Published on Bwog on May 17, 2019. Every spring, Bwog publishes a series of “Senior Wisdoms,” short interviews with a few notable seniors from the graduating class; this is Betsy’s.
Your Alma “Tree” Bwogger and best friend Betsy Ladyzhets is here with a reminder that the stupid decisions you make now are the stories you’ll be telling for the rest of your life. (Also you should reverse outline them to make sure you’re telling them well.)
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Elizabeth “Betsy” Ladyzhets; Barnard College; English (official concentration in Creative Writing) & Biology (unofficial concentration in Loving Trees); Glastonbury, CT.
Claim to fame: Your Managing Editor And Best Friend. Also: EIC in spring 2018, Writing Fellow, three-time Columbia Festival of Winds organizer, writer of four senior theses (all bangers), holder of the pads. And finally: I’m the reason the Marching Band plays “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis.”
Where are you going? To log off of Bwog’s Slack server and pitch to publications with inferior snacks.
What are 3 5 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2023?
1) Assert yourself. If you have a question, ask. If you have a concern, voice it. Every author is dead, and you can improve every space you’re in by advocating for yourself. And this goes both ways: create and maintain spaces where others can advocate for themselves. Any time that someone else gives you or your project or your student group is a gift that you should honor with sincerity and kindness.
2) Do you think your writing is clear? Your organization effective? Your topic sentences informative? You’re wrong. Get your head out of your ass and reverse outline that sucker. The reverse outline is a revision tactic in which you go through each paragraph of a paper and write down the main idea of that paragraph and how it connects to the central argument of your piece. This technique forces you to critically look at your draft and figure out what you need to change in order to make it more cohesive. I’ve reverse outlined everything from my theses to strongly worded emails to this very senior wisdom. It works wonders.
3) Get perspective. The world is, in fact, wider than Broadway to Amsterdam and 110th to 120th. Get off campus, make friends who don’t go to Columbia, and set aside time each week for conversations that don’t center college drama. Everything that feels apocalyptic now will be inconsequential in a few years; it’s important to get in a helicopter and look at yourself from far away—not to diminish your current problems, but to remember that life will go on after them.
4) The best public water fountain in NYC is located at the 116th St. entrance to Riverside Park, on that vaguely phallic marble sculpture. The water from this fountain is always cold, it has great water pressure, and the little stairs built into the sculpture let you come at it from an ideal height. Stay hydrated, kids.
5) Do stupid shit. Make the bold choice, especially when you know it’s the wrong choice; you can only get away with it here and now. Get extensions on your finals to write obscene comedy. Take a shot before meeting with an administrator. Go to Cornell and walk down by a lake. You’ll be telling stories about your time at this school for the rest of your life, so make sure you have some good ones to tell.
“Back in my day…” Maggie Sr. filled the Barnard lawn, late night was in Hewitt, the Band played in Butler 209, you could teach a sex ed class from the walls of Barnard’s library, and, if I wanted JJ’s, Ross or Evan would have to swipe me in.
Favorite Columbia controversy? Midnight Breakfast is specifically engineered by the Barnard administration to stop Barnard students from going to Orgo Night, while the restless ghost of Dean Hinkson pushes the Band further from the quad every year.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: There’s a sandwich named after me at HamDel.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? In fall 2015, Hilary Callahan took over Barnard’s intro bio course for a week while Paul Hertz was out sick. She gave three lectures on plants. I am a biology major today because of those three lectures on plants. And Hertz’s ecology lectures didn’t hurt, either.
Other paradigm-shifting classes for me have been Writer’s Process with Pam Cobrin, Shakespeare with Rachel Eisendrath, and Postmodernism with Margaret Vandenburg. Also, Herpetology with Matt Palmer was the most fun I’ve had in an academic setting. If you can take an environmental science class with field trips, take an environmental science class with field trips.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? My girlfriend is a vegan—I couldn’t deprive her of both.
Whom would you like to thank? My Bwog E-boards (Amara, Finn, Youngweon, Sarah, Victoria, Nik, and James), for telling me to shut up when I needed to shut up. My Wind Ensemble boards (especially Sara, Ross, Evan, Allison, Brent, Emma, Caleb, and Katelyn), for fighting the Lerner elevators. All my major and thesis advisors (Timea Szell, Jon Snow, Kevin Griffin, Hilary Callahan, Alison Pischedda, Alexandra Horowitz, and Rachel Eisendrath), for enabling my interdisciplinary nonsense. My Writing Fellows cohort. CUMB ‘19. The Barnard dining and facilities staff. The Riverside Park maintenance staff. Lamont shuttle drivers and Band bus drivers. Absolute Bagels (tip: if you go at 8 pm there will be no line and you can get much more than a dozen for $15). The trees and people of Black Rock Forest. John Powell and Adam Young. The IHDA. Kira, for the adventures and the sarcasm. JJP, for offering me moonshine. Abby, for not yelling at me when I fart in the suite. Isabel, for understanding about the slacks. Laura, for co-piloting the Costco cart. Sophia, for making me look punctual by comparison. Mom and Papa, for passing on your best stories. Bwog Daily Editors past, present, and future, for carrying this website on your backs. AO3 commenters, for lifting me up. And Bwog commenters, for keeping me humble.
One thing to do before graduating: Start on campus, pick a direction, and walk for an hour. Bring a friend or a book to read. Don’t use Google maps unless you’re really lost. Write about it when you get back.
Any regrets? I wish I’d done more of my readings, gone to more events outside of my interests, and talked to more of the people I’ve admired from afar. But mostly, I regret not stealing more pastries from Hewitt when I had a big meal plan. Nineteen swipes a week!! Do you know how many mini blueberry muffins you can get with that kind of currency!!!!
she’s at soup! via Betsy