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January 29, 2015

Where fun comes to thrive

The fundamentals of fun.

It’s 4:00 a.m. and I am trudging through harsh winter winds so as to catch the Central shuttle. My frozen thumbs are clamoring at my phone in a comical effort to set a 9:00am wake-up alarm for tomorrow morning.  Wait- make that this morning. Sound familiar?

Like countless other University of Chicago students who too -and  all too often- find themselves marching out of the swallows of the reg and into The Chicago Winter, I often rely on the what-if-I-transfer-fantasy to pull me through.

And yet, once on the shuttle, -warm and bed-bound-  I snap my head back: there, behind me now, is the Reg shrinking in the distance, with  memories of the last year and a half  back-paving the journey. And, strange as it may be, all I can remember is…having fun.

Do I have Stockholm syndrome? Am I just repressing painful memories? Well, not exactly.  In my experience, the popular conception of what constitutes fun is oversimplified;  it seems that we, as a student body, may not be as miserable as we think.

While by no means a science, the outdoor adventuring community employs a more textured take on the word “fun” that I think best befits Chicago’s Tundra climate.  For these mountaneering types and cross-country trekkers, there’s not just one fun; there’s three.

Type One fun is what is called pure fun. Enjoyable in the moment, it’s the type of fun we readily recognize and seek to experience. Whether it’s going to the beach or cheering on your team at a football game, these are admittedly not the types of fun we experience here at the University of Chicago as often as we’d like, if at all.

Type Two fun is called post-fun. When we’re having an experience, we might not actually be having fun. We might actually be experiencing quite the opposite. Type Two fun might be exhausting, unpleasant, uncomfortable, or scary in the moment. Maybe it’s waiting for the 55 at 2:00 a.m. in the middle of January for what seems like hours; maybe it’s eating, sleeping, and studying in the Reg during finals week. Maybe it’s 20 hours at the Maroon office in the basement of Ida every week. Maybe it’s that mortifyingly awkward date you went on with that guy in your stats class because you couldn’t think of a nice way to turn him down. Maybe it’s the Reg printers malfunctioning right when you have a paper due in three minutes. Ask any University of Chicago student about their week and you’ll have no shortage of examples of Type Two fun.

But looking back on a Type Two fun experience, you forget about how unpleasant the experience felt while you were having it and associate primarily positive feelings with the event. When you look back, you have fond memories of enjoyment or at least have fun telling the story of your truly awful experience.

In the end, it’s Type Two fun we remember and grow from. Looking back on my past experiences here, the ones that stand out include going on a first date to the Cook County Criminal Court and making the trek from my Stony Island dorm to Logan for Sunday morning trio rehearsal in the coldest days of winter. These experiences taught me valuable things about my own limits and how I handle situations under pressure. They instilled in me an ability to laugh at my most ridiculous failures. And no matter how miserable I felt in the moment, I miss those days and the “fun” I had.

There’s also a third type of fun—Type Three fun. Deceptively named, Type Three fun isn’t fun at all. Not in the moment, not after, not ever. We have our fair share of this type of fun, too. Getting a bad grade on a final, getting rejected from that internship you really wanted, or even a more serious problem like a conflict with a peer. No amount of reframing will make these experiences fun in recollection, and that’s okay. Not every moment in life will be a positive one. But mottos like “where fun comes to die” assume that fun’s only iteration is through instantaneous, palpable pleasure.

We do have fun here. Scrap that- I’ve had fun here. All three types of fun, in fact.

And, yes, even in January.

Kiran Misra is a second-year in the College majoring in public policy and international studies.

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