The Emerson way of life, as I’ve come to know it, involves filling your day from dawn to far past dusk with meetings for clubs and activities, work, intense and demanding hobbies, rehearsals and the occasional class. In fact, most will regard you inferior if you aren’t thoroughly involved and immersed (read: if you haven’t sold your soul) to co-curricular work. At school, I’m always on the go (though I can’t say I’ve yet managed to give up the habit of napping once in a while)–on the go to the point that I’ve forgotten to eat by the time the dining hall has closed and my stomach is turning on itself. It’s stressful, yes, but I think we Emersonians do it because, at the end of the day, you feel as if you’ve conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s a rewarding lifestyle if you value success and long resumes.
Most of my classmates also devote their summer to amping up their resume. I didn’t have it in me to give away my last summer before impending adulthood. That’s a major part of the reason I find myself writing this across the pond; here in Europe, people have mastered the art of leisure, the art of slowing down. Meal times are slow and drawn out. At least twice a day, we sit down for coffee for hours. One small espresso cup (not even a ‘tall’ as they would say in Starbucks) lasts for that long. At night, we show up a half hour later than we had told neighbors and friends but I think that’s almost expected. It’s fascinating.
I remember my first semester a professor (I couldn’t quite tell you which) told me about when he had taught somewhere in South America, his students would show up hours later than the scheduled start time for class. And it was a perfectly acceptable practice. That’s a little perplexing coming from an American lifestyle, but I have come around to the idea. In fact, I think it teaches you the value of time more than if someone forces you to be at one precise place at one exact time. When you want to be somewhere, you will be, and at that time, where you are, as it is where you want to be, will matter to you and what you do will be of more importance than if you feel as if you must be there to do it. And then be allowed to revel in something, to stay in one place doing one thing for a leisurely amount of time, you can really take it all in. This is a way of life I could get used to.