October 14, 2018

GUEST ROOM | Choosing to Be, Not to Be Busy

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Fall break was quite a time, a beloved break spent simply being.

I visited my sister in Hartford, Connecticut. She attends Trinity College, a school less “prestigious” than Cornell, sure, but filled with some neat people.

Friday morning. My sister goes to class. I sleep in. Her friend also sleeps in. We wake up. I convince her to practice yoga with me outside in the sun. My sister’s friend is immediately in. So there we were on a small patch of grass, saluting the sun, exhaling, inhaling, the whole ordeal. In my head, I thought “oh boy, these kids walking to class today are in for a surprise.”

Little did I know, I was the one in for the surprise.

In time, people joined us! Granted, they knew my sister. But still. They stopped what they were doing — walking to class, breakfast, maybe meetings — to join us. What a time.

Would that happen at Cornell?


And maybe it shouldn’t. We’re not a small liberal arts school. We’re a huge university, practically a city. But our size is no justification for the culture that pervades here. Though we’ll never be Trinity and shouldn’t strive to be, Cornell desperately needs some sunny Friday morning yoga. Why?

When I got back to campus after break, I was immediately reminded of the culture here. Four examples in the days since returning:

Me to friend I haven’t seen in a month: “Hey how are you?”

Friend (hugging me, rushing off, shouting over their shoulder): “Good, but I got to run!”

Me (to myself): “Clearly.”


Me (to friend quarter-carding on Ho Plaza): “Hey, how are you?”

Friend: “I’m good.”

Me: “How’s quarter-carding?”

Friend: “Oh you know, quarter-carding”

Me: “What are you doing after this?”

Friend: “I’m quarter-carding until 6:15, then I have work from 6:30 until 10”

Me: “Will you have time to eat dinner?”

Friend: “I’ll grab a salad between shifts.”

Me: “Alright well get some sleep after. Do you have homework?”

Friend: “Always”

On the morning of a lunch date set a week in advance:

Friend’s text: “I woke up to a bunch of emails and am going to have to miss lunch. I’m so sorry, but can we reschedule?”

My reply: “Of course! Good luck with the emails.”


Friend (describing their next two days): “I’m going non-stop from 10 until 8 tomorrow. But I’m grateful. It’s fine. I’m all good.”

Me: no audible response, internal dismay.

Aye, aye, aye.

This is all great, don’t get me wrong. I love the achievement, progress, passion, involvement of my friends. But I miss them. I miss getting to know people. I miss hanging out. Where are my people? Where are the sunny Friday morning yoga-flowing folks?

Come find me. I’ll be around.

Lies. This semester, after four semesters here, I’ve finally been sucked into the busy-ness vortex. Here’s a fifth example:

After a week filled with various commitments, I planned to go for a nice stroll with my friend on a weekend morning. I woke up – physically fine, but mentally drained. I had nothing to do but walk. But I couldn’t. I wanted to lie in bed and let the sun shine in. Read a book. Write a story. Create. Learn. Anything but walk.

Me: “I’m not feeling great. Can we reschedule?”

Friend: “Of course!” (likely because she’s been here before).

Much to my disappointment, I am now rescheduling, falling out of touch with friends, being “busy” instead of “being.” Let me tell you, the busy-ness vortex is suck-y. It both sucks you in and sucks once you’re in.

What a perfect, privileged college student complaint: being occupied with opportunities you chose to pursue. I know. It’s a blessing to be here, which is why I wish I could genuinely exhibit the “gratefulness” my friend semi-exuded in my third example. By and large, I am grateful. I know how fortunate I am to be here. I just wish I had more time to be grateful. More time to be.

A wise friend of mine told me at the beginning of the semester, “Don’t complain about your plate being full when you asked to eat.”

Oh, I certainly did. Maybe we all did. But what do we do when all our plates are so full that we can only ever focus on our own selves. What then?

Come find me if you have the answer. I’ll be around. I’m choosing to be less busy. After all, I chose to eat, but I can also choose to not go back for seconds. And I certainly won’t be.