The first time I was in Hong Kong, I dragged my feet the entire time. I remember a photo of my 13-year-old self wearing an orange rain jacket and pigtails. I look miserable. Maybe it was the humidity that upset me, or I was jet-lagged and wanted to sleep. I still can’t understand why someone that age who had the opportunity to travel to Asia could look so unhappy.
We had four hours on the road before we had to officially call ourselves final semester seniors. The road was a safe haven — if you didn’t look at the hills of snow everywhere, spindly trees and the depressingly gray sky. Still, we were safe. “Would your freshman year self have thought you would be where you are now?”
I let that question linger in the car for a while my friend and I both thought about it. I could feel that we were both rewinding ourselves back to the first day we stepped into our respective dorms. Me, sweaty and wearing my sister’s striped T-shirt.
Sometimes I’m scared to write certain pieces, because if I do, I’ll fall into some downward spiral after shifting through my memories, and this article isn’t supposed to be my attempt to pull myself from some depth, but one that hopes to understand? Find hope? I don’t really know yet. I’ve been thinking about pain a lot. About how every individual carries their own burden and as much as we try to relieve the pain of others, there’s not always a way to.
Since recess time and cafeteria lunches, studying abroad had always been the dream. It was something of the future. It was living in a new city and traveling on weekends. It wasn’t school, it was abroad. When it was actually time for me to apply, I petitioned the College of Arts & Sciences to allow me to go to Thailand (my three semesters of Italian would be useless in Chiang Mai).
I spent over an hour waiting at the stage. It was mid-day and the sun was raging. But I was at Firefly Music Festival and the reason I had come in the first place was to see BØRNS perform. So there was no option but to wait. It was an experience that validated everything I had already thought about his music.
While my professor unpackaged the books and distributed them around the room, I felt as if I was actually witnessing a part of history; as if this was something I would look back on years from now and say, that was me he handed a copy to. That was my professor. Prof. Andrew Moisey, art history and visual studies, recently published The American Fraternity. This photobook places photos that Moisey took in an unnamed fraternity at the University of California, Berkeley, in the early 2000’s next to text that comes from a 60-year-old ritual manual that was found on the fraternity’s floor. Starting in 2000, Moisey documented his younger brother’s involvement in the fraternity, from initiation rituals to drunken parties to an untimely funeral.
A red carpet stretches across the room. Wooden sticks, maybe five feet long, are placed in groups of six on top of it. As we walk the expanse of the room, we contemplate the meaning of these rather enlarged sticks, watching as they alternate in fullness and parts. Most people would roll their eyes at this concept of art, others, like us, are in awe that we are a part of it. Dia:Beacon is a museum of art that houses works from the 1960s to present.
I still remember how ecstatic I was when I landed an opinion column my first semester at Cornell — an over-eager, naive, freshman who was still unsure about her purpose and existence in Ithaca had made it into the newspaper! The future looked bright. And if you’ve followed my journey these last few years, then I applaud your voracity, commitment, support and skepticism. Because you, like me, are most likely still trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing with whatever you’ve been given. Three years later, and I am nowhere closer to finding the answers I sought so eagerly when I was a freshman.
When I was in elementary school, I remember how excited I got about Scholastic book fairs. I don’t know when they happened, or for how long. I only remember entering the auditorium I usually hated going to — it reminded me of long lectures by the principal on useless topics such as, “You must stay on the playground during recess — or else,” or “Chocolate milk won’t be available for lunch anymore — don’t ask” and browsing through the dozens of new, glossy books selected for us. And the little bits they sold; I went crazy for them. The tiny, colorful erasers and wall-sized posters seemed like the coolest things at the time.
At 1:44 p.m. last Wednesday, I made an executive decision. For the next three hours, I sat with other students, feeding off the energy of the room and, occasionally, the free popcorn I realized I hadn’t been taking more advantage of. I sent an email to my professor on why I couldn’t make it to class and regretted not feeling sorry. The decision wasn’t difficult, but I owe it to my sophomore year English professor. No matter what we discussed in her class, we were grounded by our feelings; we were students studying texts, but we were not purely analytical beings who were detached from emotional connections.