The New Team: Work-Study & Blogging Off-Campus

Last week, the Life on the Hill bloggers had our first on-campus meeting for the Fall 2014 semester. Usually I attend these meetings in-person. However, I wasn’t on campus last week because of my participation in ILR’s NYC Fall credit internship program.  As result, I could only attend the meeting via Skype. Still, the whole crew was very friendly, and I met all the new students who joined our team this year. We even got together for a group picture before running off to our classes (or, in my case, to another meeting):

There I am on the left-hand side of the computer screen

There I am on the right-hand side of the computer screen

I greatly appreciate the Life on the Hill blogging team for allowing me to continue as a blogger off-campus. As some of my older readers know from previous posts, I rely heavily on my work-study allocation and on-campus jobs to make financial ends meet. While scholarships and federal financial aid pay the bulk of my tuition, other costs like housing, textbooks, meals, and the like come out of my family’s pocket. Having jobs on campus allows me to pitch in and pay for some of those expenses myself.

In past posts, I’ve talked about how difficult it can be for students to find jobs or work-study employment in Ithaca. The Life on the Hill student blogger position isn’t a work-study job, but it pays monthly and the work is flexible enough to  maintain easily alongside other work-study employment on campus. It isn’t the highest paying job I’ve had, but it is the only job which isn’t site-specific. That means I can do the work at any time and at any place, so long as I finish before the end-of-the-week deadline.

As a Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior undergraduate student, I never considered flexibility to be a quality more valuable than pay in an on-campus job. Sure, it was a factor to consider; flexibility was extremely important in balancing my academics and work. Ultimately, however, a higher pay meant that I could cover my bills in a shorter time frame, making it a necessity rather than just a convenience.  I didn’t mind walking in the snow for several miles each weekend to a job site if it meant I could cover my expenses within a week, instead of within a month.

Being able to eat tomorrow always trumped being able to sleep in today. 

Nevertheless, I kept the student blogger job anyway because it was easy to maintain and I enjoyed writing. As a Senior, it is now the only job (aside from my internship) which I still have. I never would have predicted as a younger student that, of all the jobs I would come to have, blogging would be the only job I would retain by Senior year. What I never considered back then was how on-campus employment changes when you participate in an off-campus alternative program. Suddenly, that job which is just a few miles away in the snow is now an impossible 200+ miles away. The jobs which aren’t site-specific are now the only jobs you can have because you no longer live on campus.

Participating in an off-campus program isn’t without its costs, either. You still have to pay tuition and, although you maintain most of your financial aid package, it can be modified in ways you weren’t expecting. For example, my work-study allocation was severely reduced and a federal loan was added to make up the difference. Other students experienced similar changes, as well. It’s difficult to predict what your tuition costs will be for an alternative semester because of these variances. As result, it can also be difficult to prepare for, making student employment even more critical in covering tuition.

Furthermore, while you might not have a housing contract with Cornell, you still have to pay for housing and meals. In my case, my internship is located near my family’s home and I can live there. However, other students needed to rent out apartments in the city–a huge cost. In both cases, there is the added worry of transportation. Train and bus tickets, accumulated every day for 14-16 weeks, can easily add up to a sum equal to or greater than what you would spend traditionally on textbooks.

Cornell doesn’t surprise you with these costs; when you apply, Cornell representatives will tell you time and again that you need to have a financial plan for surviving the semester before accepting any internship. However, those representatives can’t warn you of these costs in your Freshman year, when you are looking for work-study employment and haven’t even considered alternative semesters. You have to anticipate that need for yourself and consider more flexible employment which can accommodate for that special semester.

I was lucky to have this job when I was suddenly acquired my current credit internship. I didn’t scramble at the last minute to find employment I could retain alongside my internship off-campus. There were no hurdles or obstacles; I simply continued working with Life on the Hill as if nothing had changed. Now it helps me pay off my train tickets each month, bringing me to and from my internship every day of the week. It doesn’t pay nearly as much as my prior on-campus jobs, but it covers the one expense I can’t reduce by moving back home, making subtle lifestyle changes, or applying for a new financial aid package. For that financial security, I am especially grateful.

So I have some advice to give to younger students currently looking for on-campus jobs. I still maintain the belief that jobs with better pay and some flexibility are the best positions you can acquire on-campus. It pays the bills the fastest and, while it may not be convenient, it won’t interfere with your academics. However, if you are at all thinking about participating in an off-campus program at any time during your undergraduate career, put a heavier weight on job flexibility in your job search. Look for non-site-specific jobs in Cornell’s job postings and around campus. Try them out while you’re still on-campus to make sure you like the work and that the work is manageable. Ask if the position can be held by students participating in credit internships, study-abroad programs, and the like. Taking the time to research these opportunities in advance will save you a lot of trouble when you want to transition into an alternative program later on. Don’t get caught  without a job at a time when you really need it. The alternative is to save up your money so you can go without working for a semester or, even harder, forfeiting the alternative semester opportunity altogether.

Instead, be prepared. Take the well-paying job now but keep an eye out on those other, more flexible positions. Doing so will keep your academic opportunities open. For students with similar financial needs to myself, this diligence is a necessity.

Not a convenience.

Skipping in the Rain and Other Unrequited Attempts at Happiness

In some cultures and religions, people believe that there are spiritual guardians who watch over them, protect them from dark thoughts and times, and fulfill their desires for peace and happiness. I’m not particularly spiritual or religious, but I understand the value of such a romantic notion. Sometimes, other human beings don’t make for the best company. Sometimes, you know exactly what you need and how unlikely it is that someone else will give that to you unsolicited. It’s comforting to think that every event in your life happens for a reason and that a being more perfect than yourself or anyone else you have ever met loves you unconditionally. It’s comforting to think something or someone can always aid you during such hopeless times.

I’ve never been able to take on such a mindset. Images of angels or spiritual brothers don’t click with me. Perhaps it’s because, after so much time on this Earth, I’ve grown to associate those images and ideas with other institutions or groups of people who exist in the physical world, and those connections prevent me from seeing those images as something that can actually exist in the “beyond.” Maybe it’s something else. Regardless, it’s not an avenue I can pursue when I need guidance. I can’t comfort myself by pretending that something is watching over me in a loving way. It doesn’t give me joy.

One of the benefits of being at Cornell University has been the stress it’s added to my life. Usually I portray that stress as a con, but it has added some value to my education. Other students see the stress we endure here as something they need to overcome; I see it as something which has forced me to overcome other, more greater issues in my life.

The problem isn’t the stress. Feeling out of control, sad, or frustrated isn’t inherently bad. It helps you realize that something is wrong with the current situation. It makes you aware of how you truly feel about things by forcing you to stop what you’re doing and to manage your emotions. Particularly when you are very stressed, it can force you to consider more radical changes in your life. So long as you are not consumed entirely by it, stress can be a helpful red flag when you’re letting yourself get carried into a life you don’t really want.

What is difficult is figuring out how to get back on the path to the life you do want after you’ve identified what is giving you stress and that that stress is no longer healthy for you. How do you combat stress productively when you’re not sure what avenues exist for you to pursue or what you even really want from life? I think that is what challenges a lot of students–and a lot of people in general–when stress eats away at their happiness.

For me, being stressed at Cornell forced me to confront the fact that, even though I have an idea of what currently makes me happy in life, I don’t know what will make me happy in the future or what to do now in order to get closer to the sort of future life that will make me happier. I’m too aware of the fact that I’ve been blessed with a pleasant life thus far, and I fear that there are too many ways that I can become less happy about myself and with life from here on out. I don’t know what to do next to preserve the sense of happiness I already have or to gain the happiness I still seek.

It’s these times when I wish I believed in Gods or angels. It’s these times when I wished I believed more in the spiritual realm or in mystical beings.

Instead, I skip in the rain.
I listen to music.
I pretend I’m the hero in a story I hear only in my head.
I play with imaginary friends that I create in my mind, and they do silly things and whisper pleasant words in my ears.

It makes me look crazy when I do these things, so I tend to do them by myself. The stories I create, the people I pretend to see–they don’t get anything out of our adventures. The people around me in the real world don’t revel in my joy; they see it as odd. I’m the only one who derives happiness from it.

And I guess, in that way, I have found my own romantic notion of being loved by something that isn’t there. Because, when I am sad, I pretend that there is a part of my mind that loves me unconditionally and will endeavor to make me happy however it can. It creates stories for me and hides the compliments I always wanted to hear from others until the very moments I need to hear them. The thing I need most to make me happy is myself–for me to love myself–and so being alone with myself for a few minutes so I can remind myself that I was born loving me makes me happy.

So maybe my angel is hidden in the rain. Or maybe my spiritual brother glides by me when I skip. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just me–in that whole picture of me being happy just skipping in the rain–that is beautiful. Maybe I’m the one who make me happy, because it is I who is so special as to have that ability to bring happiness to any small moment of my life. I’m who I need.

And I think that idea is more romantic than any image of angels I have ever seen.

Letter to Middle School Me

Dear Middle School Me,

Do you remember how we used to dress up in boy’s clothing because we thought skirts and feminine colors were the worst things to have in one’s closet?
Do you remember how we would rather walk the 2 and a half miles from school to home rather than accept a ride from our classmates’ parents out of pride?
Or how we had no interest in men or relationships because, secretly, we didn’t think we could get a good boy to be interested in us even if we tried?

Part of that belief may have stemmed from our closet full of men’s cargo pants.

Well, the good news is that that all changes. You grow to embrace skirts, the color pink, and frilly perfume within a few years. No, you don’t sell out and conform to the rules of pretty girls’ clique. You simply realize that you like dressing up every once in a while and looking pretty. You do it because you like it.  You also take rides from your friends and their families all the time, because your friendship with them grows to a point where you no longer get uncomfortable asking them for favors. Plus, you get an awesome boyfriend in college. Yeah. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

A lot of things change for the better…

…but a lot of things don’t.

Remember how physically aggressive we used to be? Do you remember why we were that way? It was because we were extremely sensitive to criticism and couldn’t connect easily with other people. We had a tendency to distance ourselves emotionally from others, and we sometimes bullied our own friends.

Do you remember crying one birthday because it was the first birthday you didn’t spend with your extended family? Do you remember why we did that? It’s because we feared how distant we were becoming from our family and how the family we were still close to appeared to be falling apart.

Do you remember feeling like you had no motivation to do anything about your future education or career, because you had no idea what you liked to do or what you didn’t like? As if you were too busy just getting by with what you needed to get done now to analyze what about it brought your happiness or made you disgruntled

Do you remember wondering about a lot of things and never having the answers? Do you remember being insecure about different aspects of our personality and physical appearence? Do you remember being anxious, or depressed, or even bored with life for long stretches of time?

None of that has gone away.
It’s been about 8 years now, and we still feel that way. We still think those things. We’re still tormented by those feelings. 

But it’s okay, because in that time a lot of other things have changed. We’ve made great progress in feeling better about ourselves and our lives, and we have gone on to do more incredible things than we had ever imagined.

So have hope. With even more time, maybe the things we haven’t yet overcome will change too. Because the best thing we got from growing up was the realization that things do change, but at different speeds for unpredictable reasons.

Growing up has given us the ability to hope for a little more out of life, and that has been an incredible gift so far. Look forward to it.

Sincerely,
Junior Year at College Self 

15 Minutes for 15 Problems

Here is a challenge I took on this week that I would like to share with my readers. Set aside 15 minutes for it. Turn off all the electronics in your room, remove any sources of distractions, and get ready to think in silence. Now, for the next 15 minutes, identify 15 problems in your life.

How quickly did you get to 15? Take a note of the time. Then, try to come up with 15 things you have accomplished in your life of which you are proud. Did it come as easily?

I know it sounds like a cheesy reflection activity. I also know that I spend way too much time advocating for reflection instead of actually accomplishing things in my own life worth reflection. However, it is an interesting activity. From this one, I learned that I have a more keen sense of what is wrong with my life than the various ways I have endeavored to improve my life. It’s something that gives me a lot of anxiety, particularly now at college. Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough? Do you ever feel like you spend too much time complaining and being unhappy, but can’t seem to translate that self-awareness into a change of behavior?

I do.
And I was wondering if there was anyone else out there who is currently in the same place as I.

Let me know.

C.H.E.P.: A Story of Being Healthier

“You’re such a skinny-minnie!”
“Your waist is so small! “
“You eat like a bird.”
“Why don’t you eat?”

For all of my life, I have been a tiny girl. Not short-tiny, mind you. Skinny-tiny.
Being vertically-challenged doesn’t bother me. It’s the horizontal bit that draws my ire.

I’ve been underweight for as long as I can remember, and I got tired of it really fast. When you’re a skinny girl, you don’t get a lot of help or sympathy for your particular weight problem. In fact, most girls can’t understand why you see it as a problem to begin with. “Don’t you want to be skinny?” They ask.

No. No, I don’t.
I don’t want to be excessively skinny. Skinniness sucks.

When you’re not very underweight, then it’s not a problem. You can blame your skinniness on genetics, biological factors, or other uncontrollable elements of your life. You look in-shape without even trying, and you don’t have to hold back from eating what you want because you’re supposed to be gaining weight. Being a little underweight is like being a little overweight; it’s completely natural, and you can still look and feel great despite of it.

However, being very underweight is not nearly as desirable. It gets in the way of a lot of things you want to do in life. Why? Because it wasn’t natural, and so your health suffers from it. I should know; I suffered from it, too.

Around high school, I completely lost my appetite. I hardly ate anything at all and, if I did eat, it would be an extremely small meal. I didn’t have an eating disorder like the ones they teach you about in high school health classes; I didn’t want to be skinnier, and I didn’t starve myself or count calories or do anything else to reduce food intake for the sheer purpose of being skinny. I just didn’t get hungry. I had no appetite, and I couldn’t figure out how to deal with that.

Instead, I just didn’t eat. On my best days, my mother would cook me a good dinner at home (which I would have to eat just to escape parental wrath) and I’d eat a hamburger at school for lunch. On the worst days, I would skip both breakfast and dinner and for lunch I would have 4-5 fruit snack gummies. The rest of the bag I gave to my friends for them to eat.

My family, friends, and teachers couldn’t tell at first that my eating habits had deteriorated so rapidly. When I chose to eat and how I chose to throw my food away made it difficult for the people around to keep track of how much I was actually consuming. Only after my health started failing–when I couldn’t help but faint in class or at cross country practices, and I had to sleep for 18+ hours on weekends just to get through them–did people start to notice. Even then, though, I didn’t have the motivation or the knowledge to actually change my habits, and the people around me couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just fix the problem myself.

After all, being skinny isn’t a real problem, right?

Turns out it is. Aside from more well-known eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, there are many other varieties that exist too. In addition, your lifestyle can affect what food you have access to and whether or not you can eat what you need. Finally, you could have a problem with your digestive system, pituitary glands, or other important internal systems that can impede your appetite. For me, my lack of appetite was a result of how my stomach processed food. Having not eaten much as a kid, my stomach developed in such a way that it doesn’t produce the digestive enzymes I need to break down foods quickly. As a result, I don’t feel hungry as often as I should and then I don’t eat. 

I didn’t learn that in the nurses’ office at my high school, nor in the emergency room after fainting in class. I learned that when I came to Cornell University and found the Cornell Healthy Eating Program (C.H.E.P.). There, I finally saw a doctor and a nutritionist who helped me narrow down what was wrong. Although we couldn’t figure why the process started, we figured out why my digestive system doesn’t work as well now that I’m an adult and we figured out what I could do to reverse it. With a few digestive enzyme pills, I’m already seeing tremendous change in my appetite and I’m finally gaining some weight. To keep the progress up, I can participate in the programs group help session or continue to see their nutriotinist at an affordable rate.throughout my time here at Cornell. I greatly appreciate the help I’m receiving through this program, because finally I feel as if I have the motivation and knowledge about my specific condition to actually make changes in my eating habits.

I also realized that I was always extremely bitter about being skinny. I carried that bitterness into college. I used to feel like I couldn’t help being underweight or never feeling really hungru, and I resented anyone who tried to tell me that I should “try harder” to eat better. Being underweight forced me to stop running in high school–a sport and activity I loved dearly–and I lost the opportunity to be active and exercise in the ways I would have liked. Every time I got a dizzy spell from standing up after a lecture, every time I fell short of breathe walking around campus, every time I came close to fainting during work–I hated being skinny. And later on, I started to dislike having people call me skinny or telling me that they wanted to be skinnier. It made me very unhappy in some ways.

I’m not completely over being skinny. I still think being especially underweight is a drag, but finally I found to combat my appetitie problems in a way that made me feel like I had control over my situation. For that reason, I’m more optimistic than ever that I won’t have to be this skinny for very long and that my health will finally get better.

It’s why, for any student who may be struggling with a food issue, I greatly recommend checking out C.H.E.P.. Even if they can’t help you overcome your problem right away, simply the act of getting support and information for yourself can be very empowering. I’m glad that Cornell University chose to have this program available to students.

A Year in Writing

Near the end of 2012, a friend of mine who I met at Cornell gave a great present to me. It was journal which had a single page for every day of the year and five boxes on each page. The boxes were there so one could to write a short paragraph about what one did each  of the year each year for five consecutive years. It was a “One-Line-a-Day” journal, and I’ve been very happy to have it. It is one of the most thoughtful, physical gifts I have ever received.

Now it is 2014 and I have one box filled on each page for every day of the year 2013 in this journal. In this new year, I now have the joy of being able to not only record my thoughts on paper but to also see what I was thinking and doing exactly one year ago on any given day. It’s been a very interesting ability and it’s perfect for reflection. For example, it’s interesting to see how differently I enjoyed New Years’ Day this year and the first day of Spring Semester at Cornell University versus how I passed those days in 2013.

It’s hard to notice changes in your life when they happen so gradually. Most people only get the chance to look back on things once lots of time has passed, and by then things are so different and so far in the past that it’s hard to really absorb it the same way as I now can. It’s why I value this gift so much. 

Here is a piece of advice for all incoming students at Cornell University: invest in one of these journals. Freshman year is a great time to start, especially if you acquire a journal with enough pages for five years. Such a journal would allow you to compare your thoughts and actions as a Freshman and those as a young adult one year after graduation (and, of course, all the years in between). Wouldn’t you want to be able to do that?

…no?

Huh.

Maybe it’s just me then.

 

Regardless, I still recommend it.

“Little Bloody Smudges”: a.k.a. Why I’ve Gone M.I.A.

First off, I would like to apologize to anyone who may have been upset by my recent hiatus from blog posting. A lot of things have happened this semester, and I struggled to balance my responsibilities in real-life with my responsibility to you all here in the cyber universe. I promise, though, that I did not go M.I.A. for any insignificant reasons. In fact, if you want to see one of those reasons, you can.

 For six weeks, I’ve been working with The Rosalba Creations Group (RCG) to produce a play that I wrote over the summer: Little Bloody Smudges. It was a daunting task. It isn’t easy to produce art events on campus, let alone a play. We had limited resources, and we were a fresh new organization on campus that no one really knew. As result, it took a lot of time and energy to finally bring this show together.

There are a few things I learned from trying to put together a play from scratch on campus. I don’t know if anyone among my audience is thinking about doing a similar project (if so, you should definitely contact RCG) but, even if you aren’t, I still think that it is interesting to see all the facets that compose such an endeavor. Starting off my top 3 lessons from trying to produce my own play, here is my number one…

  1. You’re going to need people. Lots of people. More people than you expect. 

    I think anyone who tries to accomplish something as a big a full-length production expects that they will need at least a team of people. You can’t do it on your own; even if you have the knowledge base, you only have so many hours during the day and so little energy.

    What you don’t expect is the sheer massive number of people you need. For a play, you need people on the production team–handling marketing, finances, reviewing local policies, creating schedules, etc. Then you need your artistic team–your director, your stage manager, your set designer, your lighting designer, your sound designer, your photographer, and so much more. Then you need the people who are actually in the play–the actors, the ensemble, (in our case) the dancers, and da dada da da. Then you need people to manage the stage space–your ticket collectors and program distributors and box office managers–and people to advocate for you at funding hearings and in the offices of various representatives from your venue and supporting organizations. Finally, you need people–hundreds of people–who are not involved in the play whatsoever to care enough about it to sit in the theater, pay money, and watch your show.

    It’s very intimidating when you start a production and realize you did not recruit enough people to handle all these different elements in the show. It’s anxiety-inducing, because you know that for any position you overlook it means you will need to tack on more work on yourself and others who are supporting you. Your production may even flop because of it. I don’t recommend that you try to recruit everyone before even beginning on your production. You can’t do it. You’re bound to forget or underestimate something.  However, I do recommend that you keep looking for people as you go along. Sometimes, seeing the production come together inspires others to jump in and help. So long as you keep talking about what you’re doing to others and keep making them aware that there are opportunities for them to get involved, your network of connections will help you fill in those missing positions. Start off with the essentials; then work from there.

  2. Expect to hate everything until the night of the actual show. Expect compromise.

    Things are going to go wrong. Terribly wrong. People don’t always do what you want them to do. People will tell you that they have the capability to do one thing, and then reveal later on that they really have no idea what to do. People will fall through and leave you hanging last minute to solve big problems that, in your opinion, could have been easily avoided with due diligence. It’s not that these people are bad people. It’s just that, with such a large group of people, micromanagement isn’t as feasible nor effective as you would it need it to be to monitor your whole team. Unless you have a strong sense of who you can trust and what skill sets you team members have, you’re going to find yourself dissappointed down the road by what some people fail to accomplish.

    The trick is to compromise. Don’t enter a project like this one with a very specific vision of what the show is going to be. If you do, and it’s a lofty idea, then you’re going to be bogged down by dissappointed when some things don’t go your way. Be flexible and consider alternatives which keep the essence of your idea alive. Hold people accountable to their mistakes, but remember the long-term consequences of bashing a few individuals who hold great power over the quality of your show. You’re going to be angry at having to compromise, but don’t show it in front of the people you are working with unless you plan to tackle that anger productively. I learned that the hard way; venting about the problems we were having producing the show created undue stress on our actors and other team members, who thought my exclamations meant the show was doing poorly. Keep in perspective that you only hate these things because it wasn’t quite how you wanted them. On the night of the show, all those small compromises will seem small in comparison to the overall quality of the performance.

  3. An event like this will become your life. Embrace it.

    You simple won’t have time for other things. You can’t neatly package all the troubles and work your production will need between the hours of 9AM-5PM. People will call you at 1AM expecting you to answer your phone. Props will break or sets will rip, and you will need to sacrifice your weekend to do an impromptu shopping trip. Sponsors and funding will trickle down or spend weeks in negotiations with you. So that trip you wanted to do over Winter Break? Sorry, that money needs to go into the production now. You’ll get back later…maybe.

    When you try to fight the fact that such large events need large amounts of your time and attention, you end doing a shoddy job at everything. Not only does your production suffer, but your academics, your social life, your work, and everything else will suffer to. It’s because people are more likely to accept it if you are just honest with them in the beginnning and say “For the next 6 weeks, I need to put (insert show name here) first because it really matters to me, and I need you to let me have a break” then for people to expect your attention and not receive it. Saying your stressed doesn’t cut it. Everyone is stressed. You will anger a lot of people if you try to get slack later on with just that excuse. Some things can’t be put aside, like your academics. However, you should take that in consideration when devising your team, breaking down responsibilities, and creating a schedule for your event in the early stages of your produciton. Be realistic about how much time you have and whether that party on Saturday night is really worth it.

    Because, guess what? It isn’t.

    So suck it up and let your life get taken over. If you want to big things, you have to make big sacrifices. It’s no one’s fault. It’s the input variables of the equation which sums up to great events. If you come into the production knowing that you’re going to have to give up some of your other favorite things, then you won’t resent the people involved or the production itself when the time comes to sacrifice.
     

And that is it. I hope you liked hearing some of the things I’ve learned from Little Bloody Smudges. Maybe once the show is over, I’ll write up a post about the things I liked most about creating this show.

In the meantime, come see what all these sacrifices got me. Little Bloody Smudges is having it’s last show on November 24th at 8PM in The Willard Straight Theater. Admission is $5, but it’s totally worth it.

Hope to see you there.

Past Self: Meet Future Self

So, someone I know suggested that I write about what I think my Facebook status will be in the year 2018 for my next blog post. I thought it would be an interesting idea, so here it is:

Isn’t it beautiful?

Yes, it is blank–blank as the mind of a Freshman midway through their first prelim exam. I sincerely hope that in the next 5 years I will be able to escape the never-ending distraction that is Facebook and to do other things with my life. Don’t get me wrong; Facebook is a great tool for me to keep up with the lives of my more distant family and friends, or to advertise events I’m hosting to large groups of people I know.  However, I really hope that some other platform comes along that is more useful and less spam-ridden, and I hope even even more that I’ll be too busy doing awesome things in my actual life to be actively posting on Facebook. It’s a pipe dream. But it’s my pipe dream.

“Not fair,” you say? “What a cope out,” you accuse? Well, fine. I’ll write something else.

Here are the top 3 things I really hope will be my Facebook status in 2018 (versus what they probably will be):

1. Career

What My Dreams Tell Me Will Happen

versus…

What Economic Statistics Tell Me Will Happen

Because wishful thinking doesn’t get you an interview…or so Santa told me…

 

2. Love

What My Boyfriend and I Are Currently Hoping For

versus…

What Our Level of Maturity Suggests Will Happen

Because, whether or not are relationship stays on the smooth and happy course it is now on, we’ll still be in the middle of our story. Not the end. That means that instead of a “happily ever after” post, I’m probably going to get something much less poignant but as meaningful.

And finally…

3. New Years’ Resolution

versus…

Because let’s face it. I’m just as selfish and self-serving as the next human being, and it’s going to take much more than a couple of years to wipe away all the biases I have for certain people. Just be glad if I’m able to stick to that resolution. My track record so far hasn’t been too good; check back in a few months and see if I can even remember that post.

So, there it is in all its glory: my lazy attempt at forecasting my future. If I seemed ambivalent about my future, it’s because I am in a way. It’s not that I don’t care about what happens to me; I care about it just as much as anyone else. However, I’m not going to spend all my time just thinking about what might happen. I’m going to spend my time getting what I want to happen done.

So, to myself–but 5 years into the future–do you care at all about what my dreams were when we were in college versus what your dreams are now that you’ve seen more of the world, experienced more of life, and can better design your goals to what we truly desire?Will you care at all about what you may have forgotten in your pursuit of true happiness?

 

The Things I Wish I Wrote

This Fall semester, I’ve been working very hard to bring my new student arts organization–The Rosalba Creations Group (RCG)–to campus, and I’ve been very excited by the numerous events and projects we plan on having this upcoming year. In organizing events like The Office of Dead LettersThe Whispering Trees Project, and our upcoming publication release, I’ve started to think about the act of writing and how I wish I had taken more time to write when I was younger.

Don’t get me wrong; I used to write a lot in elementary and high school. English assignments that were assigned at 3-4 pages easily became 15 pages by the end of a weekend. Getting me to cut out some of my words for the sake of conciseness what not a challenge to be taken lightly for anyone. However, most of the writing I did do were just short pieces, mandated by my professors, of which I then deposited in a nearby recycling bin almost immediately after having received my grade. With only a few exceptions, most of the stories I wrote during that time were just typical homework assignments of little value to me, and many of the story ideas which I did have and loved never actually came from thought to pen to paper. I kept telling myself that I didn’t have the time to write any more than I already did for academics. As result, I have a bunch of journals filled with chicken-scratch, describing ideas for stories that are no longer familiar to me and have little chance of being read by a proper audience.

I think that a lot of people in this world fancy themselves as writers. I’m not sure if I should call myself a writer just yet. Or maybe it’s that I’m hesitant to call myself a good writer or a successful writer. Lots of people write; that doesn’t mean they’re any good. And even though there are many ways you can define success  for a writer, I think that being prolific in your work and sharing your work with others are two of the necessary steps for getting there. I didn’t have that when I was younger. I didn’t put the time into my writing like I probably should have, and I hardly ever shared my ideas for fear of criticism or as a consequence of laziness. For those reasons, I don’t think I’ve been a successful writer as of yet.

However, one of the benefits of going to a school like Cornell University is that you can connect with a community of like-minded and supportive people. The friends I have now continuously remind me of the opportunities I have presently to make use of my writing. Although I’ve always had people pushing me to write more, I now have people who are also showing me how I can make that writing public. I also people who are keeping track of me, making sure that I write and that I don’t fall back into the bad habits of my youth when I wrote less often and less freely. It’s a very encouraging atmosphere.

As result, I’ve become much more confident in my writing and have worked harder to write the things I never wrote before. Now, through RCG, some of my writing will even be featured in public events, publications, and exhibitions. Furthermore, I am encouraging other writers to get involved and make something out of their ideas as well.

There are so many stories I wish I had written and have now long forgotten, but I don’t plan on repeating that regret anymore.

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.