August 27, 2014

MILIAN | Learning to Lose Control

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So this is my first column! I join the leagues of Carrie Bradshaw, Phoebe Halliwell and countless “Ask [insert matronly name here]”s in print. For now I’ll follow the lead of my peers and attempt to give you some sage advice from a not-so-sage-senior. Now to address the title: This is not a column about partying. The title might give you the impression that I’m some sort of clenched-first-repressed workaholic who doesn’t party. This is not one of those “I learned to put my guard down, and drunkenly sang karaoke on a table wearing only a button-down and boxers” confessions. It’s more about coming to terms with the brick wall that is life and how I can’t control everything. Well more like “we” can’t control everything.

Cornell is full of us Type-A people. We obsessed over our schedules, (try to) keep track of our BRBs and even calculate the costs and benefits of our occasional hook up. We gauge the number of nights we can go out versus our weekly readings and miss birthdays, weddings and graduations for prelims. Our world is one of strict schedules and deadlines. To the few Type Bs out there, I salute you and your naps in the cocktail lounge.

This probably isn’t even a thing exclusive to the Big Red, but it’s fun to think we’re special snowflakes. Inherent in our American corporate culture is this need to please, to compete and keep climbing up this metaphysical ladder of success. While the glass ceiling exists, it’s also ever-rising. I write this from a perspective abroad, I’m currently living in the land of fashion, chocolate and 30 hour work weeks. As a hopeful Millennial who wants to be employed after graduation, this seems crazy, I worked 40 unpaid hours at an internship (and loved it) and people here have so much free to do what? Twiddle thumbs and burn daylight?

It’s interesting to live in a country where guilt pleasures aren’t guilty, and people take three-hour lunches. Could you imagine a three-hour lunch? I’d go home, nap, cook something, ride the TCAT back to campus, chat with friends on the Quad, return my library books and then go back to class or work. So some of us do have three-hour lunches, heck a lot of us don’t have classes Mondays and Friday (fellow seniors, I salute you). But these are adults. Real people. With incomes and vacations and dogs and mouths to feed.

The French really do believe in the joie de vivre. They eat slowly and sip good wine and have long conversations. My joys in life include Best Vines compilations on YouTube and Pad Thai scarfed in between episodes of Orange is the New Black while reading assignments. And my schedule. I live for my busy schedule. The e-board meetings, my shift at my two jobs, band rehearsal, lab meetings, study sessions and study breaks give me life. Am I wrong to like being devoid of relaxation? Should we alert Gannett? Maybe. We’re taught to love what we do, to seek out careers that will fulfill us professionally, be an enjoyable form of servitude, make good money and eventually become rich alumni and create a building on campus. Or at least dedicate a nice bench. Here across the pond, there’s a bigger rift between work and play.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but little work and too much time makes Kevin a bored college student. The only good thing that’s come out of all this free time is that I get to write a lot. While we do find ways to relax at Cornell, like turning loose on weekends, and focusing when necessary, we’ve given up plenty of our enjoyments for complete control of our lives. When’s the last time you strolled through the Arboretum at the Plantations and truly “smelled the roses?” When was the last time you turned off your phone and walked somewhere without replying to Snapchats or listening to music? When was the last time you listened to music and not just heard it as background music while writing a paper? The answer is probably closer to “never” than “often.” While they French may take enjoyment to a decadent level (there are little pleasure gardens everywhere), there is a certain effervescent joy to eating that pastry without Instagramming it, or counting calories.

The problem comes from trying to control everything. Trying to control more than our own lives, the outfits we wear, the food we eat and the classes we take. We walk a fine line between free will and the path laid out by our parents, society and academic advisors. While we may want to “shape our destiny” as much as we can, we should also learn to let things go more often.

Inefficiency is a major problem for me here, but it’s also prevalent in Cornell life. Professors may not always reply to emails, cutting in line at Becker Dining may slow down your consumption of delicious food and we can be inefficient with our class work. Learning to find humor in inefficiency, whether it’s laughing at others or at your own blunders can be a good way to loosen up.

To the freshmen starting their first semester, enjoy the ride that is Cornell and Ithaca life, be flexible, strive to make a diverse friend group (people for every occasion and from many backgrounds) and soak up as much of your amazing faculty and services as you can. Accept obstacles, accept difficulty and learn when to bend and break. To the sophomores, juniors and seniors, know that things aren’t always going to go as planned, you may not get that grade, that research position, that internship or that vote, but in the end everything happens for a reason. Yeah, I know I sound preachy, but life is a series of random events occurring in a specific pattern and out of endless possibilities, we live the life that occurred. Deep breaths, a smile and an optimistic attitude will be your best weapons on The Hill.

Kevin Milian is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Milian Dollar Baby appears on alternating Thursdays this semester.