September 15, 2017

COFFEE THOUGHTS | Work Work Work Work Work

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Taking a step back, I can’t believe we’re already on week 4. My groggy brain tries to do the countdown of how many weeks left until the end of the semester. Wait a second–week 4? I’m over halfway done with my short course in Python!

I shake my head, attempting to shake away the cobwebs. Why am I so tired? Flashbacks from the blend of the past few weeks begin to pour in: a blur of club applications, never-ending back to back “coffee chats,” spontaneous treks to C-Town for Kung Fu Tea, exhausted hikes up Libe Slope in the vicious drizzle after discovering the magic of West dining, and, in the midst of it all, sweating in the cold brisk walks, wherever, whenever. Always walking. Always on the go.

Before coming to Cornell, I averaged a meek 0.2 miles of walking a day. Fast-forward to life at this 745 acre campus, and Apple Health announces I’m striding an approximate 7.4 miles daily. My living habits have been flipped inside out; what used to be my biggest meal of the day, breakfast, now consists of half a slice of bread–on a good day.

Some days, I like to stop and sit on a random stone bench on East Avenue and just pause to soak in the cool morning air and omnipresent greenery. In that moment, the “busy, busy, go, go” mentality is nearly tangible. The vortex of students milling around–earphones firmly planted in, arms moving mechanically in a “one two, one two,” and eyes distant in a world whisked away from the present–seems to suck everyone and everything in. In fact, sitting on my bench, I feel a sudden panic watching everyone whirl around me. I should be somewhere; I should be doing something. The invisible strings of this vortex pull my legs to standing position and arms to the uniform rhythmic “one two, one two,” until when I’ve finally regained control hours later, I’m in Temple of Zeus, working on assignments due in two weeks.


It is precisely this vortex that keeps us always on the move, always doing something. I realize I haven’t even had a second dedicated to “me time”–my gym membership has been sitting idle for over a week, and the unwatched YouTube videos in my Subscriptions inbox are calling my name. I’ve been so swept up in the whirl of “work” that the only time I can squeeze to Facetime my parents or best friend is, as sad as it sounds, when I’m walking in between classes.

Does this vortex build from parental pressure to do well in school, peer pressure, or a combination of both? To be fair, I’ve seen my fair share of motivated and unmotivated individuals with academically demanding parents and lenient parents, as well as people who thrive under peer pressure and those who are crushed and flail to an escape. At the end of the day, unless we somehow erase all existing quantitative and qualitative measures of competition and comparison in our education system, we will always be, subconsciously or not, competing against the people around us.

I guess this is what college is about: finding a balance between work and mental stability. I really should be taking a break to frolic in the red autumnal leaves when fall rolls around, stretching on the grassy slopes to watch the sky transform to a water colored pink and orange, or whatever else my Californian-naive mind had envisioned to check off from my “Cornell-experience bucket list.” I need to start living in the moment and enjoy “college life” before it all blurs away.

I say this wishful thinking as I’m firmly wedged in a large wooden seat in Temple of Zeus, done with my second cup of iced mocha.