The Dilema of Not-Quite Friends

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Cornell University has been exposing me to many different types of people. It’s  interesting how many new personalities and character types you encounter in your later years of life than in your earliest years. I think it’s because, the younger you are, the more likely you’ve been blinded to just the people in your family, in your neighborhood, and in your school. When you’re older though–when you need other people more to accomplish things you want to do, like advancing your career or moving into a new lifestyle or organizing your finances–you’re forced to interact with more people. It may be shallow interactions, but they are quantitatively greater in occurrence. At least, that is what I am suspecting.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to deviate into a side-conversation about the nature of growing up and meeting new people. I was trying to set up a story about a recent experience I had with my boyfriend on his birthday. But now that I’ve started on this track, I think I’ll move forward on it. I can always revisit my original story in another post, anyway.

So, getting back to what I was thinking before about people, it’s interesting how the number of people you meet increases dramatically when you’re a young adult at college. At Cornell, you meet a lot of people every day in classes and other activities. However, only a few of them will interact with you regularly enough that you can consider them more than just classmates. They become…acquaintances. And if you’re fond of them, then you might go out of your way to meet with them at more social (rather than purely academic) events, at which point you’ll become friends. Not close friends; but friends, nevertheless. And with that friendship comes expectations and annoyances which–at least for me–is the most tedious element of socializing at college.

There will come a time when you know exactly who it is you really enjoy spending time with and who you just happen to spend time with because it is convenient for you and that other person. It becomes increasingly clear as that person who you don’t really want to spend all that much time with keeps contacting you and throwing opportunities your way to meet with them and, because all those suggestions are inconvenient for you, suddenly you begin to dread that person’s calls and messages. You don’t want to make the effort to see them; they’re just not worth it for you. Their company is not that enjoyable for you to tolerate them for long burst of time, and how dare they keep bothering you about the same things over and over? Can’t they see you’re not answering because you’re busy? Can’t they tell you don’t want to hang out with them this much? Can’t they get the hint? God, they’re so annoying.

And then you know that you don’t enjoy that person’s company. You can tolerate it, sure, but it doesn’t get you up in the morning. Now, you would think that the simplest solution to the problem would be to just burn the bridge; tell the person you’re not interested in being friends with them or hanging with them as often as they would like. If you read that and though “Yes, that is exactly what you should do, always, and there is never an excuse not to do those things,” then congratulations. You and I do not agree. At least, not in practice.

Because as you get older, you need people. When you’re young, your parents and the people around you take care of a lot of things for you and you don’t have many ambitious plans which would require you to enlist the help of others. As a young adult, you need to handle matters on your own and your plans will eventually lead you towards networking with new people in order to get the resources, knowledge, and connections you need to move forward. I’m not just talking about careers here. That friend you just casually blew off could have known someone who could have helped you and your student organization with a problem or application it’s handling right now. That person who you blew off may have had some experiences in their life that could have helped you get through some more emotional problems you’re having right now. That person might know some event you never thought about going to but would have ended up loving. But will they do that for you now? Not likely.

It becomes a question of how much you value what they can potentially do for you versus how much you value being honest with them about where your friendship stands. It’s not a selfless decision or an easy one, but it’s definitely a reoccurring problem in life and college may be the first time you have to face it. After all, in high school, the power other high school students had over you varied and is usually pretty low  because other high school students don’t have a lot of new resources of their own to offer you. As you get older, though, people become much more valuable and the stakes are much higher. Upsetting a friend in high school could create drama, sure; but in college, upsetting a friend could mean losing out on important opportunities that could shape your college experience and your trajectory in life. The stakes only get higher as you move on and graduate college. Upsetting your coworker or boss, your friend or spouse, or even the shop owner from the store down the street from your house can having lasting impacts on you and your loved ones. I wish I could color all this preaching with specific examples of how these things could derail your life or with stories of people who were significantly affected by such decisions, but there are so many buzzing around my head that I can’t choose just one and to say all of them would make this post way too long for consumption. It’s something you will no doubt acknowledge on your own as you begin to come across these issues.

So, what do you do? You can’t just ignore the practical implications of burning bridges and cutting ties. As much as it may seem cruel to objectify people and see their value as equal to what they can do for you, it’s a perspective that can really hurt you in the long-run if you refuse to take it into consideration at least once in a while. However, it doesn’t do you any good either to be the bad guy and to string along or endure the friendships which you feel are weighing you down. I want to say that the best way to handle the situation is to cut off ties strategically. Weigh out their values and keep the people who’s practical values supersede their little flaws, insofar as that scale continue to tip in favor of the former. Cut off those toxic relationships whose power over your life is to weak to fight against the sheer hatred you have for them. But how do you figure that out? What criteria is best for weeding out good and bad acquaintances or good and bad friends?

I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure if I ever will. All I know is that these situations keep coming up in my life, with growing frequency, and it’s making me think about how we grow up to meet so many different types of people. I wonder if I’m learning that meeting lots of people isn’t as important as meeting people whose company you enjoy, or if I’m learning that I have a flaw in my character that makes me less appreciative of this diversity I’m encountering. At the very least, I’ve walked away with something interesting to think about.

Satan’s Breath & Other Weather Problems

Recently, Ithaca weather has been a bit…

indecisive.

A hallmark of life at Cornell University, Ithaca weather is as fickle as Libe Slope is steep. Though you can almost guarantee some of its changes–like sudden snow at the end of October and bright sunny days on the first and last few weeks of the academic year–there is nothing stopping the fictitious Ithaca weather gods from deciding that today is the day when it should rain for two hours in the morning, snow for four more in the afternoon, and then beat unsuspecting students across the head with penetrating sun beams characteristic a white-hot, unforgiving inferno. Just today, we had rain, lightning, and thunder for one part of the day and what I now think must be what Satan’s breath feels like for the second part. So, as result, I have taken to despise the Ithaca weather gods and no longer hide my distaste for their shenanigans.

If you are like me, meaning that you are an upset Cornell student with poor blood circulation and a poorly-prepared wardrobe, here is what you need to do to show the Ithaca weather gods what is up:

  1. Layer your clothes like they’re the next Snuggie.  This tip is pretty basic advice which you will hear from Cornell students all the time. Got a t-shirt that you really want to wear but not sure if the Ithaca gods will be in your favor today? Layer that thing up with a sweater and jacket, and leave extra space in your backpack to stash them when you’re in your air-conditioned classrooms. Have some fresh new kicks or cute shoes you want to wear, but worried that unsuspecting rain will mess them up with mud? Wear boots, stash the better shoes in your backpack, and switch the pairs when you get to your classroom. If your boots are muddy, don’t put them in your backpack (disaster alert). Just put them on the side of your desk and nonchalantly whistle like you’ve done nothing strange as fellow classmates raise their eyebrows at you. 
  2. Hide in academic buildings as you travel. When rain and snow hits Ithaca, I become a turtle and Cornell’s academic buildings become my shell. Many students will tell you that you can sit out in the libraries and wait until the bad weather passes, but you and I both know that we don’t have time for that kind of patience. I learned in a game of APO Assassins that, if you memorize the campus map well enough, you can pretty much get anywhere across campus pretty quickly by walking through academic buildings. If it’s raining bullets outside, minimize your exposure by ducking into buildings that fall along your route to your next destination. For example, if you’re in Trillium and you need to get to CollegeTown, go through buildings like Ives Hall, the Statler, and Duffield to give yourself a break from the weather. It’s not perfect, but it really does help.
  3. Flirt with Weather Control. Bring a fan. Test your room’s air conditioning and/or heating systems well before you need. Anticipate having problems with these devices early on and get Cornell’s maintenance staff to check up on your equipment. At the very least, ask your RA or shoot an email to the maintenance staff asking about when you can expect these systems to be turned on, so you can better keep an eye out for future complications. If you live off-campus, talk to your landlord. Be polite when you need to be and annoying if you have to be. You don’t want a broken heating system when its hailing outside, or a broken fan when the sun is burning you through your window. In any case, it’s better to be wrong than right. 
  4. Run like a track star or prepare for the worst. When push comes to shove, you’re either going to need to embrace Ithaca’s worst weather or run from it like its the plague. Learn the quickest routes between places and book it to your classes like you’re in a thriller movie. Or stroll in your penguin-like coat and knee-high all-purpose boots, showing off your swag (or lack thereof) to no one in particular. In both cases, remember the sunny clear days of Ithaca from Welcome Weekend and try to trick your mind into thinking it’s still summer. Because…that is literally all the control you have over the situation, my friend. That. Is. All.
  5. Learn to leave a good man behind. Have a friend who is very slow and doesn’t mind the cold? Forgot a book you need for class back in your room on West Campus and already climbed the Slope? Well, you’re going to need to make a tough decision. Are you going to suffer the bad weather and do the right thing, or give it all up for the promise of a few more minutes of comfort? No matter what you think you’ll do, prepare yourself for the hours of self-analysis that might come should you ever find yourself doing the latter. You’re not a bad person. It’s just bad weather. 
  6. Complain. Yes, complain. Complain about the weather all the time. No one will judge you. Everyone here does it. Something about cursing the weather gods just seems to make the day a little easier here in Ithaca. So toss that optimism aside and tell random strangers how much you hate the weather here. No one is really going to think that you won’t be back again next year.
  7. Reassess Your Priorities and Your Schedule. Now Cornell officials won’t  particularly approve this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a viable option. When you’re making your class schedules or signing up for work shifts or committing to clubs, consider where you will be on campus and whether you’d be willing to walk the distance in the worst of Ithaca weather scenarios. More often than not, you’ll wake up one day, look at the sky, stick your hand out the window…and skip all your classes just because you swear you saw icicles forming on your fingertips. I’m not advocating skipping classes (even though I do admit to doing it from time to time); I’m just recommending you take those things into consideration when thinking about how and where you’ll be spending your time all year. Your bed is a temptress, and Ithaca weather will push you straight towards that temptation. Set yourself up to avoid that siren call, or embrace the bed covers with pride.

So, dear Ithaca weather, you have won today as you have always won and always will. The eclecticism in your combining of weather patterns over a 24-hour time period astounds me every day. However, when you punish me with weather as hot as Satan’s breathe, my fellow weather whiners and I will be trying our best to overcome you. We will lose, but we will try.

Brand New Year: A Sophomore Stuck in a Junior’s Body

New Room.
New Roommate.
New Classes and New Teachers.
New Schedule.
New Jobs.
And brand new blog features.
New, New, New.

Yes, everyone, I’m back at Cornell University  and this semester is just as new to me as the last one. Is anyone else feeling as if  their life is becoming more familiar and predictable to them? It’s not that I want a boring life, but I could have sworn someone told me as a Freshman that Cornell gets easier with age. 

I’m not as awkward maneuvering through Cornell as I once was, but why do I still feel like I’m making rookie mistakes? Maybe it’s just growing pains. Something I’m learning, however, is that college doesn’t get easier so much as it becomes routine. You get into the habit of doing your homework one way, of eating your food in one place–and I guess that is where the senior swag kicks in. When you start looking as if you know where you are going, like you’re comfortable in your own skin around campus, you start looking like you’ve been here a while.

Well, I’ve been here a while. This year will be my third and I still trip over my own feet all over Ithaca. It’s not that I need a map to get to Trillium or I forget that Ives Hall is on the other side of the street; I just forget that the things I used to do are not the things I’m doing anymore. I haven’t made a routine for myself. I eat at new places, take strange classes, and start new adventures for myself right about when I’m finally getting used to one way of living. It makes me feel like I’m younger than I really am.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love the newness of this upcoming year. I just came back from a summer in New York City and an internship with the Little y Theatre company, which was an interesting experience in itself. Now I’m bracing myself for the start of a new academic semester with 4000-level ILR courses and general electives in the Performing and Media Arts department. I’m also very excited about my new morning job at Fall Creek Elementary School (even though it will be sad to leave the Ivy Room and Willard Straight Dining once again), and my new student arts organization is finally a registered student organization at Cornell University. It’s so much new–but good new–that it has me spinning on my heels in every direction with a smile on my face.

So, yes, I’m back at Cornell. I guess the one hint of routine-ness of my life comes from this blog. I’m back to writing about the daily things I do here at campus. But even this blog is looking different: new layouts, new topics, and (hopefully) more regular posts about things I really care about or are stressing about in my life. So this newness really has permeated every element of my life. How exciting!

So maybe I’m a sophomore stuck in a junior’s body. Or maybe I’m someone even younger, passing off as a college student by adding wrinkles to my face around my eyes and wearing different clothing. I’m sure some anxiety will come from it, but I think I can manage without the senior swag for a little while longer.

Time to run out into town, open my arms, and shout welcome back in the way only immature, nonsensical people can. Hopefully Cornell shouts back.