In elementary school, like most Cornellians to be, I got straight Es in all my subjects. When E stands for excellent one is thrilled to see them all over their canary yellow report card. There was one subject however, that was an Exception. In this subject there was no E and no G(ood). S(atisfactory) was the only letter in the box. Comments like “more effort needed” were buddied with the evil S. I struggled with this subject through middle school and even high school. When I arrived at Cornell I thought I would be free of it forever. Four years later, the subject is still forced on me like bitter tasting medicine. No, it’s not science or math, but rather physical education, or to people like myself with a low athletic IQ — gym.
First semester freshman year, my friend and I headed to Barnes Hall to the large add/drop gym fair in the pouring rain. One would think that, as someone who often relies on foreshadowing, I would have realized what the rain meant. But I was only a freshman and unaware of the power of literary device. We strolled from booth to booth trying to decide which “gym” suited us best. When we saw a clump of nice looking boys around a particular table we figured whatever gym it was would suit us just fine. Turned out that it was Tai Kwon Do. “Perfect!” we thought. Cute boys and protection against all those unwanted predators we heard about before entering college. Hell, it even required us to wear a cute outfit. But our dreams were crushed as we showed up the first day and met our instructor. This was not the easy gym class we had signed up for. Not only were we supposed to go three times a week, all of those exercises really hurt our underdeveloped freshman muscles. I swore that day that I would never take gym again as long as I lived.
Or until I became a second semester senior.
When that day finally came, I received an email from my registrar reminding me that if I wanted to graduate, I had to take another gym class. This time I did my research. I decided to eliminate any classes that required a) an outfit, b) attendance more than once a week, or c) anything that might hurt my muscles. These guidelines ruled out a lot. I decided that a weekend class would solve my gym problems quickly and painlessly — ripping off a Band-Aid style. Since everyone around me had already completed this mindless requirement, I had to eliminate courses in which a partner was necessary. And so I came upon the “wilderness weekend.” The description mentioned nothing of eating bark, or camping out, but rather of getting certified in CPR and learning how to survive in the wilderness. Although I never imagined I’d end up stranded in my life, I figured better safe than sorry on the long winding wilderness road of route 79.
The weekend came and went without too much trouble. They let us stay inside for most of the time and completely understood when I told them that lying in the snow was against doctor’s orders. I was able to eat lunch and they even let me have contact with the outside world during my 15 minute breaks. I’m not sure why Cornell requires these classes. Could it be a sick pleasure in watching students squirm? Or could Cornell actually be concerned that their students are not physically fit? Either way requiring students to take gym seems silly. But, at least now I can splint a broken leg and recognize the symptoms of volume shock should I ever be caught in the wilderness without a cell phone to call for help. Oh yeah, and now I can graduate.
Archived article by Alyssa Cohen