You are currently forbidden to enter a Greek space. In about eight weeks, the ban is lifted, and you are free. You get a little tipsy, dance poorly and probably off-beat, have your fun, and walk back to your dorm, dripping in sweat. “So…that’s it?" you ask yourself, and return the next night for a crumb of a good time. Then, the next week. Then the week after that. You are never fully satisfied, but satisfied enough.
Again and again, I hear two Dartmouth-related grievances: the first, that there is nothing to do here, and the second, that there is too much to do and never enough time. These complaints of boredom and busyness seem to contradict, yet in reality, are inextricably linked. Our minds are filled with deadlines, obligations to our families, and expectations for a high-paying consulting position right out of graduation. Our eyes are heavy in the mornings after Novack closings. Our backs are sore after six-hour shifts. The week deprives us of rest. Hanover deprives us of stimulus. We anxiously await the weekend, to free ourselves from the deprivation of the week. Life at Dartmouth is a cycle of deprivation and stimulus. There is no in-between. There is no moderation.
We gather Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays. We cure our boredom with sticky floors and crop tops. Strobe lights bring life to our strained and dry eyes. We find freedom in crowded basements. We are tired, and we are overwhelmed. We are depressed, and we are overworked. Greek life is relief and it is freedom. But eventually, this illusion of frat-freedom wears, and too becomes boring.
Another grievance I and many of my peers have is that the term passes so fast, that we are busy the whole time, but once it comes to an end, there is this eerie feeling of creating, or doing, nothing. Maybe we are too busy curing our boredom.
Frat basements are not the only places or things filling space and occupying boredom. We study, we shop, we scroll. While writing this, I have reflected about my own lack of boredom. For all of high school I filled my schedule with clubs and APs, too busy for doing nothing. I am sure you were the same. Now, I spend my time on TikTok and YouTube (and sometimes Linkedin). Always watching, reading, and consuming something – I am addicted to stimulus. I long for the boredom of my childhood. I long for the feeling that life felt everlasting, that an empty day felt like forever. I spent days drawing, writing, and making conversation with the oak tree in my grandma’s backyard – My boredom meant space for creation.
We have compulsively occupied boredom, yet are still bored. As Mark Fisher writes in No One is Bored, Everything is Boring, “We endlessly move among the boring, but our nervous systems are so overstimulated that we never have the luxury of feeling bored. No one is bored, everything is boring.” Tiktok, frat basements, and alcohol are all the same: They are the compulsion to fill empty time and space.
Boredom does not always need to be occupied. Boredom is absence, and absence is room for construction. To squatters and punks, boredom is an opportunity “to produce something that will fill up the space,” (Fisher). Every building needs an empty plot of land. Every voice needs a room of quiet listeners. Creation thrives on nothingness.
Dartmouth is described as a place to “study and drink.” Reject this belief. If you choose to participate in frat culture, realize those costless Keystones aren’t free; Acceptance of Dartmouth’s frat culture is permission for its perpetuation. Don’t get caught up in the Dartmouth cycle of tedious lows and substance abusive highs. Accept your boredom, and “fill up the space”.
The Dartmouth Radical