Via Wiki­media Commons

Hillsdale stu­dents need to brag less and com­plain more.

Last week a freshman wan­dered into the Writing Center and we fell into a con­ver­sation about how she was enjoying her time at Hillsdale. Sometime later, she men­tioned getting ice cream in AJ’s and feeling ter­rible about it. When I protested, she said some­thing vague about how everyone else was studying and com­plaining about how much work they had.

Good Lord, I thought, freshmen feel like crim­inals when they have fun?

But the more I thought about it, the less sur­prised I was. Whenever people have fun, we wring the joy out of their smug faces by treating them to laundry lists of our problems. Mean­while, we fluff our little egos, assuring our­selves that we are living our best, most mis­erable lives.

To set the record straight: I don’t mind com­plaining if it expresses pure, unadul­terated misery. I don’t like lis­tening to it, but at least it’s honest. My problem is with a spe­cific type of com­plaining that isn’t actually com­plaining at all. It’s bragging dis­guised as com­plaining — an odious cousin of the “humble brag;” but instead of a false modesty, it’s a false misery.

Take a walk during hell week — or really anytime at all — and you’re almost guar­anteed to overhear stu­dents com­peting over who is suf­fering the most. The con­ver­sation always goes some­thing like this:

“Oh man, I haven’t slept in 24 hours.”

“If it makes you feel better (it probably won’t) I haven’t slept for two days. I don’t even remember what sleep is.”

“Oh. Well. I have so many papers. Like, four.”

“I feel that. I have to write six by Friday.”

Some­times it seems like we can’t let anyone have a bad day without first rubbing their noses in how we are having a worse one.

We all sound like Dos­to­evsky char­acters — like mis­erable people having alto­gether too much fun being mis­erable. But here’s the catch: Like all good Dos­to­evskytes, we enjoy being mis­erable only when we are more mis­erable than everyone else, and stu­dents know it.

This becomes par­tic­u­larly toxic when people actually need sym­pathy.

Some­times we need to com­mis­erate about our col­lective misery. Sadly, the best way to do this is to com­plain.  

Sym­pathy is the grease that keeps stu­dents func­tioning when they need to crank out papers and cram for exams. If one out­lawed venting and com­plaining, the student union would be crush­ingly silent during finals week, and stu­dents would trundle around glow­ering in mute frus­tration.

And while no one likes lis­tening to com­plaining, some­times lis­tening can be a gift, both to the unfor­tunate venter and the trapped lis­tener.

It can remind the lis­tener that even the seem­ingly-perfect student is human as well, and that no one on this campus is unique in having problems to sort out. As sleep-deprived stu­dents attempt to ease the woes of studying with other people’s sym­pathy, the last thing they need is to hear more com­plain-bragging.

I’m not asking Hillsdale stu­dents to stop com­plaining. Goodness knows I’d make it about a day before breaking down. All I ask is that people stop bragging about their misery.

Brag­gado­cious whining makes you feel better, and it invariably makes the happy, healthy, sane lis­tener feel worse. If you are feeling spiteful, this is almost as good as being happy, healthy, and sane.

This is the kind of whining that is prob­lematic. The rest is a rel­a­tively harmless waste of air.

Com­plaint-bragging is not a problem unique to Hillsdale. It’s a problem with everyone, every­where; but it’s is becoming an pan­demic on this college campus. Things are getting out of hand when ice cream breaks become furtive guilt trips.

There’s a thin line between com­mis­er­ation and conceit. Com­mis­er­ation builds com­munity, but it requires lis­tening and honesty. Conceit tears it down and drives people into iso­lation and shame.

Misery does love company. But I say we need to put it in time-out, or at least make it play alone more often. We’d be better company, and maybe then our freshman could eat their ice cream in peace.

Julie Havlak is a senior studying English.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    What this gen­er­ation does NOT need is more com­plaints and com­plainers. They wear their mis­fortune and vic­tim­ization like a throw blanket, as it is. Con­tinual mis­fortune is their means of bragging.

    • Jen­nifer Melfi

      I tend to agree. Unless, of course, you have a really good subject to com­plain about. The chapel to mammon on campus is an eyesore and is directing tons of $ away from student ser­vices to a temple ben­e­fitting the greed of a few indi­viduals.

      • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

        I’m still trying to figure out why you are so vehe­mently opposed to any­thing asso­ciated with orga­nized religion. Were you a former donor to Jim and Tammy Faye? Baby needs a new set of false eye­lashes!

        • Jen­nifer Melfi

          Because it adds a layer of non-rational, anti-human­istic, ends to just about every­thing it touches. It’s the opposite of what Hillsdale should be/was . Read this, you’ll start to learn:
          When I was at hillsdale, there were reli­gious people, sure. Several prominent people were overtly reli­gioius. But those were private matters and there were just as many people who were proud to be atheists — we even birthed the idea of maltheism when we were there. The idea that a place like Hillsdale, which was focused on fig­uring out the right way to be, absent of all of that extra layer of non­sense, was the goal. I’m not a Randian, but that was probably the most fol­lowed “religion” on campus. This is a per­version. A per­version with nakedly apparent financial ends.
          So yeah, I’m not opposed to religion. I’m opposed to Hillsdale College selling their soul to lie and say that they have always been a Hillsdale College. I’m going to keep being an old tes­tament prophet about that fact until they admit it or change their ways.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            I don’t under­stand how people can be ‘proud to be an atheist’. Cer­tainly I can accept some folks are atheists, I can even under­stand how they might feel they’ve gotten there through logical means. But, to be ‘proud’ of it? That denotes a value judgement (to use your term) and an emo­tional content to what should be strictly a rational des­ti­nation.

            The hardest part of accepting by Faith is it nec­es­sarily cir­cum­vents the rational process. As a person schooled in the sci­ences and math­e­matics, that was a major hurdle for me to overcome per­sonally. Believing in a higher power will never be accom­plished through the Sci­en­tific Method. If it could be, the value of Faith would be very small.

            Finally, I’m not seeing the ‘nakedly apparent financial ends’ you suggest resides at Hillsdale College on the topic of reli­gious Faith. As a school which advo­cates First Prin­ciples it would be neglectful of them to ignore the con­tri­bution of reli­gious Faith in our nation’s founding. I see respect for that from the school lead­ership, but not aggressive advocacy. As always the balance is-and should be-a topic of debate and dis­cussion. These pages are an open forum to demon­strate that.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            1) it’s quite easy to be proud of it in this day and age. You have the catholic church and now the bap­tists molesting kids and then hiding the evidence/protecting abusers at the highest levels. Reli­gions like chris­tianity that claim the moral authority look really bad when they take on a mantle, then clearly dont practice what they preach. Trump is firmly on the side of religion as well. So strike 2. Strike 3 is that most people of faith cant abide being thought of as non rational in their beliefs. They need them to be real to feel val­i­dated. Its a weakness that your own description of faith shows you to be com­fortable with. THAT, is a fact/value dis­tinction. Good for you. But the unwill­ingness of most faithful to claim that the facts are on their side (Josh McDowell) makes most of them look like ignorant fools most of the time.

            2) nakedly financial ends refers to a- the school using religion as an attempt to dis­crim­inate against par­ticular employees (women in par­ticular)

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            Cont. By not allowing their insurance to cover birth control and some other prac­tices the way insurance does at a normal secular college. B- it is the way the school has mar­keted them­selves to their donor base. They have been tar­geting high worth indi­viduals who crave/demand the reli­gious angle in order to donate $. Its worship of mammon, plain and simple. They have sac­ri­fices their prin­ciples for money.

            Com­pared to 2003, when they said nothing about the faith of the founders. Things have gone over­board to the point they are building a christian chapel. In fact, they used to pri­marily focus on the rational and deistic ten­dencies that were best rep­re­sented among that group.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            Atheism has to be accepted on Faith, just as the beliefs of a Christian. I can not prove the exis­tence of an omnipotent God, creator of heaven and earth-just as an atheist cannot prove He doesn’t exist. These topics tran­scend rational dis­course, which is why true believers accept that Faith is a gift from God Almighty.

            Having studied the sci­ences all my life I’m aware there are very few absolutes-inar­guable Laws of nature. There are many hypothesis and The­ories, but very few Laws. Quantum Mechanics is replete with The­ories describing the actions of matter and/or energy. The point I’m getting at is a great deal of our expe­rience as human beings has to be accepted on the basis of Faith and incom­plete knowledge. Once you acknowledge that, the rest is-as you say-value judg­ments.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            I cant imagine a rational person arguing with much of what you wrote. But between those lines are many oppor­tu­nities for exploit. A) even if it takes a sort of exis­tential “buying in” (that you call faith since most evi­dence is incom­plete) it’s not true that all of these propo­si­tions must be accepted at the same amount of “faith basis points”. Some things are just way more estab­lished than others (sci­en­tific expla­na­tions of helio­cen­trism vs the bible’s geo­cen­trism and atheism’s claims about the after life + the christian inability to explain the problem of evil). When you stack up all of these logic/science advan­tages, one way of life takes faith, but way less of it than chris­tianity.

            Now, this indeed still requires a value judgement as you say, but you are mis­un­der­standing the word as it is used today. Fact/value judge­ments describe the unwill­ingness of most on the right to be humble about the dif­fer­ences described above and leg­islate what they believe ought to be rather than what is. Both sides have this fault, I just never thought any place as enlightened as hillsdale would ever fall into it.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            I don’t think Hillsdale College has ‘fallen into it’. I’m sure if you and I spent a summer afternoon in open debate on the Quad we would attract a lot of interest and dis­cussion from all sides of the topic. And that’s great, everybody who aspires to Truths wants open debate and dis­cussion-only that way will we arrive at well-developed beliefs.

            I have good friends who profess to be Atheists or Agnostics and that’s fine. I let them know where I stand on the subject, but I’m not going to be assertive about it. You have to find your own way in this world, but at the very least you need to be open to Faith if it comes knocking on your door. That’s how I got there, after decades of dis­belief. I was Paul on the road to Dam­ascus-with a PhD in Elec­trical Engi­neering-when the scales were removed from my eyes. And if ALEXANDER YPSILANTIS could be saved, anybody can be saved-and I truly mean that.

            I hope everyone is enjoying this beau­tiful Sunday afternoon, there won’t be many more before winter truly arrives!

  • Rogue A.I.

    You used the word prob­lematic. Points deducted.

    • At least she didn’t use the so-called word “impactful.”