The Groovy American Dream
It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not referring to orientation, or rush, or the inevitable moment when your precious orientation BFFs get booted down to “awkward nod in Infinite Corridor” status. Rather, I’m referring to the short week in Boston during which the weather actually supports human life. Let’s face it, the Boston Weather Machine is nothing short of diabolical, especially during the extreme seasons. One hot summer day, I went jogging across the bridge, and came back a different ethnicity. Last winter, I went McDonald’s to get an iced coffee; they gave me a regular coffee and told me to stand outside. So naturally, I particularly cherish this temps éphémère, if only as the one time during the year that nature isn’t actively plotting my death.
Days like these, as our moms have shouted at us a million times, always during critical guild raids, are not meant to be spent indoors. As such, a week ago I took my girlfriend camping in Maine to bask in said climate, trek the breathtaking rocky shores of Acadia, and take photographs with old people. Unfortunately, nature abhors an Asian man carefully planning a weekend trip, and decided to spring on us the oldest trick in the book: a hurricane (more accurately in this case, a tropical storm, if you are anal-retentive and consequently have no friends).
The problem with tents, aside from the fact that they were invented by lonely, brooding misanthropes, is that they possess the neat property of magnifying the hell out of any sound caused by an object falling on the tent itself. This poses no problem most of the time because, I posit, tent designers never expected any objects to persistently disturb the tent structure. Which makes sense, notwithstanding the trivial exception of, oh you know, rain.
Astute readers will recall from their high school geosystems class that a hurricane is scientifically defined as “rain, injected with steroids, that has developed sentience and a bitter hatred of all things living.” To present an analogy: the collective noise of rain on a tent during a hurricane was, volume-wise, close to the sound of two trucks full of fine china colliding into each other next to a black metal concert playing forever.
Naturally, by the second day I had had enough, and promptly checked into a hotel. That night, while searching for the food channel, I came across a showing of The Pursuit of Happyness and was convinced to stop and watch, both at the behest of my girlfriend and because I identify with actors with big ears.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness weaves a quirky tale about a maverick NYPD officer who joins a secret government agency that polices, monitors and detects aliens — no wait, that was Men In Black. Instead, it chronicles the passionate and taboo lives of two gay cowboys — no wait, that was Shanghai Noon. Actually, it depicts the true story of Chris Gardner, an ambitious man who conquers poverty, homelessness and a group of criminal mastermind hippies to achieve the American dream. I did not make up the hippie part.
I was surprisingly moved by the movie. Particularly, the portrayal of Gardner’s experience at Dean Witter exposed all the fear and apprehension I had about job interviews, internship competitions, and generally the future of my career. I’m positive that more than a handful of MIT students would join me in these sentiments. While kids in other schools may dedicate themselves to deep friendships or lifelong hobbies, we bury ourselves in our work and our intellectual pursuits. It’s a lonely life sometimes, and sometimes a life with more than its fair share of disappointment, uncertainty, and helplessness. Sometimes, doubt erupts like a hurricane, its ruthless bombardment magnified by our own wall of intellectual pride that had seemed so invincible against clearer skies.
Yet however sad The Pursuit of Happyness might have been, it had a happy ending. There is no question that hard work pays off, as long as it’s the right kind and you never let up. We all share the American Dream, but Thomas Jefferson didn’t just give us the right to fantasize. He gave us the right to pursue, and it’s the pursuit that is so painful and unclear, but as I’ve learned from Chris Gardner, it’s also the pursuit that we must never give up on, even with all the distractions around us. Eventually, the storm lets up, and we can finally crawl out of our rain-soaked tents, becoming better people for the experience.
Also, if you accidentally leave your x-ray machine on the street, chances are it will be stolen by a hippie.