be done at home as easily as it can be done at the office. They have a large degree of freedom in making their schedules, and yet they never escape the feeling that work is all around. Sound familiar?
We are given the opportunity to work with our minds, but that has come to mean we work with them all the time. Either we are being purposely conditioned for the lifestyle of the information economy, or this is simply the lifestyle to which such a style of work lends itself.
The strangest part is that this is all under my control. I could decide to designate every minute after eight o’clock as my own free time. And yet I, like most people I know, am so deep in the mentality that I do not or cannot make that change.
We are in a twilight zone. And if you have ever seen an episode, you know that people rarely ever come out.
Nate Schwalb is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.