I’ll forget to respond to your text. I’ll say I’m “interested” in your event but not consider going. Now that Camp Yale is over, I truly don’t know if I’ll join you for another 2 a.m. drunk pizza run. You will likely do the same to me.
This leads many to conclude that Yale is filled with fake and toxic individuals. I strongly disagree. Yale is undeniably comprised of the best potential friends any college student could hope for. To find them, all it takes is a life long course in sincerity.
This is a conclusion that has taken a year to reach: Yale kids are too smart for their own good. We have a need to analyze all things — Western civilization, the toxicity of heteronormativity, microaggressions and, above all, friendships. As a result of this over-analysis, there is a degree of mistrust when it comes to our friends. There is a general sense that no one is truly “sincere.”
This runs counter to another common practice of Yale students: the glorification of our friends. We believe that each person around us is a genius. We will often be heard saying, “Oh my god, yeah! That person is literally my favorite person, so great, literally incredible.” The person in question will either believe it, or accept it as a hollow message that the friend says of all of their friends. The popular latter option leads to friendship being put into the same insincere realm of “let’s get a meal” or “let’s get a meal but not like ‘get a meal’ you know, but like … actually.” It creates a pressure to celebrate our friends rigorously while simultaneously rejecting any credit given to us. This is not only unhealthy to the friendship, but makes us unhappy.
This leads me to a Life Thesis ripped from conversations around episodes of Rick and Morty. The thesis? Life is short, nothing really matters, so you might as well make yourself and other people happy. This “post-ironic sentimentality,” an idea coined by David Foster Wallace, is hard to accept, and harder to achieve, but I’ve found it powerful. Yes, there is a chance that everyone is toxic, terrible and insincere, that we will make no difference in the grand scheme of the world — and that we will die alone. However, it simply does not matter if those answers are true or not, the answers lead us to an unnecessary conclusion that damages the soul. What matters is that we must be happy and make those around us happy. This is sincerity.
Think of when you sit around Cross Campus and carpet-bomb praise your friends. Do you mean it? If you think honestly, and don’t discredit your own opinion, I believe your answer would be “yes.” I think that you truthfully like and enjoy your friends, you find them engaging and exciting. They kill the grind, (because they’re super smart) while also being wildly hilarious and wacky people.
And here is the thing: They think the same thing of you. This conclusion comes with an air of naivety that we, as a post-ironic culture, find foolish to consider. The people around you are just like you. At the end of the day you care about the people around you. They care about you. They may not always show it or maybe they have a hard time of showing it, just like you. They crave validation and constantly wonder if they are doing enough. They want to take up space, to talk about their thoughts and discover more about themselves. They criticize themselves every time they make a mistake and just want someone to tell them that they understand and that they know they are trying to be better.
So shop sincerity. Try it on for size. It’s not a gut, it’ll keep you up late at night. Often, you’ll have to do work during meals. Sometimes you won’t do as well as you’d hope. But it will be filled and taught by your favorite people, and I think you’ll learn a lot. Plus, I’ll be there, so, if you want to discuss the readings or something, let’s get a meal.
Branson Rideaux is a sophomore in Benjamin Franklin College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .