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Ali Kokot & Hayley Brooks
Think Twice

Credit: Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot

We just lived through the highest pressure weekend of the year. Reality check: it wasn’t finals, it was Spring Fling. We obsess over this Penn ritual every year, counting down the days until we can gorge on fried Oreos, see and be seen on many a sun deck and rage to various beats.

Expectations are high as Penn kids charge into a weekend ripe with ecstasy. As random Tufts seniors who BYO-RV’d last year informed us, it’s “the best party on the East Coast.” During Fling, we perform our most impressive partying because when the weekend comes to a close, most of us will be doomed to the library’s carrels to pump out papers and study for final exams. We look to Spring Fling as our last chance for happiness.

But the reality of a controversial and disappointing concert lineup, threats of stormy skies and the frolicking undercover cops (cue 30-year-old men in Tommy Bahama shirts asking, “Is this where the late night is?”) curtailed our ability to enjoy the excess of pleasure this weekend usually brings. The result: endless harping on how Fling failed to meet expectations. Please, Penn students are never pleased with mediocrity.

The air this year was one of nostalgic FOMO — we were fearing we’d missed out on what might have been, wishing we could transport ourselves to a Fling that had flung last year, or even a few before.

Why do we jam pack the year’s allotted fun into one weekend when it never turns out to be the best one?

In a recent New York Times article, “Happiness, Beyond the Data,” Notre Dame philosophy professor and author Gary Gutting warns us that “pleasures themselves often induce a desire for their repetition and intensification, and without moderation … can marginalize the work that lies at the core of true happiness,” something he notes is particularly true for a “highly anticipated experience.”

The attitude that Fling is our last — and, to an extent, only — opportunity for happiness turns us into gluttons sprinting through what should be a marathon, bound to leave dissatisfied. And the result wasn’t pretty — many a flinger looked less than happy, experiencing substance-induced fits of emotion. The pursuit of excess this weekend, at least from how we unfortunately and unintentionally saw it, fueled a lot of crying, fighting and general sadness.

Gutting advises us to opt for a more sustainable form of happiness. If you slowly sip your orange juice, you can actually taste and enjoy it — no need to gulp some extra extra pulp (though orange juice was so last week). If we took Fling in stride as one of many fun-filled happenings that dot our Penn and Facebook timelines, we would move from being expectation-centric to pleasantly surprised.

Though the calendar tells us we should be extremely happy from April 11 to April 13 and anxious through May 7, we have a hunch we’re actually much happier on other days. Fling is a 48-plus hour suspension of reality, but it shouldn’t undermine the opportunities for the more unassuming moments of joy we sometimes overlook: a really insightful conversation with a friend, a scoop of Thai coconut gelato from Capogiro when you really need it or the reward of mentoring a student in West Philadelphia.

The Scientifically Blonde Sally Engelhart, one of our favorite former columnists and 2012 College graduate, penned a piece on happiness last year that ended like this: “Happiness is actively construed and barely influenced by actual outcome. Your happiness is pretty much whatever you choose to make it.” Just as you were in control of your perception of Fling, you decide what can potentially make you happy.

Let’s face it, solidifying your friendships and extracting any last bouts of knowledge from your classes are more promising sources of happiness than a weekend of meaningless debauchery. It’s a little nerdy and sappy, but we stand by it. While many spent Fling searching for the nirvana they most likely never found, they’d be better off making happiness a constant instead of a one-time binge event.

So what if Fling’s over? In looking to our last days of the semester, let’s decide to stay happy.

Ali Kokot and Hayley Brooks are College juniors from New York and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. respectively. You can email them at or follow them at @haybethbrooks and @alikokot. “Think Twice” appears every Wednesday.

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