“Things are specifically hard for our generation because the world is ending,” said Patrick Toohey, an International Relations and Spanish Literatures double major from Upper Arlington, Ohio. “The other day, I was asked where I see myself in five years and I was like ‘underwater? That’s where we’re headed.’”
Despite the apocalyptic conditions, Toohey keeps himself busy. He’s the General Manager of WRCU and a founder of Colgate Standup, both of which he joined as a first-year.
“I still don’t get why I did the things I did freshman year,” he said. “I had such an ‘I’ll trying anything’ mentality, and I don’t know where it came from, but I was like ‘I could be on the radio’ and I did it.”
Toohey approached standup with a similar relish.
“If you looked at freshly eighteen-year-old me,” he said. “It was so completely out of character for me to want to go on stage and tell jokes. I had a little bit of confidence that I could make people laugh and it went well. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this all the time now,’ because nothing feels better than when you get a whole room laughing really hard.”
Both WRCU and Standup precipitated Toohey’s recognition that personal fulfillment is more important than shiny accolades.
“I want to be stable in a new environment and get a chance to remake what’s around me with what I’ve learned,” Toohey said. “I’ve been thinking more and more about getting a bartending gig and doing standup because why not? I’m very comfortable coming back to reunion and being like ‘I live in a ten-by-ten apartment and I do standup all the time and I’m so happy.”
Toohey is unbothered by taking the future each day as it comes, which belies the intensity and focus he so clearly brings to every aspect of his life. His calm seems strangely symptomatic of his ability to find joy amidst cataclysm, making the best of every situation.
In the Jeffrey Eugenides novel The Marriage Plot, which focuses on a college student similarly poised on the brink of adult life, the protagonist reflects on A Confession by Leo Tolstoy, which relates the Russian fable of a man, clinging to a branch that is about to snap and send him tumbling to the ground, who sticks out his tongue to catch a few drops of honey as they drip from the branch. This, “Tolstoy says, is our human predicament: we’re the man clutching the branch. Death awaits us. There is no escape. And so we distract ourselves by licking whatever drops of honey come within our reach.”
Toohey is a consummate believer in silver linings, especially when they provide a new perspective on old problems. He has learned what college is supposed to teach us, that success is a result of challenging but fulfilling work and a willingness to laugh in the face of fear. Hanging on, perhaps for dear life, Toohey is at peace, enjoying the drops of honey as they fall into his mouth.