February 4, 2020

ROSENBAND | I Quit Feeling Lonely When I Was Alone, and I Started to Enjoy It

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The New York Times has been running an article series entitled I Quit. Most Cornell students have never quit anything in their life, which is part of the reason why they got here. I, on the other hand, am not too sorry to call myself a quitter. Many of my endeavors have had expiration dates.

When I matriculated at Cornell, I figured that the clock was running out on my time of being so indecisive. I would have to make up my mind, ditch the old me and chase pursuits and ideas I could realistically devote myself to. But it didn’t take too long to quit not-quitting. I quit The Sun and I rejoined. I quit Okenshields. I quit taking Russian and started taking Arabic. I quit the millions of listservs ClubFest tricked me into. I quit going out with my friends on Wednesday nights, and I quit expecting that the TCAT would actually run on time. In the process of quitting, I found out what was really important to me. I opened my eyes and allowed myself to try as many things as possible. Sure, there are plenty of things I’m actually committed to. But I’m just not committed to everything I do. Contrary to popular belief, high commitment does not necessarily equal high fulfillment.

My first semester at Cornell I sought fulfillment from constantly doing things with others. My biggest fear was eating alone. If some of my friends were busy when I wanted to go to the dining hall, I would end up just sitting in my crowded triple with a salty cup of ramen, even when I had spent the week in anticipation for Pancake Mondays at RPCC. I tried to plan out all of my walks to class with my friends, too. It went something like, “Oh, you also have a 10:10 in Rockefeller? Perfect! Want to meet at the Balch Arch at 10?” I thought study dates were necessary, being alone was scary and the volume of my interactions determined my fulfillment.

I don’t know exactly when this all changed for me, but somewhere in my second semester of freshman year, I quit feeling lonely when I was alone, and I started to enjoy it.

Fitting time into my schedule to eat all by myself, like a big kid, has become a vital respite. I notice the people around me and the posters on the walls, I eat at my own pace, I reflect, I catch my breath. I feel sad for the old me who was too insecure because these moments — when I’m la-dee-da-ing through Cornell with nothing on my mind — have become some of the best parts of my weeks.

If feeling surrounded was so important to me, then choosing a school in the middle of nowhere may not have been my best decision. But there are few things worse than feeling lonely in a crowded room, so feeling lonely in Ithaca may be the best kind of loneliness there is.

One of my friends regularly goes to the Cornell Cinema by himself, and I have always admired his dedication to his independence. He doesn’t even let me invite myself! Somewhere in between our consecrated mixer schedules and our own opaque illusions, we begin to feel guilty when we choose to cancel on our friends and spend a Saturday night in. And for some of us, no matter how much we love our roommates, having our own space is something we will always have to work at. Part of taking care of ourselves is making the effort to remove ourselves. Whether that means going on a Risley date with yourself or getting a solo ticket for the latest film, you will make the most out of your college life when you aren’t always planning it around other people. Everything is best in moderation — even your friends.

Maybe you’re someone who has always exercised such autonomy, but the misguided conflation between “making the most of Cornell” and engaging in perpetual social activities has undoubtedly influenced many of our decisions. The novelty of studying with our friends becomes lost in our grades, constant plans interrupt craved spontaneity and activities we want to pursue are much less enjoyable when we feel that we have to pursue them. If you see me at Risley staring at the wall for Wednesday lunches, please sit somewhere else. Any other day, I’m all yours.

Odeya Rosenband is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at odeyarosenband@cornellsun.com. Passionfruit runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.