My dad calls himself “The man with a plan.” I inherited not only his Roman nose and blue eyes, but also his fierce dedication to planning ahead and deep discomfort with uncertainty. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear an ad referencing “these uncertain times,” and they serve as a reminder that being “the man with a plan” is hard when you aren’t even sure where you’re going to be in August and there’s a chance going to the grocery store means you might wake up with a disease that’s crippled entire nations.
I am not very good at being spontaneous. In fact, I can say that I’m typically quite bad at it. I operate best when I can make plans and find a lot of peace in having certainties in my life. COVID-19 and quarantine have made that a hell of a lot more difficult. But, as corny as it sounds, I’d say it’s taught me to get at least a smidge better at living in the moment.
Cliche as it is, there’s a Dr. Seuss quote that I’ve been thinking about: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” That quote can be achingly melancholic, but it also makes me pay extra attention to that slow-motion feeling you get when you realize the moment you’re in right now is going to be a moment you remember later. And not in a your parents saying “These will be the best years of your life,” way, but the kind of way when you realize this is the night you tip from being good friends with someone towards being best friends.
Watching Ocean’s Twelve with my friends Anna and Tia, while “arguing” with Anna about how Matt Damon and Brad Pitt look nothing alike, I got that slow-motion feeling. That feeling that even though we were all exhausted, approaching an unconventional finals week and isolated from our family and other friends, this was a moment worth remembering. So was the random walk I decided to go on with Anna that ended with her playing “Bubble Butt” by Major Lazer while we doubled over laughing and watched goslings bob around after their parents. So was the random conversation I had with my partner over FaceTime about the importance of chocolate chip size in mint chocolate chip ice cream. So was the ability to go on a spontaneous long run and find new parts of campus and watch recorded lectures later. None of it was planned. Probably none of it would have even happened if my plan for this semester hadn’t been decimated.
The first piece I ever wrote for The Sun was about the dark side of perfectionism. Reliance on always having a plan can be a key part of perfectionism, and it’s out of a lot of Cornell students’ norms to have no idea what’s happening. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. But being open to all the feelings and moments that come right now, quarantine or otherwise, is where some magic can happen. I’m not saying I have it all figured out, but I am saying, for the time being, let’s keep our eyes open for the moments that are going to become memories and enjoy them as much as we can — just like large chunks of dark chocolate in mint chocolate ice cream.
Emma Smith is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emmpathy runs every other Wednesday this semester.