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Ashley Jiao / Columbia Daily Spectator

Just one day after the Columbia Tree Lighting, student Caitlyn Lee has already begun a downward spiral.

According to Caitlyn’s friends, she had been obsessively counting down the days until the event and has not yet recovered from its ending.

“She would schedule all of her plans around it,” said roommate Ellen McLaughlin. “She started using it as a marker for time, like, ‘My final is two days before the Tree Lighting,’ or, ‘Nothing matters after December 5.’ I guess in retrospect we should have expected something.”

When the lights finally turned on, Lee reportedly chugged her cup of free hot chocolate, then, attempting to crowd surf, yelled that “IT DOESN’T GET BIGGER THAN THIS!”

She then spent three hours asking those around her to take her profile picture.

“There was nothing like that feeling,” Caitlyn recalled from her bed, where she had been lying tearfully for the past 24 hours. “It was the perfect high.”

Caitlyn’s friends say that everything went sour when the lights turned off at the end of the night.

“She whipped out an unopened bottle of tequila, started chasing it, then screamed something about ‘a fleeting moment of joy that could never be replicated.’ Then she pissed in the fountain,” said McLaughlin.

Campus security officials were called to the scene.

“People pee in the fountain all of the time,” said a representative from Public Safety. “But when she started screaming at the trees saying things like, ‘Please come back,’ and, ‘I miss you sweet lights,’ I knew something was really wrong.”

Caitlyn’s suitemates tried to console her without success. “We even went out and bought her some string lights,” but when we gave them to her she threw them in our faces, calling them a “mere shadow of what once was.’”

“We reminded her that they would come back tomorrow, and every day after that, but she wouldn’t listen.”

”Oh, I wasn’t ignoring them,” said Caitlin. “I was, however, completely blacked out.”

Since the episode, Caitlyn has refused to leave her bed, scrolling through her photos and listening to recordings of a cappella holiday tunes.

“Who is that girl?” said Caitlyn, wistfully pointing to the smiling photo of herself on College Walk with the white tree lights in the background. “I don’t know her anymore.”

“300 likes, though,” she added, looking at her Facebook. “Definitely better than last year.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Ellen. “She does this every year.”

Venice Ohleyer is a junior in Columbia College majoring in creative writing from Brooklyn, New York. You may have seen her performing comedy on campus or recognize her really bright rainbow backpack. Although this is a piece of satire, it is also 100 percent based on her personal life and experience. Venice can be reached at or via Instagram or Twitter.

The Invisible Hand is Spectator’s satire column on life at Columbia. To respond to this piece or submit an op-ed, email

tree lighting christmas holidays sadness
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