Originally published April 29, 2020.
Dear Professors —
It’s been a minute, right? A few months ago, you were talking smack about my year in a cabin. Now you’re trapped in your condo in Yonkers or the backside of Amherst or wherever, and you’d trade it in a heartbeat for 150 square feet and a whole forest full of owls and frogs and shit.
Don’t play dumb, bruh. You’ve spent most of your short career trash talking me. Every damn fall, you tell your first-year Am Lit seminar that I’m completely full of shit. You stand there in your goddamned tweed jacket with the suede elbow patches, and tell the kids how my experiment in self-reliance was all just a sham. Then you angle your head just so, and say something snarky about “performative solitude” or “cabin porn.” And for the coup de grâce, you proclaim that I was never really alone at Walden Pond, because I had regular visitors.
Bitch, I disclosed my visitors — I wrote a whole damned chapter called “Visitors.” Can’t blame me if some debutante from Darien didn’t read it. And who’s entertaining visitors now? Not your quarantined ass.
So sue me if my social distancing included regular visits from a Canadian woodchopper and multiple half-witted men from the almshouse. You, my friend, are leading a life of quiet desperation, where your only contact outside of Zoom is a fast-food delivery guy who you pay by app.
And yes, I did walk into Concord from time to time. Sometimes a man’s got to take care of bidness. And sometimes a man’s got to bring his dirty laundry home to his mother. Your students found that real funny. But they’re not laughing now that they’re back home in Bergen County.
Hey, I get it. Life has changed! Before the coronavirus, you were busy with this and that and the other, plus faculty meetings. Back in 1840s Concord, it was the same shit, but worse. Imagine that instead of that prissy early modernist who just lateraled over from Colgate, your local competition was Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nate Hawthorne. Jesus, the pressure was unbearable.
That’s why I said to myself, “H-Dog, this ain’t life. You’ve got to live deliberately, front only the essential facts of life, and see if you can’t learn what it has to teach. Ditch all the bullshit!” So I built my crib in the woods. The material only cost me 28 bucks and twelve-and-a-half cents, and that included considerably more hair than I actually needed.
Now you’re stuck in your 1BR/1BA with Corian countertops. True, it’s bigger than my cabin. But here’s the thing, Einstein: I didn’t spend the entire two years indoors. Mostly, I was by myself, just vibing. But whenever I wanted, I could check out Flint’s Pond or the Baker Farm or whatever. Hell, I even planted a bean field.
And let’s talk about On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. You don’t really like this essay, and you wish those jackasses over at Poli Sci — or even the beardos in Philosophy — would cover it instead. But you know that Gandhi and King dug it. And you want your students to think you’re cool. So you assign it and then open up class with that one time Bernie got arrested at a civil rights protest back in ’63. Here’s the thing, though: you yourself would no sooner spend a night in jail than spend a summer hoeing beans. (And you were secretly for Warren.)
Look, I know you’re stressed about this pandemic. But I’ve been there, too. Worried about getting sick? I died of consumption, aggravated by a cold that I got from that douchebag Bronson Alcott — who, I shit you not, caught it at a teacher’s conference. Worried about falling behind on your work? I kept Homer’s Iliad on my table for an entire summer, but I barely had time to read two pages, what with all the bean-hoeing. Worried what you’ll do if your tenure app is denied? My Plan B was making pencils.
So cut the crap. If there’s anything I learned on Walden Pond, it’s that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. In other words, nut up and build your castles in the air! And don’t ever fucking diss me again.
— Ya boi H
Read an interview with author Ron Fein about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.