February 18, 2009

There's More To School Than School

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This goes out to Peter Davis ’09, a fellow Glen Altschuler protégé, who both champions all of my column victories and also mostly just thinks I’m an idiot.
This is a piece of writing that is subversive. I want to tell you all a little fable about the little genius that could, but wouldn’t anymore. Maybe, you, then, Cornell masses, will mutiny and realize that you’re actually in COLLEGE. The land of beer and honeys. Stop crying to your dad on your cell phone in Olin café, vaguely trying to obscure your face with a copy of this fine publication. You do actually still get a degree from Cornell if you get B’s. Even C’s. Pull yourself together.
Personally, after I endured four painful Lilly Pulitzer-clad years at one of the most mind-explodingly hard high schools in the world, where I lived and was scrutinized 24 hours a day, I never quite got over my case senioritis in high school. It seemed dormant if not cured, but it was too acute a condition to ever really go into remission.
When I arrived at Cornell, I met an excitable young lad named Andrew, (known henceforth as “Poodie”) who, along with a supreme talent for mispronouncing names, has a penchant for remembering the tiniest incidences that didn’t happen to him. Poodie loves nothing more than asking me if I remember the first meeting I had with my advisor freshman year. “You know, when he looked at your transcript and told you, ‘Rebecca, you went to Choate; I’m sure I’ll have no problems with you.’” Then he throws his head back and convulses in epileptic laughter. Yeah, Poodie, how could I forget when you remind me all the time?
I spent most of first semester at Cornell hating my parents for sending me to boarding school of my own volition, and I rebelled by listening to one exotic (read: New Jersey) kid wax poetic about the virtues of Blink-182 and watching videos like “Fire Melon” on ebaumsworld (ah, life before YouTube). Mid-semester, I became very familiar with my dean when I dropped down to ten credits. End of semester, I got a C- in an econ class about game theory (my major at the time), and what’s even more humiliating, I got a B in Psych 101. Who gets a B in Psych 101? To be fair to myself, that Blink-182 kid got a D- in Psych 102 that semester. He was a winner.
The next semester, I started off real good, but then lost steam and went on an extended mid-semester-to-end-of-semester vacation home to San Francisco. My grades were better that semester, considering I didn’t get any.
The summer before sophomore year, I decided I wanted to take more languages at Cornell, so I decided whoever won the world cup was to be my choice. French or Italian? One red card later, I was enrolling in Itala 121. But, demonstrating my inability to recognize poor past decisions, I took more econ the following fall when I returned. Mid-semester, I had an intense Sixth Sense premonition of my own death via failure of the first prelim. I sat in the parking lot of my house crying on the steering wheel and I called my friend Samantha to tell her to print me a Mapquest because I was driving to Kentucky. She was welcome to join and we could start a new life there with new identities. After she coaxed me from my Volvo, I had another little tea party with my dean and dropped down to 11 credits. A whopping 21 credits in my first three semesters at Cornell. That’s seven credits a semester on average. Record-breaking, I’m sure.
Somehow the spring of my sophomore year, I got a highly acceptable set of grades. I was taking a hefty load of Pop Culture and History of Rock, although I did badly in the porn class, a.k.a. Desire. I took that class with the aforementioned Poodie and we agree that our pretentious and extremely pale T.A. definitively had a vendetta against the world. (I’d think that he’d disregard my colorful hair and look at my near snow white skin tone, though, and show some solidarity, but nay.)
Junior fall I got great grades, ending the semester with a 3.85, even though I was taking three seminars. My study schedule consisted of stuffing my face with Chex mix and watching the worst TV I could find online (i.e. NBC’s Chuck — I actually watched several episodes of that one day, then tried to end my life). I rarely went to class and when I did go, I slept through movie screenings and wrote the 50 states and their capitals down in my notebook by memory just to stay awake and look like I was doing something. Anyone who sits next to me can attest that I have the serial killer’s talent of feverishly scribbling codes that make sense only to me. One of my favorite activities became to stay awake in class but writing down all the other possible classes I could have taken that would have been less boring. But hey, 3.85.
My crowning achievement, really, though, would come last spring, when I did an entire, semester-long project in an Astro class the night before it was due. We had to make a poster and write a presentation of research findings to present in class. I pulled an all nighter to cut out colorful construction paper letters for the title words “Astro in the Movies” and to print pictures of Ben Affleck. The title took up one third of the poster and I made up for my lack of findings with several bottles of highly academic glitter. But much like Paulo Coelho told me in The Alchemist, the universe conspires for me to achieve my destiny. I know this because the Astro presentations were run such that we all put up our posters like at a real symposium and they had other astro professors milling about discussing them with us. I had several professors give me excellent insights about Ben Affleck’s lack of gravitational consistency before the professor who graded my presentation came around. Welcome to a B+.
In high school, I did everything. I took every honors and AP class I could possibly fit into my schedule, and I came to Cornell with 26 AP credits — six more than I could even use in the Arts college. This terrible four year misery would be the currency I use to fuel my super intense inactivity and sedentary lifestyle in college. And look at me now. I’m a smokin’ hot rubix cube.
There’s more to school than school. There’s also Chex Mix and Knight Rider. So stop crying; I’m trying to nap.