February 18, 2014

WEISMAN | Leaving My Fate to Gravity

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A few weeks ago, my friend called the newly-instated break our “Awkward Mental Health Break.” Since the four-day weekend was created to improve student mental health, it does make sense that people have been referring to this poorly timed break (only three weeks into school!) as an awkward mental health break. However, in agreeance with many students who have expressed concern, I couldn’t help but wondering if I would actually get a “mental health break,” since I had so much work due right after the break, and so much ahead of me this semester — hence where my control issues came into play.

I’ll admit it: I’m a control freak. When I say this, I don’t just mean that I like to be in control of situations involving other people, but also in every aspect of my own life. There are so many things I cannot control — such as grades or summer internship applications — that not only do I go crazy about not being able to have a say in those things, but I go even more insane over what I can control to make up for it. Sometimes I drive myself crazy trying to control and plan every minute of my day, even when I am on vacation. My February break provided me with time — though I’m not sure if it was ample or limited — to reflect on my need for control and whether or not it is actually good for me.

Over break, I went to Vermont with a few friends. We planned on skiing, watching movies, building a snowman and getting a good amount of school work done. In actuality, my break consisted of all but the latter — plus, in addition to building a snowman, we built a snow beer pong table. One of my favorite things I did over break was watch Disney’s Frozen, which also helped me consider my issues of being in control of my life.

If you have been paying attention to pop culture or movies lately, you probably know that the film Frozen is currently Disney’s second highest-grossing animated film after The Lion King and was the third highest-grossing film of 2013 — I’d say it’s doing pretty well. Anyway, the film is about a princess named Anna who journeys through snowy tundra with a few friends to find her sister, Queen Elsa, who accidentally freezes their entire kingdom with her ice-making powers. While I have my qualms with the plot — I could talk about Frozen for an entire column by itself — the music and character development are wonderful.

Much of the film is about Anna and Elsa’s relationship, but Queen Elsa’s personal character struggle is learning to deal with her powers. Unfortunately, she spends the first 18 years of her life hiding in her room and trying to conceal and control her powers. In doing so, she pushes everyone away, including her sister, and does not learn what she is capable of. When she finally breaks free from her confinement, Elsa goes “ice crazy,” and builds an incredible ice castle, complete with an adorable snowman named Olaf. Once she stopped trying to control herself, she could “Let It Go,” and enjoy herself.

Elsa’s struggle with control was relevant to me while skiing this past weekend. My whole family loves skiing, but I have been terrified of it my entire life. Sliding down a mountain on two wooden sticks was never appealing — I couldn’t change the fact that I was going down no matter what. The thought of not being in control of my body was very unsettling. When I skied this weekend — and subsequently sang the Frozen soundtrack to myself the entire way down the slopes — instead of giving into fear and worrying, I tried to give in to my lack of control, enjoy it and leave my fate to gravity. Let it go, am I right?

Turns out, it felt good to stop thinking and worrying for once, and let my skis glide me down the mountain. I thought of nothing else but how fast I was going (in a good way!), and how great it felt not to be in control. Skiing turned out to be the exact type of awkward mental health break I needed.

It was hard for me to appreciate my “break” with piles of work waiting for me back at Cornell, but doing something that let me lose a little bit of control helped me take a step back and stop worrying. I’m sure I’m not the only one at Cornell who has problems with control or stress, whether it is stressing about our never-ending to-do lists or obsessing over job applications. Although our “stress-relieving” break is over, and although I might be the last one to figure this out, I encourage you to find something that removes you from your everyday stress — even if that means being alone. If you need help, I recommend listening to the Frozen soundtrack — there is nothing like the sound of Idina Menzel’s belting it out. Although I might tell you otherwise when I am stressed again in an hour, there is nothing wrong with losing a little bit of control in your life every once and a while. And while we might not all be Snow Queens or amateur skiers, I believe we can all find ways to let it go, and leave our fate to gravity.