I’m a junior now, and as such, I am informally obligated to live off campus or die an outcast. Luckily, this is a mandate that I’m thrilled to obey — I will sacrifice communal bathrooms and an utter lack of privacy if it benefits the system. So, four months ago, I voluntarily signed a lease for a three-bedroom apartment, as one does when one is craving a real taste of adulthood — electricity bills, trash days, grocery shopping, the whole affair. We’d toured the unit, and it seemed, from an outsider’s perspective, to satisfy. With a debatable mastery over the art of timeliness and a lingering fondness for O-Week, I arrived at Cornell long before necessary.
There is a double agent hiding in plain sight on our very own campus, and his name is Statler. Okay…I don’t mean for my statement to sound as pointed as it did. In fact, I think I see a little bit of myself in Statler Hall/Hotel — call him what you will. The duality of this pristine, tasteful building resonates with me especially as I near the junior year milestone of my undergraduate career. Lately, in every realm of my life, I feel a certain ambiguity.
iClicker: solution for everyone. Increase participation. Confirm understanding. Measure performance. This is what an iClicker claims to do, and I know that deep down, at its core, the iClicker is trying. It’s really trying. But Planet Earth is no place for a device with such naively optimistic, lofty goals. In this ecosystem, the cast of the educational system operates on reading lecture slides after class and cramming for exams. The mandate of expression is neither divine nor powerful — there is hardly a need for evaluating progress on a daily, numerical scale. (By the same logic, how do we feel about outlawing exams?) Assembling the mental artillery is a beautifully self-driven, forgiving, noncompetitive and definitely nonlinear process.
As others see me, I am a sort of paradise on Earth, but introspection repeatedly leads me to long for bygone times. The modern glitz and the glamour have drowned the richness of my history and the simplicity of my ecosystem. Especially in adolescent circles, I see a greedier default: understandably, maximization of the vacation experience is the foremost objective, but the lack of passion for the chronicle of events that brought me here is offensive. I am simultaneously inflated to a symbol of luxury and superfluity and diminished to a banal character of the mass media.
It’s curious, this phenomenon, but it’s not inexplicable. After all, the four chairs are positioned on opposing sides of the table and therefore are capable of obliging contrary perspectives. Now, let us prod at the dichotomy between privacy and companionship that afflicts many of the table’s visitors. When you find yourself lured into the sphere of the table, do you want to see, or do you want to be seen? Will you sit with your back turned to your audience, or will you sit with your eyes wide, feasting on the glimpses of passers by and by? This challenge raises a key line of logic about the human population.
Some of my fondest days were spent as a member of the KKK. The devil-may-care attitude, the unwavering confidence in my purpose, the fiber of belonging woven into each of us…that’s not what I miss the most. It’s the satisfaction that I’ve lost, that I’ve been desperately trying to find, here and now, no longer an affiliate of the Kool Kids Klub but instead a drudging undergraduate, questioning the promise of the future and yearning for the sanctity of the past. My sense of clarity hasn’t aged well. To draw from literally every source of angst ever: what am I doing here?
The other day, I ventured to Okenshields for what cowards call a “light” lunch. I picked up a take-out box, trusting this styrofoam container to control my appetite more effectively than my own power of will, and I stuffed it to the brim with fried rice and more cookies than socially acceptable — to get my swipe’s worth, of course. As is customary, I also got a pre-packaged set of plastic cutlery. With meal in hand and procrastination in heart, I set out on my merry way back to Olin Library. I wasn’t in a haste (though I ought to have been; that’s another story), but I was absent-minded anyway.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I love failing prelims. A feeling quite like euphoria sweeps over me when I log on to CMS (or Blackboard, or a department’s surprisingly unaesthetic student portal) and see that 63 percent, after the curve. Have I, at long last, done something right? I proceed to peek at the accompanying histogram of scores: the mean is an 84 percent, and, oh, the median is an 89 percent. Nice — I like what I see. It’s not crowded over here in the 60s — I have plenty of room to stretch my legs, the service is great and people don’t flock to me for any sort of guidance.
In somewhat heartwarming, somewhat disturbing news, a “super hot tea-seller” has gone viral in Pakistan — not for his flavorful chai, but for his dreamy blue eyes, fair skin, angular cheekbones, strong-but-not-too-strong brows, bushy black hair, firm jawline…*ahem* — because he’s a good-looking guy. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m talking about the kind of beauty that transcends personal preference and pays no homage to taste. The dangerous kind. The kind that earns you a modeling contract when, just days ago, you were supporting your seventeen siblings with a monthly income of less than $90. This eighteen-year-old Pashtun boy, Arshad Khan, now signed to model for a clothing line, embodies the rags-to-riches storyline in a grand way, but what does this mean for the brown-eyed population living in abject poverty?
I’m all about being graceful in defeat. You could say I’m very sympathetic to the whims of the universe, or maybe I’ve just gotten a lot of practice, but regardless, reacting to disappointment with poise is an admirable skill. Now, the ice-cream-binging, pity-party-throwing, Netflix-junkie version of myself is rolling her eyes, but she ought to be a tad more sympathetic towards her denials… they really are sad to see you go! Or are they? “Join The Family!” the recruitment materials read, ever-eager to assert that the power to steer your future lies within you.