February 15, 2017

RUSSELL | Seeing Stars

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Over the summer, I heard an old Drake song that mentions star projectors and soon became fixated on the idea of buying one myself. I think the appeal comes from childhood memories of seven-year-old astronaut-wannabe me, sprawled out on the carpet flooring of a friend’s bedroom, staring up at a fake version of the night sky as if seeing the real one when I went outside wasn’t enough. When last semester began, I made my pilgrimage to the toy section of a department store and bought a new star projector, for old times’ sake.

Oddly enough, it feels deeply profound to lay on my hardwood bedroom floor and stare up at colorful light-shapes on the wall. It’s introspective and placid and energizing, all at the same time. Star projecting is great for thinking and soaking in the feelings that come with my big moments in the outside world.

But I was too busy to sit and stare all the time — I needed to deserve it. So, weeks after my initial purchase, I set the projector on a stool and decided that the next time I accomplished something meaningful, I’d put on some records, lay on the floor and watch the stars dance across my ceiling.

I haven’t touched it since then. The issue isn’t that I’ve lived a meaningless existence since October. I just tend to focus all of my energy on reaching whatever goal I set for myself, and then move on to the next goal once I reach the one at hand. I don’t soak things in; every moment spent basking in self-satisfaction is a moment not spent working toward more of it.

I get the impression that I’m not alone in this habit. Life is always about the next thing: the next position, the next internship, the next event. Being in college certainly doesn’t help – in fact, we’re all here because of our future goals, and we are organized into majors and clubs on the basis of them. In a way, it feels wrong to be content for more than a moment. Presumably, the people who aren’t already focused on the next step are the ones who get left behind.

I remember riding in a 10-mile bike tour a few months ago. I strapped on a pair of tennis shoes and borrowed a friend’s old cycle so I could feel the sun on my neck and the wind in my shorts. The whole time, I made sure I was going in the right direction and I made sure to never stop unless I needed to. But I didn’t live on the finish line.

In bike tours and hikes and canoe trips, we don’t participate because the end is satisfying — we participate because we want to be a part of something: to constitute the group, to see the sights, to feel the awe. We are never complacent; we keep moving and have clearly defined goals. But the miles along the way are what make these trips worthwhile.

About halfway through the bike tour, I found myself beside a lake that seemed to go on forever. I slowed down, my eyes locked on the cyan ripples. I thought about the lake back at a Texas sleep-away camp where I swam late at night in my underwear. I thought about how this lake by the bike lane glistened just a little brighter and shone just a little bluer.

We don’t have to stop the bike to enjoy the world around us. But if we don’t take time to appreciate where we are now, we’re unlikely to do it later.

Usually, when I’m reminded that I spend too much time stressing about the next goal and not enough time appreciating the fulfilment of the last one, I tell myself I’ll stop soon. My plan is always to be satisfied after meeting the goal at hand, and then finally sit back and feel content once I’m there.

But this time I’m not going to wait. I’ll certainly aim as high as possible, and I’ll put my whole heart into everything I do. But I’ll also take the time to remember that there’s no sense in having things to be proud of if we don’t take time to be proud of them.

So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my room, on the floor, with the star projector on its brightest setting.

Paul Russell is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at prussell@cornellsun.com. Russelling Feathers appears every other Wednesday.

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