‘Camaraderie in the Lounge’

By Dylan King (’20)

Today I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite spaces on campus, a location which I think is a little underrated. Before I do so I need to give some background that will place things in context.

I’ve noticed a recurring pattern over each of my semesters of college that I think everyone can recognize. As an exam or major deadline approaches, tension and stress continue to grow; on the day of, sometimes I am too uneasy to enjoy lunch. Afterward, there is immediate relief – a cathartic sigh as the pressure to perform is removed – and life goes on. At some point, a graded assignment comes back; sometimes good, sometimes bad.  If the outcome is good, it lifts your spirits a bit, and if it’s bad, it’s a dark stain on the day. Deep inside of me (and I believe inside many of us) lives a hope that maybe, with enough material learned or years spent in school, I will take the “final final” and my spirits will be lifted forever.

For me this hope is most prominent around final exams. Prior to my tests I convince myself that beyond them lies a land of milk and honey, happiness abounding. After an exhausting couple of weeks, school ends and eventually grades come in. Good news or bad news, my overwhelming emotion is typically one of exhaustion, not happiness, which gradually fades as I unwind. In the end I always ask the same question: Is it worth it? I keep coming back to college, semester after semester, for some reason, and I love it here. We all have some affinity for school – that’s why we’re here – but there must be something else drawing us back, time and time again. Class alone could not sustain us.

What is it, then? For me and many of my peers, my friends are what make Wake Forest great. I won’t dwell too long on this point because I think it is one we all recognize; but friends are the spice of my life. They keep me going when times are tough and the network of camaraderie is the glue that holds this University together.

While my community here is certainly wonderful, I won’t live in Winston-Salem forever. As students our friendships are constantly evolving. Spend a couple years here, do an internship there, all while we watch upperclassmen graduate, to be replaced by incoming freshmen. To my great dismay, I probably won’t spend the rest of my life in a dorm with my current roommates. You may have seen some variant of a reasonably popular trope in movies or on the internet, where a younger person gets up, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and goes to bed; before rinsing and repeating, without much excitement or variation. The entire sequence is in washed-out grayscale, reminiscent of a bland meal. For me it embodies a great fear, that once I graduate and leave Wake Forest, I will lose my exciting social lifestyle and the friends that come with it, leaving me stuck with a dreary and monotonous day-to-day trudge. Class alone cannot sustain us now, so I am dubious that the overwhelming joy of performance reports at work will sustain us ten years into the future.

How can we avoid this dull fate? We’ll need to take an active role in forging new friendships to fill some of the void left behind as we leave Wake Forest. Unlike college, we will have to do this connecting without the built-in bonding time of orientation week or the spatial clustering that comes with dormitories. I plan on looking for new friends in the lounge.

The location and name of the lounge changes with time, and it doesn’t necessarily even need to be formally labeled as a lounge space; it can be the kitchen or the living room or the ZSR Atrium; in Hungary we called it the hencsergő. I frequent the Math lounge in Manchester; it is one of my favorite places on campus, despite being overlooked by many. It is impossible to sit in those chairs for half an hour and not run into a friendly smile from someone looking to work on a problem or share a story. The lounge is an epicenter of camaraderie. We don’t judge, we joke. Want to have a serious discussion about careers? We can do that. A lighthearted rant about the microwave that won’t work? We can do that. Need to put your headphones on and finish some homework? No problem. The lounge is the primordial pool from which friendship and empathy emerge. These spaces are where I find true, enduring connection, and they have been the setting for some of my favorite memories. Manchester is not the only building with a lounge, and most Wake students have found other lounges in other places: Farrell, or campus grounds, or Scales. In the future, when we leave Wake Forest, we will have to look for new lounges in new places. When we find them, new allies will appear and grow spontaneously. This is what lounges are for, and this is why I love them.

As we move on I intend to continue as I have, by seeking out friends that make me a better person. To quote It’s A Wonderful Life, “Remember – No man is a failure who has friends.” I think I can find those friends in a lounge – I certainly have thus far.