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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Explosion When My Pen Hits, Tremendous: Oh the simple life

< you broke or rich you gotta get biz/ Havin' money's the everything that havin' it is” – Kanye West, Good Life

Life in the trenches as a Carletonian columnist is not easy. While I’m tempted to spend 800 words ranting about the saturation of talent in the soft-core IM soccer league, I have the pressure of my quality publication pushing me to come up with a substantive opinion every week. And I’m so busy writing about my substantive opinions that there is no time to write up my superfluous ones for other Carleton publications that come out on Friday, despite my desire to appear next to a Tiny’s ad.

Sometimes, however, these superfluous issues spark other trains of thought, and, while I don’t want to admit that I had any kind of inspiration from watching the first four episodes of Gossip Girl this week, I, through some superfluity or another, became interested in the concept of simplicity, especially as it relates to Carleton and, perhaps, the Upper East Side.

Simplicity is the kind of virtue that we, in America, love to idealize as long as we don’t have to deal with it. We love Buddhism and Ikea for their simplicity. We enjoy imagining a hermetic life in the mountains of Montana, and we really like fantasizing about sitting around in some romantic part of France and sipping wine, which is what most French people do.

Unfortunately, life at Carleton is just too busy for this kind of thing. We have meetings all the time, we have jobs, we have practices and rehearsals, we play IM soccer games in leagues with an artificially soft-core level, and, of course, we have mountains of coursework. At least I do, and I tell myself that I crave simplicity. I actually spend most of my time when I’m not doing one of these time-intensive activities envying my friends who have more free time than I do, which is most of them.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I am terrible at managing unstructured time, and I pretty much need my overwhelmingly busy schedule to keep me from feeling like I’m wasting my time all the time. As a result, as much as I long for the simplicity of an uncluttered schedule, I don’t really want it. Furthermore, it is utterly condescending for me to assume that my less busy friends have any fewer reasons to be stressed than I do. After all, they actually have social lives that don’t revolve around doing improv.

I’ve recently become more attuned to the fact that people I know often lament their busy lives and envision a place where life moves slower, which is often in a country that is less materialistic, or even flat-out poorer, than America. It is easy to romanticize the idea of sitting around smoking hookah in Egypt or sitting on the beach in the Philippines in the rush from the dining hall to class, but it kind of ignores the irony of idealizing a place where there are food riots going on while leaving an all-you-can-eat lineup of food. Of course, there are reasons why these places are worth idealizing, and I only wish to outline this contrast, not paint any region of the world as particularly forbidding.

America is a land of power-lunches and intense consumerism, so it’s natural we would be attracted to cultures that are calmer and less focused on material consumption. These societal attributes would, as we generally acknowledge, be good for us. But, like with me and my Carleton calendar, the desire to give up these bedrocks of society is not that strong. Returning to Gossip Girl, which in many ways summarizes the extremes of the complicated American lifestyle, there is a certain allure to being fabulously wealthy and well-connected, if only for the increased quality of power-lunches it promises.

Books have been written on living a simpler life, and I would be foolish to try to cover that subject in the few lines I have left here. On the other hand, I feel like my life has gotten simpler recently, and I can link it to some of what I have covered above. Acknowledging that I like having sweet stuff has focused my materialistic tendencies on a few choice items, and recognizing that I like structured time has actually helped me structure my time better so that my life comes down to less commitments. I doubt this helps anyone, but, for what it’s worth, now I have the time to play soccer in an IM league with too much talent.

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