We will be exploring the question of whether unhappiness is acceptable at Williams. Is there something particular about our College that makes it difficult for students to express their displeasure? Does our campus culture silence those who feel alienated? If so, how do we approach a solution?

Gargoyle Conversations aim to inspire conversation about controversial and important issues both in the world and at Williams. The students who attend the event will be broken up into smaller groups with a faculty/staff member facilitating discussion.

Such was the official description of the second Gargoyle conversation, held last night @ The Log. We spent more than an hour tossing ideas and thoughts back and forth, and though I’m treating the discussion as private, it raised a number of interesting points about life at Williams.

Entering Williams is a massive change for every frosh here. Many of us are living long term away from home for the first time; others boarded for high school but are still thrown into an entire new situation, with fewer controls on their conduct. Some have never been away for more than a weekend, and now face an environment of students who know each other much better than we know them.

Yet, everyone here has been selected in an increasingly competitiveadmissions environment, and surrounded by people who seem to be constantly busy and happy, we can feel inadequate to the task of living fully in such strange new circumstances. For a beginning frosh, JAs are seemingly perfect(and will tell you that they feel a pressure to be perfect in turn). Given that, and with no imperfection to identify with, we found that students can linger in their own unhappiness.

In some respects, this process of self-doubt and introspection is useful and even helpful – who needs to examine themselves when everything is going well? Self-discovery is, by definition, uncomfortable, as the Gaudino Scholar recognizes. And further, some would argue that life’s highs cannot be appreciated without the requisite lows.

Yet we as students can still aid each other in times of emotional trial. Separated from long-time friends and family, we no longer have people surrounding us who know our subtle cues of distress, but we can check in with our friends periodically: “How’s everything going, how are you feeling, has it been a good week?” Too often, social relationships are maintained via quick greetings in Paresky or short comments exchanged in class; when some of us hit the gym, class, lunch, lab, and then practice in a regular day, who has time to think about their happiness? Who has time to consider what in their world might be improved, or to process unhappiness in their own lives?

One theory for Storytime’s success – the venue allows and even encourages that exact ntrospection which Williams can sometimes seem to institutionally lack. I only hope that I have the time to remember last night’s conversation in the years ahead.

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