“Go Greyhound.” The slogan is meaningless for most people — especially for most Yalies. Save for the beatniks, the immigrants, the woman and her newborn, the released prisoner or the stray college student, the interminable trek across the nation by bus has become a fleeting memory in the age of planes, Uber, efficiency and ease.
By financial necessity, I have gone Greyhound many times. The 40-odd-hour journey from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New Haven is grueling, sometimes even disparaging. To keep afloat, pleasure must be found in a conversation here, a thought by the window there, a layover in an interesting city — small joys littered throughout this extended interlude in life. In short, the enjoyment of the ride requires the ability to find solace in transition, a skill that we Yalies far too often lack. With spring break in less than a week, many students will be traveling across the country or even around the world. As we transition to our destinations, this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on where our attachment to purpose — our instinctual tendency to define our lives by a narrative — might fall short.
Many of us are driven to achieve. We explore while we are here, but we usually end up on a defined path. We become the next generation of consultants, lawyers and problem solvers. Our efforts are driven by an end — usually a career or a family. The transitions in between are simply means to those ends. Our classes eventually must coalesce into a major, and our extracurriculars must emphasize aspects of our character. Even partying is often only considered a release from our pursuits, a layover from our stresses. Life’s activities become the intermissions we feel compelled to move past.
On my 18th birthday, I hopped alone on a bus to the Northeast to visit colleges. Little did I know that a year and a half later I would be returning by bus from the end of a first semester at Yale, passing through Kansas on my way to Oklahoma on a snowy Christmas day. To live within life’s intervals is to converse with the man traveling to Montreal to learn French through immersion, or to laugh with the family from Wyoming who wants a new life for their baby, or to discuss the World Cup with the soccer enthusiast from Bangladesh. To stare out the window at an unknown field in Ohio while listening to “New Slang” by the Shins, actually paying attention to the lyrics when James Mercer croons, “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find.”
The good life is found within these timeless moments of dwelling in the infinite. If we define ourselves merely by a calling, considering most events in our path to be a means to an end, to be meaningless in themselves, we fail to live authentically. To steer the direction of our lives toward a predefined destination means we only place value in moments that we assume will bring us closer to our idealized selves.
For me, riding a Greyhound broke the cyclical pattern of life that is so easy to be trapped in. Whether that cycle is of poverty and suffering or of Wall Street and PowerPoints, the only escape is to consider every transition to be a destination in itself. We concern ourselves so torturously with how to live that we don’t ever get there. Instead, we should give careful thought about what kind of passenger we are on this journey of existence.
As Yalies, the worlds we create for ourselves become the only world that we investigate and advocate for. In our addiction to problem solving, we often only create the problems of the next generation. The road of life is the only one we can travel — there’s no reason to dream ourselves away from it. As Jack Kerouac writes, “The road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go — right?”
Going Greyhound isn’t the only way to appreciate the value of living in transition. The broken seats, the missed connections, the strange smells and depressing stations most definitely are not the secret ingredients of Aristotle’s “Eudaimonia.” But that Greyhound ride is the first time I became fully conscious of the world outside of my self-imposed limitations. With spring break coming up, you might give it a try — it’s cheap after all.
Leland Stange is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at email@example.com .