September 16, 2021

BEARD | Keeping Track of Time

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To be entirely honest, I don’t really like birthdays.

On a quiet afternoon this past week as I sat out on the arts quad, I officially completed another trip around the sun. Like it or not, I am now a year older and a sophomore in college. Now, I know I may catch some flak for the whole “not liking birthday’s thing” but it’s not like I’m anti-Birthday. I just feel that as you get older, you tend to become more acutely aware of time passing. What I’ve found so far is that Cornell has an uncanny knack of accelerating that process. One day you’re just starting college, and the next time you blink you’re already twenty and rapidly approaching the halfway point. 

Whew… that’s a lot of introspection for one column. This certainly isn’t meant to be a  “woe is me” piece, but a certain degree of reflection is necessary.  No seriously, twenty is a weird one. We’re told we are “adults” at eighteen but it’s easy to shake it off and say, “sure okay whatever you say”. At nineteen, the refrain is “I’m still a teenager”. At twenty, though, the adult label is starting to get harder and harder to avoid. And like with any birthday as soon as you  begin to get used to one number it changes. Here I was still wrapping my head around nineteen years of existence and now I have twenty years to process. Filling in my personal information on forms became that much more difficult. I’ll spend the next six months scribbling out nineteen and just when I’ve beaten that out of me, I’ll be doing it all over again with twenty-one. I suppose that’s the nature of aging, though. More years, more bureaucratic form troubles.

Besides the clerical paperwork errors, it’s hard to fathom that anything has actually changed. My Tinder profile says that I am now twenty and my parents now have a little bit more of a leg to stand on when they tell me to “act my age”, but honestly that’s about it. I don’t feel any older. I didn’t spring out of bed on my birthday miraculously sager and more sanguine. In fact, the day itself felt like any other. I woke up, went to lecture, studied for my language class I’m floundering in and started this column.  In other words, a pretty run-of-the-mill weekday. It was one more day as a stressed-out college student with an endless list of obligations, as usual. The glaring difference here is that you get a lot of weekdays at Cornell, but you only get four birthdays, four years of your life

As I alluded to earlier, being a Cornell student is a full-time job. Moments of free time will be hard to come by and for the most part you’ll spend every day on “go-mode”. That’s not all bad though. I, for one, like being busy. Being a Cornell student certainly means you’ll be busy but it also means you’ll meet incredible people and do even more incredible things. A word of advice though; don’t let it all blend together. My college experience up to this point has been a blur. To think, I started when I was eighteen and I’m already twenty? That’s almost two years of time that has seemed to pass in no time at all. At this rate, I’ll go to bed tonight and wake up on graduation day.  That is a terrifying thought. 

So, even as I’ve joined clubs, worked, explored academic interests, and grown in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined, I’d also say that the things that I’ve packed my schedule with have also cheapened my day-to-day time. I’ve spent my days at Cornell fixating on a meeting tomorrow, a social event on the weekend and a race next week to the point that the days between seem to slip by. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are a blended mass of time as I’ve eagerly moved from thing to thing. Somewhere amongst all of that it seems that my birthday has fallen victim as well. 

Most of you will only get four birthdays at Cornell. Just as you’ll only get four Halloweens, four St. Patrick’s Days in Collegetown, four O-Week extravaganzas and one graduation. You’ll only have four years before Cornell will be in the rear-view and the world will collectively decide it’s time for you to grow up, ready or not. So, yes, it would be smart to make the most of it. Pack your schedules like I have. Join clubs. Try out for sports teams and please, please, please make friends, meet people and challenge yourself. But, even as you do all of this and more, don’t ever lose track of time. The weekdays, of those you’ll have multitudes, but those landmark dates: your birthdays, holidays, etc, are much more finite. Pause for a minute, eat some cake and make them count

Brenner Beard ‘24 is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached [email protected]. Agree to Disagree runs every other Friday this semester. .