Category Archives: Boss Time

Eerily Full Circle, Part I

Monday, April 18 was probably the busiest day of my last semester here. I spent a good five hours helping out the ILR Undergraduate Admissions office with the last of Cornell Days, our series of events for admitted students. I love Cornell Days, even if it makes my calendar explode. On every open house day, our office coordinates a great series of receptions, discussions, and information sessions.  I’ve mentioned this here before, but my choice to come to Cornell was very much sealed by conversations with ILR students and faculty, so I’ve always tried to create those same experiences for the young people in the same shoes I was in c. 2007. Monday was the last Cornell Day (though, for the readers of this blog who might want to visit, we can still arrange all of that for you! 607-255-2222!). It often strikes me that I’m conducting the information session that made me want to come to Cornell in the first place.

But it was never more dramatic than Monday, when our information session was held in the same room as the first ever ILR class I attended: a section of ILRLE 2400: The Economics of Wages and Employment open to visitors during my first trip to Cornell. And there I was speaking at the front of the room! During that visit, I also distinctly remember reading a course description for an ILR writing seminar about Bruce Springsteen posted on a bulletin board in Ives. At that age, I had only been a Bruce fan for about a year, but I was pretty impressed that there was a major out there with those kind of offerings. On Monday after the admissions marathon, I got to see on that professor lecturing on Born in the U.S.A. I couldn’t help but think how much I’ve grown, from just thinking about Bruce’s place in American Studies to really engaging with that material. I’ve also grown from casual fan to certified crazy, but that’s another story… though, no lie, I’m sure it’s been helped along by knowing that my alma mater funds and encourages faculty members to study the guy. I’m expecting many more of these “full circle” moments in the next thirty-six days to graduation.

Ten Days, Three Exams

Title doesn’t seem so bad, right? At the risk of jinxing myself, I’m going to say that this exam period is shaping up to be my least stressful ever. All of my term papers are finished, and my three exams are spaced out pretty evenly over this week and next. My middle exam is going to be by far my most difficult, so there is a decent chance that my finals period will start and end on a high note. Doing well on the middle exam, American Civil War and Reconstruction, is a whole ‘nother story, and the main cause of me taking up residency in Mann, Olin, and Catherwood Libraries since approximately Sunday.

In addition to overzealous studying, exams seem to bring out the worst of my superstitions. At some critical juncture during my final exam period in freshman year, I convinced myself that I got As on all of the finals I had taken while wearing one of my Bruce Springsteen shirts. Whether or not this was actually the case, I remind myself of this fact every time I’m getting dressed on the morning of a test. Back in October on the morning of the Civil War midterm, I decided to change out of a Springsteen shirt in favor of something cuter because it wasn’t snowing for a change. I got destroyed on this test. In fact, it is the main reason I have to study so hard for the final. So don’t be surprised if you catch me walking out of a test rocking a Springsteen shirt, hopefully with a smile to match. How fortunate that I have three Springsteen shirts for my three exams!

My Natural Habitat

I’m in New York City for the first time in years, and what do I do? Spend some quality time at the New York Public Library. It’s beautiful, and I think my friend Michelle was actually being serious when she said she wanted to get married here. Catherwood is still home for me, but I do understand why people love this place!

I have a few hours before I get on my train to Washington. I’m making an unexpected (and a surprise for one of my parents, so keep it on the down low!) trip home this weekend. This is the first time I’ve really left campus for a major trip that wasn’t during a break, so this week was my crash course in the intricacies of traveling in and out of Central New York. I’ve never really had to scramble for travel arrangements before now. People from the DC area are extremely fortunate to have the Cornell-Bethesda Bus, a service privately chartered by the region’s Cornell parents. It picks up on three locations on campus for all of the breaks and delivers us home to a mall in the suburbs. (Coincidentally enough, my parents met at this mall, a fact of which I am reminded every break.) Without this service, travel is much more difficult: direct flights to Washington are very hard to come by, and taking a bus to DC tends to be a sixteen-hour nightmare.

Without the ease of the CBBus, I had to really sit down and figure out my plans this week. I consulted all of my travel experts and learned quite a bit about the airport options around Ithaca (there are way more than I could have imagined) and which bus stations are sketchiest at night (sorry, Rochester.) On this leg of the journey, I took a Campus 2 Campus shuttle from Ithaca to the Cornell Club of New York City. And how awesome was it to see Cornell flags flying over East 44th Street? It was a lovely way to travel: huge leather seats, free wifi, lots of food, surrounded by bigshot Cornell seniors in the city for interviews. After the bus, I’m walking down to Penn Station and taking an Amtrak train down to DC. I’m hoping to use my considerable charm to get an earlier train, since I overbudgeted my time.

The bus this morning was a great experience, and I am definitely planning on making more trips to New York before graduation. Some of them might even might be for reasons other than concerts! Maybe this is the point in my life where I really start enjoying travel and what the rest of the world has to offer? I went to a Cornell Career Center-sponsored presentation from the State Department yesterday, and I am seriously considering going out for an internship abroad this summer. Junior year, I believe, is a very a good time to be breaking out of my old routines – the fact that I’m in a library right now is besides the point.

Slope Day Eve

I wrapped up my last class of sophomore year this afternoon! That whole halfway-done-with-college thing continues to freak me out, but remembering that I still have to pass my classes is another story entirely. For the epic turn of events that made April the best month of my life, this semester has been my most challenging; two jobs was one too many, and days when I got to bed before 1 a.m. were a rare treat. But now, I have a very, very exciting summer ahead of me, and this weekend, I get to pause and relax before finals.

Tomorrow’s plans should be a no-brainer since it’s Slope Day… but it’s a little more difficult when you a) don’t drink, b) do not like the Pussycat Dolls, and c) can’t stand large crowds of drunk people. Slope Day is observed on the last day of classes each Spring semester: Cornell converts Libe Slope into an outdoor concert space and invites a band to entertain us after a rough semester. Ultimately, it isn’t much more than a drinking holiday. Though billed as a day to enjoy the music, I don’t think that most people are still coherent enough to enjoy it by the time the band starts. This year’s act is the Pussycat Dolls, and I can’t say I’m a fan. As a classic rock lover, I have some minimum requirements for my favorite musicians, namely that they play instruments and sing. Neither can be said for the Pussycat Dolls, though I will admit that it’s impossible for the Slope Day Programming Board to please 20,000 Cornellians with one band. I don’t envy that task, especially since most people here wouldn’t be thrilled with my choice of Slope Day performer (two guesses.)

Slope Day is pretty much the only time of the year when I realize I’m in the minority for choosing not to drink. It’s not  as rare for a college kid as you might think. I have had zero trouble making friends who don’t drink, though I know it was a much easier process since I started Cornell with one of my very close and very sober friends from high school. We had no trouble finding people who didn’t drink: in a school of 13,000 undergrads, there’s no shortage of weekend activities, nor a shortage of people to do them with. My close friends include a fair share of teetotalists, moderate drinkers, and one big frat boy, but none of us ever feel pressure from each other. It’s all about being secure in your own choices and respecting other people’s decisions. And hopefully I’ll find something cool to do tomorrow!

Domestic Affairs

Every Thursday night is reserved for weekly reunion dinners with the ILRies I don’t get to see anymore. For a school as small as ILR, it’s actually quite possible to lose track of people when you don’t have classes with them. Accordingly, I dined with one of my dear friends from Stats and Labor Law, who caught us up with her exciting credit internship plans for junior year. It seems that everywhere I go, another ILRie tells me about their choice to go abroad or how they are brushing up on their German or spending a semester in Asia.

On the other hand, I have no plans to leave Ives Hall or even take a foreign language. Since my parents almost never take vacations, I’ve never been one for traveling. It took me eighteen years to get to Europe, and my motivation was a lot less cultural discovery than it was seeing the last show on the last Europe leg on the Magic tour. To date, I’ve only visited Spanish-speaking countries, one of which contains approximately 80% of my relatives. I haven’t exactly breached my “comfort zone,” and I have no interest in doing so. Does that make me a self-centered American? My usual excuse is that I want time to work on an honors thesis in senior year with no need to rush. The real answer is something more along the lines of having more courses I want to take than could fit into four years.

And besides, the world has a funny way of coming to Cornell: I went to see Sergio Farjado, former mayor of Medellín, Colombia, which was once considered the most dangerous city in the world. Farjado’s transformation of the city, with its heavy focus on participatory action and including historically marginalized groups, was freaking inspiring. I had to wonder if the same principles will work in our fragmented, pluralistic society, but I am sure that Farjado’s critics told him the same thing. One week later, I had an extended discussion with a State Department official at the Non-Profit and Government Career Fair: he told me that I seemed like an “international person” anyways, and that ILR fields are relevant in any country, especially during this recovery period for our image abroad.

As usual, no worries about this choice. I’m going to cherish the – yikes! – four complete semesters I have left.

Honeymoon Period

While the President enjoys high approval ratings and a pliant Congress, I enjoy my two-hour dinners, classes that end early, and putting off work to my glorious three-day weekends. This won’t last forever for either of us, of course. In my case, the e-mails about required meetings start to trickle in, and I slowly add in my two jobs and various commitments to my otherwise beautiful schedule. I always find time for it all, but while there are still chances to take weekday trips around town, I will take full advantage of them. My Tuesday morning mall jaunt was basically unheard of, but when you need Bruce’s new album, you don’t really have another choice.

At least we have six inches of snow on the ground to keep me inside working hard!

Our Better History

Though the events that shaped my return-to-school itinerary were not the best, I can’t have imagined celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration in a better way. I divided the last few weeks of Obamania between Washington and Ithaca.

I spent the weeks leading up to the inauguration doing all of the usual Washingtonian kid things: long strolls on the Mall, surveying my favorite monuments, trying to see if anything felt different. I had the unbelievable opportunity to watch the certification of the election in the front row of the House of Representatives. By law, a joint committee of Congress must meet to examine the ballots from each state to certify that they are “regular in form and authentic.” This process is overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration, home of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and my memories of the sweetest summer internship in Washington. What had felt like a dream come true was finally made real as I sat on the House floor, watching the results of the historic election being written into the Congressional record. Knowing that those ballots and the journal of the House were on their way down Constitution Avenue to be sealed forever in the National Archives was the most literal “written in the history books” that I had felt this entire election season. Even better was watching our now former! Vice President presiding over the process.

After the unbelievable experience of watching this unfold in Congress, I thought I had seen enough of the inauguration. Just as I was weighing the costs and benefits of heading back to school as scheduled or staying for some of the festivities, the economic crisis literally hit home, and I needed a few more days in the Washington area. Everything worked out beautifully, but I needed a few more days to put my Labor Law training to use.

With steady progress made on the obnoxious-undergrad-harassing-various-lawyers front, I set out at dawn on Sunday morning to watch the We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The list of stars who appeared was staggering, and my hero rocked the house not once but twice, bringing tears to my eyes both times. Singing “This Land is Your Land” along with the crowd, Bruce, and eighty-nine-year-old Pete Seeger was nothing but surreal.

I was quickly overwhelmed by the historical coincidences: MLK’s birthday, the Lincoln bicentennial, the Americans who stood in my place for the I Have a Dream speech. When President Obama proudly noted that he would not be here if it weren’t for Lincoln, the historic totality of the moment came crashing down, because I knew I wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for Lincoln, either. A half-hispanic girl from a border state probably wouldn’t have a shot in this world if the 1860s had gone the wrong way. Cornell wouldn’t be here, either, if he hadn’t signed the Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862. I had to put down my “THANKS, BRUCE” sign and take a few deep breaths before I could concentrate again on the amazing lineup.

With amazing memories, I watched the inauguration itself at my second home at Cornell. Reuniting with my friends and crowding into Ives 115 to witness today’s events, I realized that experiencing the inauguration in just Washington or just Ithaca wouldn’t have been complete. Both halves of my life came together beautifully for this amazing American celebration, and this feels like the start of a great semester and an even better eight years.

Bruce vs. Class

Winter Break is slipping away, and my feelings are predictably mixed. On the one hand, I can’t wait to see my friends, and Spring ’09 is offering an exciting set of classes and two legendary ILR professors who are rumored to destroy GPAs. On the other hand, I will ring in this semester 350 miles away from Barack Obama’s inauguration and Bruce Springsteen’s “very likely” free Lincoln Memorial concert. My house is an hour from downtown, tops, and my hero will play in front of my fourth favorite president in honor of the first president I voted for. And it’s free! Instead, I will be in the Cornell Store dropping $500 for textbooks.

How would Bruce handle this dilemma? I think he would probably understand that I treat school like a 9 to 5 job (or a 9 to midnight job sometimes, let’s be honest) at the center of my life, and sometimes it has to come before following aging Jersey shore rockers around the world. And the main reason I love Springsteen is because he works as hard as I do: he might suggest I head back to my work life safely on a charter bus rather than scrambling for a ride on Sunday night. However, he’s kind of big on genuine experiences, and draining my long-suffering checking account doesn’t really qualify as a life-changing part of history, especially since it happens every semester.

Loyal readers (that means you, mom,) please weigh in.

Working on a Dream

My ILR table inside William Keeton House on West Campus just finished watching President-Elect Obama (I totally had to backspace over “Senator” right there!) deliver his acceptance speech. I have to admit that I’ve never heard ILR kids this silent.

Calling the last four hours of watching returns in the Keeton dining hall “surreal” would be an understatement. As state after state broke for Senator Obama, we slowly put away all of the open books and laptops and concentrated on the history we were witnessing.

I got a little choked up when CNN broke the news, but I felt much better knowing my parents were reacting in almost the same way. This historic election is the reason my dad came to America, why he has voted in every election since he became a citizen, and why he has always believed America can change.

Senator Obama stands for an America that can reflect and reform, correct its past missteps, and reclaim its righftul place as a moral force for good. Yes, I know I have made that exact same statement about Bruce Springsteen, but I can’t come up with a better way to express how I’m feeling at this historic hour.

Guest Blog from the Hostess with the Mostest

Hello American prospective students,

This is “Mich,” Patricia’s awesome and cute and slightly hyperactive personal-space-sharer (aka friend). We’re coming to you live from Keeton House, which is where I live on West Campus, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Presidential Elections!  I spent all day today (after class, of course) downtown at the Obama Campaign local headquarters, calling people in swing states like Florida and Colorado and telling them to get out and vote. Patricia had class, so I naturally did double time on her behalf.  Hopefully, those of you eligible non-felons did your part and supported whichever candidate you felt was the best. I have to admit; Cornell is honestly one of the most exciting places in the country to be in times like these. We get the benefit of living in the “college bubble,” while still living and working side by side with the future activists and leaders of our time.

Overall, I’d like to take this opportunity of guest-bloggyness (yes, I know, I make things up) to let everyone out there know how CRAZY COOL and WONDERFUL Cornell is. If not Cornell, another school, and that’s fine by me, but Cornell is just so amazing. We have no limitations on our speech here, as there is at some schools, because overall students respect each other. Being at such an open-minded research institution allows for some verrrrry interesting discussion, but for the most part (since I can’t speak for every single one of the 13,000) there is minimal hostility. Speak your mind! Be heard! And learn some fun new things and maybe change your own opinions along the way!

And be nice to everyone you meet. Just a little life lesson.

Love and a little bit of psychosis,
Mich

PS- Patricia would like everyone to please note that every state that Bruce Springsteen visited went Obama. She’s just saying.