Friday, April 20, 2012

" Nobody's Home

At the candlelight vigil for Zach Brunt ’15, one friend remembered Brunt sitting on a bench outside of Welch Hall Sunday night. As Brunt sat there, more and more people gathered around to talk. As they gradually drifted away to go to bed, Zach stayed, talking to friends and enjoying the evening. That was Zach: creating community and enjoying the company of others . . .

At the end of last night’s vigil, Zach’s father spoke. “Don’t let this happen again,” he said. We wish we knew precisely how to do that, but we know it’s our job to try. We can start by remembering the friendlier, more open world Zach built for everyone he met.

The Lights are On, 


Nobody's Home.

The YDN posting-board is not the place for me to make these comments, for they will sound didactic, and that is the last thing one needs at a moment of mourning a community member who has taken his own life, an occurence which has happened three-times at Yale in the last three years.

Even though it was 48 years ago, I can recall experiencing what was then called "Sophomore Slump" right on schedule at the end of my Sophomore year.  I was working  as a "bouncer" in the Ithaca College Pub, and I got on the pay-phone with my parents in Hamden, Connecticut and told them I wanted to quit college.  They talked me out of it----for over an hour, back in the days when long-distance cost by-the minute.

 I was despondent.

Everything seemed "phoney" to me: especially the "academic enterprise", but also my own "people pleasing" personality, and my goal-lessness, even the  artificial carrot of a college degree, then two years away.
I have read The Catcher in the Rye --that book about 'phoneys' ---out-loud to audiences for years now, and know it by heart----or soul.

They didn't have  'mental hospitals' in Holden Caulfield's 1950 America , they were called 'sanitoriums' if you were rich and 'insane asylums' if you were poor.

Holden Caulfield, in a sanitarium near Hollywood where his writer-brother lived, , was speaking  his 212-page recollection of three days in New York  after he flunked out of his third prep-school, Pencey Prep. That recollection has sold 64 million copies and is called The Catcher in the Rye.  The fact that Holden is in a sanitorium is often overlooked  by readers.

What Holden hated most in those 212- pages were "phoneys ," probably because he was trying  desperately to find his authentic self, trying desperately not to BE a phoney.

There was a 1970's expression about someone artificial that went like this: "the lights are on, but nobody's home".

That is EXACTLY how I felt about myself when I was experiencing "Sophomore Slump".  If I had to put it in modern psychobabble five decades later I'd say I was unsuccessfully trying to delimit my personality.

 I was 'coming unglued'----or to be more accurate, the glue I had applied failed to stick.

Incomplete personality development.

I had failed to establish boundaries. 

Quitting college, regressing to the Garden of Eden where I was defined by home and family, was my panic reaction, my default position.

Thank God my parents talked me out of it.

I suspect this crisis is ignored in college today.

I never hear  the term "Sophomore Slump" anymore.

It might be valuable to put it on the diagnostic landscape of personality development, or at least back in the folklore of college life.

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