First, lose your friends. Not all of them. Just the ones you talk to late at night if you can’t sleep, just the ones that you could call from a pay phone if you ever got lost because you knew their numbers by hearts. Lose them to faraway countries and six-hour time differences. Hear from them in bits and pieces every few weeks like you’re watching a TV show that only airs when you’re procrastinating on Sunday afternoons. Get your heart broken. Pretend like absence makes the heart grow fonder, when you know that really it makes the heart cold and numb. Wait for the warmth of summer or wait for them to miss you back, whichever comes first.
Keep busy, even though “busy” means “watching Downton Abbey.” Call your mother. Listen as she talks to your brother in the background over you and when she asks why someone named teamsnapchat is contacting her. Complain to your landlord that the windows don’t close all the way; realize that you are suffocating in this house anyway. Wonder if you will ever stop speaking in metaphors. Do puzzles. Walk down to the public library and wander the Adult Fiction section until your neck is crooked permanently to the right from reading the spines. Sit on the new benches in the Commons and watch couples and families shop. Then realize that nobody knows you left the house today. Eat ice cream. Eat it with your other friends at Purity or eat it alone, it doesn’t matter. Either way, pick out the peanut butter cups.
Go to class. Go Monday with your hair done and Tuesday in sweatpants. Wonder why you’re even at Cornell; you’re a junior and you still don’t know what you want at Collegetown Bagels, let alone from life. Decide that instead of looking ahead you should look back. Spend a lot of time on your own Facebook page. Spend time on his. Listen to your playlists from high school, so you can be 17 again. Remember that you hated being 17. Do another puzzle, this time a bigger one. Go to Wegmans and buy Goldfish and a bag of mozzarella cheese. The cashier might ask you if you are okay. Don’t worry about her; she’s not okay either.
Google “Cornell University dessert club” and find that there isn’t one. Google “Cornell University start dessert club” and then close the browser window. Put on your sneakers and run through the Ithaca rain until you can’t feel your toes. Come home and stuff your wet shoes full of newspaper. Play loud music, strip down to your underwear, and sing into your hairbrush. Do the crossword in class. Do homework. Do nothing.
Stay home on Friday night. Read the Humans of Cornell Facebook page until you have to remind yourself that you don’t actually know these people. Realize that nearly everything you do, you do by yourself. Feel untethered, like someone has replaced the main characters in the movie of your life halfway through. Put on a lipstick that you know will rub off and go out on a Saturday night. Go to meetings. Come home and add butter to buttered popcorn. Go to bed early; watch the clock hit 3 a.m., then 4 a.m.. Think about what you say you want and what you actually want; determine they are different things. Write. Write down ten things that worry you and ten reasons to be grateful. Write handwritten letters to your faraway friends. Make a pro/con list about the validity of pro/con lists. Write down old movies to watch; fall asleep to those movies. Decide that denial isn’t just a river in Africa.
Notice that it’s been two months since everyone left. Run some more, if only to feel your feet on the pavement. Send happy thoughts into the universe because you hear it makes you pretty. Clean your computer screen. Should you be cleaning your computer screen more often? You don’t know. Get a haircut, because it’s one of the only times that change doesn’t hurt. Decide you are normal. Wonder if deciding you are normal means that you aren’t. Resolve to smile at strangers more often. Turns out, this is difficult to do. Ask yourself if maybe you are a planet, and most friends are just shooting stars. You like shooting stars, though. Remind yourself about bad metaphors. Rearrange your closet in rainbow order. Start to cook dinners that aren’t pasta. Balance your checkbook. Feel something in your chest untighten, like a snapped rubber band.
Start going to CTB in the mornings before class. You can get up a little earlier, you tell yourself. Try different things on the menu until you actually know what aioli is. Go until you know the names of the employees. Sit at the same table whenever you can. Do this everyday, until one morning it’s crowded and someone comes in and sits across from you. It’s a stranger, but you smile anyway.
Ruth Weissmann is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Word to the Weiss appears alternate Thursdays this semester.