November 17, 2015

YU | Seeking Comfort in Rituals

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By CHARLES YU

My roommate commented the other day that he’d been picking up on a little pattern of mine in my weekly routine: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I return to the room after lunch, set an alarm and immediately pass out on my bed. When the alarm sounds, I reach over to check my phone. When I see the time, I will sound precisely one, and no more than one, exclamation of “Fuck!” before I silence the alarm and pass out again only to wake up a few minutes later, now late for my class. Another “Fuck!” is sounded, I scramble to get dressed and I dash out the door.

Putting my sleep patterns aside (which are in shambles by the way), it has come to my attention that I go about processing each and every week with the same exact rituals. Other than the classes that I’m obligated to attend (well, sort of), I’m on repeat, repeat, repeat. I end up going to the same places, doing the same activities with the same people, oftentimes at the same time of day or week. Even the most minuscule details of my life can be boiled down to commandments like “Thou shalt dine at every weekday at Risley — Tuesdays and Thursdays with Gabe, other days with Claire,” or “Thou shalt not exit Olin without first consuming a cup of coffee” and “Everyday shalt be Nap-day.”

Familiarity in itself is not a bad thing. However, I’m realizing that I’m so used to these rituals that my life is a little too stagnant for my liking. I remember how I saw everything with wonder when I first arrived at Cornell. Every experience was imbued with excitement and every day never seemed to end. By the end of my first week, I could have sworn that a month had passed. Now, days, weeks, months all meld together. Now, some weeks are spent living for the weekend, grinding just so I can have another mediocre night of partying followed by a hyper-stressed day of work on Sunday. I’m getting tired of this repetition.

In my mind there’s this voice that keeps telling me that I have to savor my college experience. And seeing as the semester is almost complete, it’s quite crazy how short-lived it may be. Ideally, I wish to approach everything with the same mentality of wonder as I had when I first arrived at Cornell. I want to constantly be in engaged in new ventures and throw myself into new situations. That’s much easier said than done. There’s definitely a sense of mental inertia that exists, and it’s hard to alter things once you’ve got a working system down. Furthermore, compounding factors of schoolwork, social life and extracurricular commitments act to bind me to the beaten system that I have going for myself.

However much I’d like beat the system of repetitive interactions, I’m not sure I can. Human nature strives toward familiarity — it’s comfortable. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to break my systematic living patterns. I’m trying out new things — little things, like attending a cappella concerts and talks on Friday and Saturday nights instead of going out, or meandering to unexplored places in the library instead of going to my usual study spot. Perhaps I’ll join some new clubs, meet some new people, eat at new places, yada, yada, yada. Until then, let me just take a quick nap to feign off this attack of sleep-deprivation.

Charles Yu is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. Hailing from sunny Palo Alto, California, he frets for his first Ithaca winter and will most likely be found huddled up next to the radiator in his room in the dead of winter. He enjoys twenty-minute-turned-two-hour naps, Oolong tea and Amazon Prime two-day free shipping. His posts appear on alternate Tuesdays this semester. He can be reached at ccy27@cornell.edu.

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