Charles Yu is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Computer Science. He enjoys twenty-minute-turned-two-hour naps, Oolong tea and Amazon Prime two-day free shipping. His blog "The world around Yu" appears on alternate Fridays this semester. He can be reached at [email protected]
I grew up in a minority-majority enclave in the Bay Area. My elementary school was made up of 800 students whose demographics were made up of roughly fifty-percent East Asian and fifty-percent South Asian. There, at school, you could probably count the number of white kids on one hand. Almost everyone had immigrant parents and spoke at least two languages. There, you would see not just Christians but Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Atheists, just to name a few, playing together during recess.
For some time now, it has been a habit of mine — much like how a frequent cocaine user would call his addiction a “habit”, to take my coffee black. Sans crème, sans sucre — a straight, untampered and unholy noir. I’m not sure how this came to be, the exact progression (or descent) to my black coffee drinking preference, but it certainly wasn’t always this way. Freshman year, I could barely stomach a sip of such vile brew until an ungodly dosage of cream and sugar was applied. Yet sometime in between the now and then, a coffee dependency took hold, and I weaned myself off any and all unnecessary additives to become the calloused coffee drinker I am today.
Toward the end of last semester, and leading into the summer, I began to dabble in the hobby of poetry writing. The works I produced, while some of them are so atrocious that they will never see the light of publishing, were often very cathartic to write. I’ve found that poetry is a form of relaxation and internal note-taking. With it, I can spew out my conscience, feelings, thoughts and queries. I can then bend these rudimentary words in interesting ways: playing with sentence structures, grammar or even language itself, until I have made something that captures the essence of the subject matter at hand.
Every so often, I like to play this game called “Be the Intellectual.” It’s a game fueled by high pretension; sometimes leading me into an art museum, in which I will pretend to muse at artworks (of which I know nothing about) and stand there, gazing— waiting for the art to speak to me! — gleaming a few extra seconds if the display card to the left mentions an artist that strikes a chord of recognition. Oh Andy Warhol, hon hon hon! Other times, this game takes me to a local bookstore, where I’ll peruse titles. If I see one I like, perhaps I’ll buy it on the romantic premise of “Wow this book is totally gonna add to my intellect and make a better person!”, or at least make me seem like I’m really __cool/ smart/ cultured__ (pick one).
While reading through my group chat notifications the other day, I noticed a little scuffle building in one of the groups chats that I was in: What had begun with a playful changing around of group nicknames soon escalated to personal jabs at different group members and real life drama. And at this I scoffed. For someone to be actually hurt by something said in a less-than-half-serious online space where memes, stickers and other online shenanigans run rampant is absolutely childish, no? Possibly, but reflecting upon my own experiences, this isn’t the first time, nor the first group chat that I’ve been in that’s had its online problems leak into the real world. Experiences like these that have led me to question: Is there something more to group chats?
An elevator ride isn’t very long. Depending on the size of the building, from the time you hit the button to call the elevator until you walk out to your floor, you have what? Two, maybe three minutes max. It’s just short enough to initiate conversation or acknowledge the presence of your fellow elevator riders, but not long enough for any meaningful exchange to occur. If you were to speak, what would you even say?
Like many others this winter break, I will be embarking on the exciting yet frightful journey that is returning home for the first time after coming to college. It’s been almost four months since I last stepped foot in my home in sunny Palo Alto, California, leaving it for the freezing and desolate wasteland (or at least that’s what my parents think it to be) otherwise known as Ithaca, New York. And in only a matter of a few days, I’ll be flying back to the Bay Area, finally returning to friends and family, a luxury unbeknownst to many of my friends on the East Coast who can simply go home with a snap of their fingertips. Back home, there’s so much that I am impatiently thrilled to see or experience again. I miss the important people in my life: my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister and my friends.
My roommate commented the other day that he’d been picking up on a little pattern of mine in my weekly routine: Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I return to the room after lunch, set an alarm and immediately pass out on my bed. When the alarm sounds, I reach over to check my phone. When I see the time, I will sound precisely one, and no more than one, exclamation of “Fuck!” before I silence the alarm and pass out again only to wake up a few minutes later, now late for my class. Another “Fuck!” is sounded, I scramble to get dressed and I dash out the door. Putting my sleep patterns aside (which are in shambles by the way), it has come to my attention that I go about processing each and every week with the same exact rituals.
We’ve stigmatized the concept of “vulnerability,” and as a consequence, we have cast it as a mentally unwanted state among all other psychological ailments and malicious states of being. Ingrained in our speech and in our culture, it’s become a pejorative for weakness. We dread cracking and letting our inner fears and insecurities reveal themselves, and so despite the tumultuous chaos we may feel inside, we outwardly guise ourselves with calm demeanors and cheery smiles. Vulnerability is a familiar notion that we’ve all experienced before, but it is a constant and particularly resonating feeling for a certain population on campus: new college freshmen. As a member of the Class of 2019 and a Cornell University student of just 31 days, I can attest to this claim.