I come from a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio called Mentor. Mentor is probably best known as the hometown of James A. Garfield, the president that I relate to more than any other. This could be because we’re from the same place, but more likely, it’s because of a quote of his I found a few years ago: “It has occurred to me that the thing you have, that all men have enough of, is perhaps the thing that you care for the least, and that is your leisure.”
Coming from a then-future President of the United States, this can seem like a slacker manifesto, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it. We as Americans need to remember our free time and cherish it. It can do anything from keep us sane to just help us get through the day.
Around finals time two years ago, my friends, like any college students, were spending almost every waking hour studying for tests or working on papers. In that environment, it can be easy to lose touch with reality and, looking back, that was definitely happening to me.
When we were all in the swing of work, during a terrible storm on the Thursday before finals, the power failed for the entire city. At first, we cursed our bad luck as we found the flashlight and my roommate dug up some candles his mom had insisted he take to school.
There in the candlelight, a certain excitement began to develop. We opened the refrigerator and quickly took out all the beer we had in it. My logic was that we could only open it once or else it would get too warm inside. So we drank and listened to music out of an iPod and a small pair of battery powered speakers.
We called all our friends to see what they were doing. Most weren’t doing anything at all. Without a computer or lights, studying and work became nearly impossible, so we invited them over. Our apartment quickly filled up with friends, like refugees from some disaster. We laughed and continued to drink whatever was in the apartment. We played games like telephone and shadow puppets. For a brief time, nothing in the world mattered except that room because nothing else could be done or changed.
Then, after about an hour and a half, the lights unceremoniously came back to life. There was a collective groan as we all realized we had to go back to the real world. Something strange happened, though. People just started turning the lights back off, we pretended that the black-out was still going on and the game of password continued uninterrupted for almost another hour. Our good time couldn’t be affected by the real world just yet.
I don’t think any of my friends’ academic lives were ruined by that night. All we did was take a few hours off, prompted by the freak power outage. It was time much needed, as far as I could tell and I certainly don’t regret the extra hour or two we took to just relax and have a good time.
I agree with President Garfield. We Americans take a lot of things for granted, but our free time is one thing that needs to be taken to heart. It is, as Garfield so eloquently said, “your gold, your wealth, your treasure.”