On Friday, I celebrated my 22nd birthday and my fourth birthday at Cornell. On what was certainly the coldest birthday I have had in Ithaca so far, I had planned to stay inside and work throughout the day. Between a prelim three days later, graduate school application deadlines already here and thesis research needing to be completed, I scheduled my birthday to be like any regular day at Cornell.
When reflecting back upon my past three birthdays, I realized I could not remember what I did on them. Only after checking back on my calendar did I see that I had done the same thing for three years. During my freshman year I was sick with the flu. After pushing through class, I collapsed and slept through the whole day. Sophomore year: classes had not even begun due to COVID pushing back our semester start date. I was still organizing myself for the semester and doing other research work. My junior year: I went to my classes and clubs, then only in the evening did I zoom with my family over a cupcake. Every year I acted as if it was a regular day, save a cupcake last year.
This year was slated to be no different. I went to class, went to my office and plugged in my computer to start working. But then I didn’t. I texted my friends to go to Mac’s for a longer-than-needed lunch and relax. I walked across campus and just decompressed in the Willard Straight Reading Library. I cancelled all but one meeting and then went home hours before I normally do. My girlfriend took me out to The Rook (which I highly recommend) and we just enjoyed each other’s company for a two-hour meal. We then had some cake, played some board games and Jackbox then went to bed.
For once at Cornell, I treated my birthday as a special day and enjoyed it so much.
Surprisingly, I was incredibly more productive on Saturday and Sunday. I finished my graduate school applications, completed readings for almost the next two weeks and studied for my prelim. By truly taking a day off, my other days were more efficient than if I had tried to work consistently through the whole weekend. I can only think of how my other birthdays might have been different had I viewed a full day off as so consequential to a coming successful week.
For everyone who still has a birthday left at Cornell (sorry for the late advice to seniors with birthdays before February 3), I encourage you to take the day off and make something special of it. It may not be like grade school where you wore a pointed hat and were fully convinced the world revolved around you that day, but you can still make it a special day worth celebrating and not another work-filled day at Cornell.
Patrick J. Mehler (he/him) is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs alternate Mondays this semester.