Overwhelmed: Tobi Breaks Down During Exam Week

Dear Elisabeth,

There will come a time in your life when the world finally hands you the opportunity for independence. It will hold it like a gem in its open hand and whisper in your ear all of its lures which have captured the minds of youth throughout history:

“With independence, you can make your own life decisions. You can pursue whatever course of action you deem fit and rightfully derive pride from the successes of your ventures. You won’t need to ask for permission to engage in your own passions. You won’t need supervision as you try new experiences. Independence will allow you to forge your own, unique identity, and it will be something that you will treasure always.”

Well, that is not independence.

Independence does give you some identity, but it also gives you strife. That perfect gem it offers comes at the price of increased responsibility for your actions, and that cost is not so easy to pay. Yes, you will be able to experience all of those wonderful benefits  promised to you when you first imagined independence. But, although you may ultimately make your own decisions, there will always be other factors in your life which can pressure you to subvert your passions for more practical enterprises. There will be your family, your career, the economic status and social structure of your society–and so many other things–that will narrow the list of available, feasible opportunities for you, and you will be the one to face the brunt of any criticisms or regrets that may come with your resulting decisions.

It may seem depressing or a bit cataclysmic to describe independence in that way, but I must stress that my wish is not to demonize independence. Simply because you must take responsibility for your actions does not mean that your actions will be any less rewarding or memorable. Similarly, facing external stresses does not need to dominate your decision-making or your life. The reason I am emphasizing this description is because I don’t want you to delve into adulthood with a fantasy that independence equates to free choice. Just because you make the decisions doesn’t mean that you will be able to escape the same pressures you may feel now as a kid.

I wrote this letter after reminiscing over my first week of examinations at Cornell University. Back then, I struggled to keep up with my responsibilities. There was so much that I wanted to do–meet with Spencer, participate in clubs, finish some writing–and so many things I needed to do–study, review, and write essays. I couldn’t go to parties or be irresponsible like how television and some books describe other college students. I couldn’t even engage in my own, simple hobbies. Writing a single page of my own story was virtually impossible because I was always too busy memorizing a thousand pages from someone’s else’s.

When I look back at all those hours I spent studying for exams, I remember clearly how stressed out I was. I tried to stay optimistic, holding Tobi by my side, but  I was obviously unprepared to tackle those examinations. The review packets were extraordinarily long  and I knew from conversations I had with other students that I was not comprehending the material at the same level as most of my class. For several moments, I looked at all the work I had to do and knew I could not possibly do it all in a healthy way.

Tobi Studies with Nani for Exams

So, why am I telling you about my first exams?

Because I want you to think about all the stress factors you have now as a kid. You have to succumb to the scrutiny and demands of your parents, your school officials, and your peers, while all the while maintaining some loyalty to yourself. You get angry at your parents, your teachers, and your friends because they won’t let you do the things you really want to do–the fun things, like sleeping in late or reading your favorite book or going out to the movie theater to see a new flick. You don’t like it when they put restrictions on you, with their curfues and grades and snarky comments, and so being older and going to college sounds wonderful because there rules no longer apply due to the distance and independence that separate you.

I similarly longed for college because I too wanted to escape some of the more stressful and impeding restrictions that came with being so young and dependent on others. However, during my first exams, I realized that those restrictions didn’t go away simply because I was doing my own laundry and making my own schedule. They simple changed forms.

Mom can’t tell you where and when you can go out with friends or what to eat for dinner, but it will be mom who you think of when you want to blow off studying for an exam. You will think of all that money and time she put into you so that you could go to school and advance our family in society, and you will feel indebted to her. You will imagine her disappointment in you when she gets back your failing grades and how she must hide your procrastination and poor judgment from our other family members. Most of all, you will long for that feeling of pride you could have gotten had you actually received good marks. You’ll imagine mom talking so happily to all of her friends and coworkers about your success–her own pride obvious in her beaming smile.

You will think about your school officials when you consider how your low GPA will affect your applicability for continuing your college education. You will think of those scholarships or programs which pay for your tuition and worry whether your academic performance will curtail your benefactors’ generosity. You will worry over the various programs and opportunities you really wanted to try but whose applications require a certain GPA under which you no longer qualify.

You will think of your friends, who will wonder why you couldn’t get your act together and pass what they considered to be such an easy class. You will wonder how your procrastination will affect your future opportunities for success and worry about how you may compare to your rivals back home or at college once all is said and done.

Those pressures that you tried to avoid by running away to college don’t disappear  They manifest themselves in subconscious worry and, once rooted, they are very hard to remove. Again, these descriptions may be a bit exaggerated  but these concerns will come to you at some time or another, even if they don’t come all at once or are less despairing than I described. It was these issues which pressured me to give all of my energy into an endeavor I could not win. Tobi and I gave up everything we cared about doing–the writing, the socializing, the romancing–and even things we were never supposed to give up. We didn’t eat properly during that week. For three days in a row I did not sleep, and the remaining days were managed with only minimal hours of rest taken at sporadic times. I became sick and looked like a wreck, and Tobi made a habit of falling asleep amidst his textbook at the library.

“Five more minutes…”

But, most importantly, we were held responsible for those decisions. No one sympathized with us because we gave up all that time and energy into studying. Our peers either approved of what we were doing or were busy engaging in the same behavior themselves. Our loved ones criticized us for not taking better care of our health, and some even chastised us for having procrastinated earlier on in the semester and bringing this misery upon ourselves. No one said that it was our situation that was unfair; no one complained that it was my parents’ rules or my school’s dreadfulness that made my life so wretched. Such complaining was reserved for high school, when most of your life really wasn’t a product of your own decisions. But now, with my new-found independence, I was the one who put myself in that position. I was the one to blame for being so stressed out.

When you go to college, Elisabeth, you need to realize that it is not an escape from the pressures in your life. You cannot run away from issues such as struggling with your education, arguing with your parents, or fighting with your friends by going to a far-away land. College is not a protective bubble that will shield you from emotional issues. The best thing you can do is handle these problems now as a youth so that you are emotionally prepared  when they come into conflict with greater things you won’t want to compromise on–things like your health, your happiness, and your passions. If you can’t find a way now to engage in a healthy conversation with mom about how her expectations and rules negatively impact your life (for example, by limiting the number of times you can go out or what activities you participate in at school), then how do you expect to have that same conversation later on in life when mom’s expectations for you run contrary to something much more important (like what kind of career you will have or how far away from home you will live post-graduation)? It’s irrational to think that with independence there will come this form of understanding between you and these outside figures–that suddenly your own desires will be paramount to theirs. You need to learn how to make your personal interests known, how to identify what compromises you are or are not willing to make, and how to balance the expectations and desires of others against what you want to do. This way of thinking is not a pass for you to do reckless things; sometimes, respecting the limitations of others are more important than your own wants (such as when mom wants you to do well in school but you just want to get drunk and party instead) because those limitations are actually in your best interest. You are young, so acknowledge the experience of others and take them into consideration. However, you also should also push back against stress and keep your priorities straight when those pressures try push you into do things that are not in your best interest.

 

My first exam week revealed to me that I was not emotionally prepared for independence. I wasn’t capable of making the right decisions for myself in stressful situations, and as a result I damaged my own health and mental well-being. I’m not saying that I should have blown off those exams, but I probably shouldn’t have walked into my studying sessions with so much stress on my mind and so many unrealistic expectations for myself. If I am unprepared now for these simple college life responsibilities, I shouldn’t be so earnest to jump into adult life or expect to reap different results.

In a similar way, I hope that you don’t jump into future stages in your life expecting independence to come without strings. Responsibility is tied to more autonomy, and that autonomy doesn’t always come in the traditional forms of bills or increased workloads. It also comes in tests of emotional stamina and in confronting personal conflicts from your past that may be uncomfortable for you. So when you embrace independence, realize that its benefits of identity and personal development requires the hard work of actively shaping your own identity and of developing your own personal skills. With that in mind, don’t jump into adulthood fool-heartily. Come mentally prepared and see it as an opportunity to change your life instead of running away from it.

Sheldon Shenanigans: The Jello Fiends

Once again, the prank war between myself and my elusive neighbor, Arnold, is back in full swing. After my last failed attempt, I found myself -1 on our prank war tally and determined to even out our ledger. As a result, I offer my readers yet another legend of Sheldon Court’s notorious 4th Floor: our legendary Jello fiends.

And by legendary, I mean not at all legendary.
And by Jello fiends, I mean The Batman and myself.

Our Weapon of Choice

Last weekend, I bought several boxes of Jello from a local 7-Eleven store to make my boyfriend a cardboard dog for Valentines’ Day. Consequently, I also became the owner of 16 pounds of Jello brand gelatin for which I had no use. The Batman–being the wise prankster that he is–suggested that we use the Jello to get back at Arnold who was currently absent from the hall. So off we went into the night, looking for the perfect tools and inspiration to plot our Jello-based revenge.

Perfect.

After some brainstorming, After amassing together several pots, a makeshift ladle, and a large plastic box that could fit inside of our floor’s refrigerator, we finally decided to bury Arnold’s favorite converse sneakers inside the 16 pounds of different colored Jello. It would take several hours and careful planning to make sure the Jello froze over the wrapped sneakers in perfect layers, but it would be a riot to watch Arnold eat through the Jello to retrieve his favorite sneakers. We collected several pots from our floormates and made a makeshift ladle from sticks, a spoon, and some tape in order to properly cook the Jello. Then, The Batman emptied out a large plastic box he had lying in his room for us to pour the Jello liquid into. We took Arnold’s sneakers, wrapped them up in several Ziploc bags, and set them at the bottom of the plastic container inside our refrigerator. Finally, we got to work and spent the next several hours making Jello.

At several moments throughout the night we feared we would be unable to complete the prank. For example, after the 2nd or 3rd layer of Jello, we noticed that the different colors had begun to mix with one another. We thought that by giving each layer a set time to cool in the refrigerator before pouring the next layer we would be able to avoid this mixing and create a layered, rainbow effect. Unfortunately,  something was wrong with our timing and/or how we poured the mixture into the container so the different Jello mixtures began to pool into a purplish-black mess. At first, we were a bit disappointed, but then The Batman pointed out that the black Jello may work in our favor by making the process of eating through the Jello even worse for Arnold. So we continued on….until our next setback.

The sneakers wouldn’t stay underneath the Jello.

When we had put the sneakers into the Ziploc bags, we accidentally left some air inside of them which in turn lifted the sneakers above each new layer of liquid Jello we poured into the container. In addition, the width of the container prevented the Jello from reaching a height that would completely cover the entire pair of sneakers. Noticing this problem, The Batman and I quickly substituted the converse shoes for Arnold’s dorm room keys, which were heavy and small enough to sink straight to the bottom of the mixture. It wasn’t the best substitution, but it was close enough to keep the prank alive.

Our Final Product

At about 3am or 4am, we finally finished the Jello and admired our handiwork. I wrote a note to Arnold with instructions for where he could find his dorm room keys and his converse sneakers, which I have kept in my room to this day awaiting an appropriate gift exchange of the shoes’ weight in Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups from Arnold. The Batman went to bed, and I went on to create a cardboard puppy for Spencer out of the remaining empty Jello boxes.

A few days later, I opened up the refrigerator to find the Jello still sitting on its bottom shelf but with a large whole in its center where we had buried Arnold’s keys. It brought a wide smile to my face.

Current Prank Ledger Reads: “Rose:1 and Arnold:0.”

The Days After Valentines’ Day

It’s two days after Valentines’ Day, and the holiday’s warmth is already beginning to fade. Restaurants count their profits from the night before as local stores replace their decorations and radio music in preparation for the next holiday. Students return to class, and online media sources wrap up their final comments on the holiday before moving on to their next big topics.

It’s a bit of a shame that the world is moving on so quickly from Valentines’ Day. It was nice to look back onto my memories of V-days past and spend the day thinking about what Valentines’ Day meant for me. I read up on old-school romances through Cornell’s Big Red Love series. I saw single men and women advocate for self-love and celebrate bachelorhood.  I reminisced with my boyfriend over how our relationship has grown over the past year. It was all very nice, but now that the day is over and the craziness of my own Valentines’ Day plans has finally subsided, I’m left wondering what happened this year on Valentines’ Day. Among all the stories of past romances, the one narrative I missed was how people this year continued to show that love to their families and lovers.

For the critics of V-day, I’m sure that the idea of listening to others describe how they gave or received gifts on Valentines’ Day is especially cringe-inducing and dreadful. However, being someone who not only enjoys talking about the good things in her life but also hearing about the fortunate events in others, I really wish there was more of a discussion about it. Sure, there may be some people who will take this opportunity to brag or gloat. Nevertheless, I feel like hearing these stories will not only continue spreading the warmth and love of Valentines’ Day beyond its 24-hour mark but also refocus our attention on how people can share love now, in the present day. In a world where there is such little faith that romance and chivalry still thrives, reminders that people are in love today as well as in the past may serve us some good.

So, in the spirit of the day after Valentines’ Day, I invite my readers to share their V-Day stories in the comments below. What did you do yesterday in order to show your loved ones that you still care? Did you go out with a lover, call a friend or family member, or spend the day loving yourself and promoting a cause?  Share with me your stories and I will share with you mine–how I spent V-Day with my boyfriend and how I spent V-Day advocating for equality. Together, maybe we can inspire each other to think of the message of Valentines’ Day in terms of the present and not just the past.

Share the love.

One Billion Rising

On February 14th, 2013, Cornell undergraduate students rose up on Ho Plaza against violence towards women in a small flash mob mirroring similar movements in over 200 countries. Mikey and I joined in their dance to celebrate the One Billion Rising event advocating for gender equality worldwide.

Both male and female students came together in the days leading up to Valentines’ Day and learned the dance in various locations around campus. For students who couldn’t make the trek to Central or North Campus, the event’s Facebook page provided a Youtube link to an instructional video which they could use to learn the dance at home. The sessions were fun and short, and the dance itself was easy enough for even the most uncoordinated dancer to learn (even Mikey).

Mikey Poses with the Organizers of Cornell’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob Event

At around noon on V-Day, students and bystanders began chalking up Ho Plaza with inspirational messages against female violence. Some students left short impacting phrases like “Cornell Rises Above Violence” while others rewrote the event’s slogan in different colors across the Plaza. One particularly talented student managed to recreate the logo of the organization which began the One Billion Rising event–V-Day–known best for its creation of the Vagina Monologues and other gender equality-based initiatives.

Mikey Stands Beside the V-Day One Billion Rising Logo, written in chalk on Ho Plaza; Photo Credit to Angela Lu

At 1pm, the participating students came together to prepare their dance to the song “Break the Chain.” Midway through the song, students brought in members of the crowd to join them and soon a small crowd of dancers began celebrating the cause together as fellow activists. It was a wonderful, fun event and it was a remarkable way to bring attention to the issue of gender violence.

Photo Credit to Cornell University’s Facebook Page

Unfortunately, amidst its success there also lie its critics.

Unlike Cornell’s recent Gangnam Style flash mob and its upcoming Harlem Shake event, the One Billion Rising movement had a much smaller turnout and was organized by a smaller group of students. By sheer number, the popularity of these other pop media movements greatly overwhelmed the One Billion Rising flash mob, attracting more volunteers and more audience members  in both cases. Some students point out that this lack of turnout points to an underlying issue in the priorities of Cornell’s community: students as a whole would much rather emulate pop culture than volunteer their time for a legitimate global cause, even when both activities require the same effort (in this case, dance). Other critics point to an alternative reasoning for the small volunteer base: the timing of the event. Smack in the middle of a heavy academic time slot, many students couldn’t make it to the event because of class conflicts. In addition, other events like the Gangnam Style flash mob utilized social media much earlier to attract interest than did the organizers of the One Billion Rising event, giving more students a chance to learn about the opportunity and to reorganize their schedules around the dance sessions.

Regardless, it is important to realize that the turnout was not nonexistent. There was a moderate group of volunteers and audience members, given the time and resources provided, and the event did capture a lot of interest on various media outlets throughout Cornell. For example, the event was featured on the front page and website of  the Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell University’s Facebook page. Several pictures of the events also circulated between students on social media outlets like Facebook.

Photo Credit to Angela Lu

It is important to acknowledge the good will that was demonstrated by those who did come to support the cause. In the context of the greater picture, where our students stand in the backdrop of over 200 countries standing behind their message, the flash mob was certainly not a small feat.

If anything, parlaying the facts about the issue before the dance helped bring us closer to the issue by illuminating the seriousness of gender violence.

One in three women on the planet will be raped of beaten in her lifetime.

One billion women violated is an atrocity.

One billion women dancing is a revolution.

The message of the movement rang clear through Ho Plaza this Valentines’ Day, and no amount of criticism can dilute the impact of that message.

Congratulations to the volunteers of Cornell University’s One Billion Rising Flash Mob event for illuminating that message.

Our First Valentines

February 14th, 2012 was the first time I ever truly had a valentine.

Yes, my mother was my valentines for most Valentines’ Days throughout elementary school (and, at times, high school), but this time I had an actual boyfriend to play the role. I was very excited to pull out all the stops this year to make sure my first Valentines’ Day was a memorable one.

I met Spencer–my boyfriend–last year in our Introduction to Astronomy class. Since then, we’ve done many of the couple milestones you would expect from such a young relationship and we also learned that we both sure a discomfort for receiving overtly expensive gifts from loved ones. We much rather prefer doing things together or making sweet gestures than going through the stress of holiday shopping. With this quality in mind, we both secretly devised V-day surprises for the other which we hoped would garner happiness instead of awkwardness.

A few weeks before Valentines’ Day, Spencer and I went shopping together at the Ithaca Mall and I stumbled upon the baking section of Target. Pausing over the various pie tins and pre-made pie crusts, I admitted to Spencer that I had an obsession for pumpkin pie and was seriously considering purchasing the ingredients to make some. Pumpkin pie is a special treat for me because I can usually only have it a few times a year, such as during Thanksgiving when my grandfather makes his special version with homemade whipped cream. In the end, I decided not to get the ingredients because I was low on cash and low on time. I walked away from the baking aisle slightly disheartened.

Some time later, Valentines’ Day ads crept into every magazine and newspaper and I realized that I needed to come up with a gift for Spencer quick. On the eve of V-Day, I went to 7-Eleven and purchased 16 boxes of Jello brand gelatin and a bag of marshmallows. Confused? So was everyone else in the store.

At one point, a store employee walked over to where I sat in the middle of an aisle stacking up Jello boxes in various structural formations. “Can I help you she asked?” It was obvious from her tone of voice that she was not amused. Nevertheless, I was too focused on my masterpiece to realize the woman was looking at me as if I was a psychopath. Instead, I answered…

No, thank you. I just need to make a dog.

See, my boyfriend loves dogs. He had pet dogs as a kid and to this day he still gets excited whenever he sees a dog walk by or a picture of a dog on the internet. My plan was to use the Jello boxes to make a small cardboard dog for him and to use the marshmallows as a trail for him to follow and find the dog. It worked marvelously.

On Valentines’ Day, I sneakily entered Spencer’s apartment building while he was away and aligned the marshmallows in a line up the stairs from the entrance to his front door. I used a marker to decorate each marshmallow with a sweet smiling face and little hearts on their heads. This idea had the double benefit of making the marshmallows look like adorable little creatures welcoming him home as he walked up the stairs and as a line of hearts as he walked back down the stairs.

At the end of the line, the marshmallows circled around his new cardboard dog. With  a goofy smile and glowing red heart, the dog held my V-day card for Spencer and protected the marshmallow people from lurking intruders. I ran from the building as fast as I could and waited at Sheldon Court across the street for Spencer to find his gift. Shortly after 5:30pm, Spencer came home from his classes and sent me a text.

The dog. It’s so cute. I love it.

At the end of the night, we met to have dinner and I got to see the puppy in his new home–atop the windowsill of my boyfriend’s living room, surrounding by a shrine of marshmallow people and a fantastic view of Collegetown. It was a great surprise and it set a happy tone for the rest of the night. I’m glad I spent all night making the dog (and I do mean all night -__-) because seeing Spencer so happy to receive it made the exact memory I was hoping to have for my first Valentines’ Day.

 

Oh, what did Spencer get me, you ask?

He spent weeks learning how to bake me the perfect pumpkin pie. <3

Pandas Don’t Dance: Mikey Visits PMA 2300 at the Schwartz Center

 

Do you shy away from public displays of random dancing?

Do you hide in the corner when dance music comes up in a party?

Do you happen to be two feet tall and covered in fur? 

Check.

 

Well then, you might just be my toy panda, Mikey.

And, even more shockingly, you may not like to dance.

If you are my panda, then I am very disappointed in you. Dance is an amazing way to exercise and can be lots of fun when done with the right people. Sure, pandas might be notorious for having a lack of rhythm and, sure, you may just be an inanimate object incapable of movement, but that shouldn’t stop you from becoming the next animal dancing sensation! 

So, today, we’re going to the Schwartz Center so you can enroll in a dance class.

Don’t give me that face. You know you’re loving this.”

 

The Schwartz Center is on the edge between Collegetown and Cornell University’s main campus. It’s home to Cornell’s Performing and Media Arts Department and hosts numerous classes in acting, film, stage production, and dance. On occasion, the Schwartz Center also hosts its own stage productions and offers rehearsal space to Cornell’s numerous dance troupes. Today, we’re going downstairs to the sub-basement to visit the students of PMA 2300: Introduction to Dance Composition.

…once this confounded elevator decides to finally show up…

 

PMA 2300 teaches students different techniques for creating dance choreography. It combines students from all levels of the course (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels) into one section, and there is usually a wide variety of styles and skills among the participating students each semester. The instructors also alternate between semesters, so students who continue the course into their later years can expect to be continuously challenged by different teaching styles and new assignments. 

Now don’t get nervous by that guy doing pirouettes in the corner. You don’t need any previous dance experience to join the class or to do well in it. Grades are determined by one’s own class participation and level of improvement throughout the semester. Weekly dance assignments may demand that you use certain techniques for creating your piece, but they remain mostly broad and applicable to many styles and levels of dance technique. Moreover, your professor and peers will generate constructive criticism for you in class with your unique level of performance technique in mind. In fact, some of your assignments may even require that you create pieces that are performed by other dancers, instead of yourself. So, in essence, you’ll be graded on how well you followed the assignment and how much effort you put into your choreography.

Another great benefit of this class is that you get to meet so many interesting people. Once you overcome your initial nervousness of performing in front of others, it can be a lot of fun to talk with your classmates about why you liked or didn’t like certain dances or whether you prefer certain dance styles over others. With classmates spanning across Cornell’s various majors and class years, you’re bound to find someone with an interesting new perspective on dance or a unique way for explaining why we react to human movement the way we do.

Mikey Poses with His New Classmate

 

Before and after class, you have the opportunity to bond with your peers on a less academic level. You can talk about events happening on campus or share stories about surviving killer midterms through excessive cramming. Vent about your day with a fellow student or talk about deeper issues and ambitions you have for when you leave Cornell. Don’t forget to talk to the professor, too! Most PMA professors have years of experience in their field and have tons of interesting stories to tell. For example, my current instructor shared with us a wonderful story about how her first and only stuffed animal as a little girl was….a panda!

It’s a small world.

 I took the introductory course last semester with essentially no dance training whatsoever. I enjoyed the class so much that I immediately signed up for the intermediate level this semester. Having taken the class a total of 1 ½ times, I do have a few tips for aspiring pandas who want to enroll and do well in PMA 2300:

  • Don’t worry over how your dance experience compares with other students. Remember, you’re graded individually, not on a curve. Focus on improving your own skill instead of trying to keep up with others.
  • Don’t underestimate the workload. PMA classes are not free passes or GPA boosters. PMA 2300 is a 3-credit class, so expect to put in a few hours a week into each assignment if you want to create a quality piece.
  • Reserve a room, immediately. Each student of PMA 2300 gets to reserve rehearsal space at the Schwartz Center for a few hours a week. The earlier you reserve your space, the more time slot options you have to choose from and the less likely you will struggle with making time for rehearsals against your other classes. If you can’t find a space in Schwartz or need more time, ask your classmates and professor for other options on campus (like Helen Newman).
  • Be friendly and social. It’s easier to perform in front of people you already know than complete strangers. Talking to your classmates before and after class (not during!!!) can make the atmosphere more comfortable and relaxed for when you have to dance together. It also helps to build relationships for when you need other people to dance in your pieces.

Mikey Poses with His New Classmate

 

  • Be concise and constructive. When it’s your turn to respond to someone else’s piece, make sure you keep your comments short so others have time to comment as well. It helps to think about what you want to say as you watch the performance, so you don’t have to come up with something on the spot and resort to rambling whenever the professor calls on you. Give constructive criticism. Although it’s always nice to hear that someone enjoyed your piece, it can also hurt you if you only hear praises and miss out on learning how you can improve your technique for next time. On the other hand, criticizing a piece without giving specific and clear reasons for why you disliked it is also damaging to one’s morale. Try to name specific moments that felt lackluster to you and focus on giving suggestions for improvement, not on emphasizing what went wrong.
  • Talk to your professor. If you don’t understand an assignment or you want more personalized feedback on your choreography, schedule a meeting with or email your professor. They are usually more than happy to help and the one-on-one time is especially gratifying for confused students. If your question is more specific and direct, you can even try catching the professor at the end of class to have a quick discussion.

 

At the end of the day, PMA 2300 might be just what you need to overcome your anxiety of dance and to distress from a long day of problem sets. If you’re a panda interested in dance, come on by the Schwartz Center and try it out for yourself.

And don’t forget to sign in and say hi to your neighborhood building manager!

Tobi Tackles the Freshman 15

Dear Elisabeth,

Today, Tobi and Nani went to RPCC to participate in our friend’s experiment. She was working with a few other students to test if the Freshman 15 was still prominent on campus. The Freshman 15 is a phenomenon in which Freshmen college students gain 15 pounds during their first year of college due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise. By measuring the weights of several Freshmen students at the beginning and end of their first semester, our friend was testing to see if there was any truth behind the Freshman 15 myth.

Now we were coming back to see if there had been any changes in our own weight. Nani was happy to see that she had only gained a few pounds during the interim, but Tobi was not nearly as happy. Being a stuffed tiger, he didn’t expect for his midnight munching to actually have any effect on his weight but, being a very special tiger, Tobi was just as susceptible to the Freshman 15 as anyone else. As the scale spun forward, Tobi panicked as he realized that he had gained a lot of weight in his first semester.

Tobi didn’t understand why he hadn’t realized earlier that he had gained so much weight. Although Tobi insisted that he had always eaten healthily, Nani couldn’t help but think of what had happened just the night before:

Caught Pancake-Handed!

In fact, Tobi had eaten a lot of things in his last few weeks at Cornell. He had a nasty habit of piling too much food onto his plate in the dining halls and of eating midnight snacks right before going to bed. Plus, Tobi had stopped exercising regularly and even took the Tcat bus to travel from his dorm room to his classes. Tobi insisted that he only took the bus because Cornell University gives their Freshmen students free bus passes, but Nani thought it might really be because Tobi was too lazy to walk the whole way (especially during the colder months).

The dorm is five minutes away by foot, Tobi. We can walk.

Let Tobi’s shock come as a warning to you, Elisabeth. It’s very tempting to eat more food than necessary when so much food is placed in front of you. At dining halls and other campus eateries, you’ll have the choice to eat as much as you want from a buffet of various tasty foods.  I have witnessed many students fill up their trays with mountains of food—pancakes, mashed potatoes, pizza, French fries—only to toss half of it out or to follow it up with a bowl of ice cream.  When you’re eating so much food and most of that food is unhealthy, it makes sense that your weight should go up significantly.

However, just because it is common does not mean that excessive weight gain is desirable. There are a few exceptions, such as those who have medical conditions that hinder their metabolism or those who actually need to gain weight, but you probably won’t qualify under those exceptions. Most likely, you will gain weight simply because you weren’t careful about your eating habits, and that behavior will noticeably hurt your health and performance later on.

This lack of discipline is what caused Tobi to gain the Freshman 15. In turn, the Freshman 15 was what made Tobi tired during classes and more susceptible to catching illnesses. He didn’t have the nutrients he needed to function properly, and he didn’t exercise regularly enough to balance out his late-night binging.

Luckily for Tobi, our friend knew all about the Freshman 15 and was able to explain to him why he was gaining weight. She told Tobi three ways through which he could get his nutrition back on track:

  1. Eat Fewer, But Better Foods
  2. Exercise More Each Week
  3. Eat at Regular Times

Tobi is very excited to try out these new tricks and to feel better. It may take some time, but he is determined to see his resolution through until the end. Tobi promised his friend that he would try out her tips for a whole semester before stepping back on the scale to see his progress. Do you think Tobi can do it? What advice would you give to Tobi as he tries to eat better this semester?

I really hope that Tobi can overcome his bad habits, and I hope that when you are older you will remember to eat healthy and exercise regularly even when you are facing the temptations of delicious pie.  It may sound like a cliché, but it really does hurt to eat unhealthily. In fact, why don’t you try Tobi’s healthy eating challenge, too? For a whole semester, all you have to do is follow the same three rules as Tobi. If you give it your best effort, maybe then you will be able to see personally the difficulties and benefits of eating healthy. What do you think?

Lots of Love,
Your Sister (a.k.a. Nani)

Playing in a Winter Wonderland

Today, Mikey and I decided to go the Arts Quad to watch the pretty, white snow fall….

Photo Credit to Matt Munsey

…as we threw at some other students’ heads.

Yes, today Mikey and I participated in a planned snowball fight at Cornell’s Arts Quad. It was a wonderful event filled with laughter and harmless snow pelting. Our friend, The Batman, put together the event over Facebook and managed to attract a sizable group of people to reenact The Cornell Snowball Fight of 2011.

Officers Monitor Cornell’s Snowball Fight

To protect innocent pedestrians and the fragile windows of Olin Library, some police were nearby watching the fight unfold. However, despite their uniforms, they were enjoying the game as well. Although I didn’t witness any of the officers personally throw a snowball, I did overhear one of the officers say to his partner: “Ouch. Did you see that one? Right in the face…”

It was good to see our local police enjoying themselves alongside the students, especially since they were standing for a very long time in the cold for our own enjoyment. One officer was so nice as to take a picture with Mikey and me right before the fight ensued.

A Fellow Student and Friend Prepares Mikey for the Fight

The students were similarly excited to be a part of the action. Despite concerns that the timing of the fight (1:30pm) would deter students from attending because of class conflicts, numerous students arrived anmany of them stayed throughout the entire event. Some came with friends while others were surprised to find that many of their classmates had also decided to come coincidentally. The moments before the fight were filled of laughter and conversation, as students joked about forming alliances and sneaking up onto the roof of the Libe Cafe. Mikey and I managed to find several of our own friends on the battlefield, most of whom were willing to pose for pictures and give us tips on how to make the perfect snowball out of soft snow.

A Friend Helps Mikey with His First Snowball

Other students came later, joining in on the battle in a spur-of-the-moment decision once they realized what was happening. The majority of students waited together patiently, pacing the snow as they waited for the moment of truth. Others were more strategic and gathered up snow into piles of ready-to-go snowball ammo. Needless to say, it was obvious which students were attacked and which were the attackers when the battle finally began. Luckily, Mikey and I were well trained by our fellow students.

Another Student Poses with Mikey, Prepared for Battle 

Finally, at exactly 1:30pm, the clock tower rang.

Snowballs flew into the air and students targeted one another as fair game. It was so much fun that I sincerely wished I could have stayed there longer. Mikey’s fur was completely soaked by the time we walked back home, and my red coat was similarly covered in melting flecks of snow which had been hurdled at me from twenty different directions. In the end, we walked away with wet clothes, large smiles, and a video that is currently spreading across Facebook: Cornell’s Daily Sun Covers Cornell’s 2013 Snowball Fight.

Small events like snowball fights can be a lot of fun but, when an entire community gets together to put aside their stress and share time with one another, you know you’ve experienced something great. Thank you to all of the participants in this year’s Snowball Fight on the Arts Quad! Hopefully we can make this event an annual tradition.

Playing in a Winter Wonderland

 

 

Sheldon Shenanigans: The Disappearing Lounge

Let me introduce you to the fourth floor of Sheldon Court.

Notorious for its silence and empty fridge, Sheldon’s fourth floor is most certainly not the center of Collegetown’s night life. If you don’t already know, Sheldon Court is an upperclassmen dorm located directly across from Collegetown’s famous CTB (College Town Bagels) and the entrance of Cornell University. On any given Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, you could easily spot a handful of college students stumbling around Sheldon Court’s entrance waiting for friends before starting their search for a good party. However, inside of Sheldon Court, the social environment is very different.

In defense of the notorious fourth floor, I want to point out that silence in not necessarily a precursor for boredom. We, the residents of the fourth floor, engage in the same amount of dorm floor shenanigans as any other floor or dorm on campus. We’re just more…quiet about it.

Now let me introduce you to two of our floor’s most common sources of harmless pranks and mysterious shenanigans: The Batman and Arnold.

These two residents are not actually named “The Batman” and “Arnold.” Their nicknames began to stick as it became more and more difficult to talk about their adventures without simultaneously getting them into trouble. These two undergraduate students are also one another’s roommates—a decision by Cornell’s housing office that I will never fully understand. They’re both very interesting and fun people to talk to; however, they also have the tendency to give our RA (residential adviser) and myself miniature heart attacks from time to time.

Arnold and I have been engaged in a prank war for some time now. Although it started with minor annoyances (i.e. pushing all the elevator floor buttons whenever the other was trying to go downstairs), we gradually reached a point where something larger needed to occur. The Batman, seeing this point as an opportunity, eagerly joined in to help me get back at Arnold. Hence, we begin the story of….

The Disappearing Lounge Furniture

A few nights ago, Cornell University found itself in an electrical black-out. It only lasted 20 minutes, but it was just enough time for all of the fourth floor residents to exit their rooms and engage in a conversation that would last until early the next morning. Arnold and The Batman also left their rooms and, right before Arnold decided to leave Sheldon Court for some unknown errand, he decided that the best way to exit the lounge would be to pull my chair from underneath me and make me to fall heavily onto the floor as he walked over to the elevator.

That was when the dominoes began to fall.

I wanted to get back at Arnold to balance out our prank ledger, and The Batman happened to have a key to Arnold’s room. A few other residents of the fourth floor decided to join in on our brainstorming session, and finally we all decided that the best way to get back at Arnold would be to crowd his room with chairs. So we took a few chairs from the floor lounge and stacked them in a pile on his bed. But it didn’t look drastic enough. So The Batman grabbed a few more chairs. Then some residents decided that the sofa should go in there as well.

Then the table.

And our other table.

And our wet floor sign.

In short, it didn’t take very long before all of our floor’s lounge and kitchen furniture was settled cozily inside of Arnold’s room. How no one—let alone our RA—came to realize what we were doing as we traveled down the hall with sofas on our backs is beyond my comprehension. However, as we stood staring into the confines of Arnold’s room, I have to admit that we felt proud of our accomplishment.

The image of communal pride

We decided that we would leave the furniture in Arnold’s room until Arnold came to see it. Then The Batman would knock on our doors and we would all come to both witness Arnold’s shock and to help The Batman replace the furniture. The lounge would be returned to its original condition, all before any of the maintenance staff could come in the morning and be any the wiser of our plot. There was, however, one key issue with our plan….

Arnold never came home.

He stayed overnight at his girlfriend’s place. No Arnold meant no knocking. No knocking meant no group return of the furniture. No furniture meant the maintenance staff came in at 8am and saw nothing but a bare floor and panicked. And, as to be expected, a panicked maintenance staff meant that our RA was quickly knocking on our doors at 8:30am to ask if any of us knew where the furniture was.

With quick looks and steady nods, our floor-mates all managed to plausibly deny that they had anything to do with the furniture. When it came to The Batman and I, however, our RA was a bit more suspicious. Careful with his words, The Batman promised over email that the furniture would be returned by the late afternoon. The exchange, in itself, was a treasure. Only The Batman could be so diplomatic as to be able to both diffuse tensions and avoid any culpability whatsoever.

So our entire floor once again came together to remove the furniture from Arnold’s room. Arnold, who had missed the entire extravaganza, came to laugh at our failed prank. I reminded him, however, that our failure only meant that I still owed Arnold a prank to balance out our ledger. Although Arnold didn’t seem too frightened by my threat, he did immediately turn to The Batman to try and work out a truce. Arnold thinks he has succeeded, but I doubt that The Batman will change his pranking ways anytime soon.

The purpose of this story was not only to introduce you to The Batman and Arnold, but to show you the interesting culture of Sheldon’s fourth floor. To anyone who had walked by later that afternoon, they would have thought that the floor was a boring place. However, had they only been there but a few hours before, they would have seen one our floor’s greatest landmarks: our disappearing lounge.

Our silently disappearing lounge.