I like to compartmentalize — we all do. Life is so much simpler when messy things like feelings and memories can be put into boxes, sealed up and put away to be revisited later. During these last few months as my friends and classmates have been preparing for graduation, I have simply shifted my gaze toward other, more manageable boxes: My thesis, the job market, really anything to keep my mind off of May 26. By successfully compartmentalizing, I have avoided addressing my imminent departure from this place.
Until now. Early Tuesday morning, I looked out onto Libe Slope and watched the sun rise. West Campus looked picturesque as usual, and the grass on the slope had regrown after a seemingly never-ending winter (I hadn’t noticed). I had just spent the entire night in the Cocktail Lounge of Uris Library. I was pulling my last all-nighter of college (and God willing, of my life) and I was not pleased about it. However, somehow, after four years of denying what I knew was inevitable, I had a moment. I’m not sure if it was because I was sleep-deprived or if looking at Ref Works for so long had actually fried my brain, but gazing out at Libe Slope, it hit me like a ton of Big Red bricks: Holy shit, this is it.
Realizing the end was unfortunately, but unavoidably, close, I started rolling through all of my most memorable experiences from the last four years. As the memories snowballed, I realized that I was so afraid to admit that I was leaving because I dreaded having to put all of these moments into a box, seal it shut and label it “college.”
Everyone uses clichés at graduation like “The start of a new chapter” or “today’s the first day of the rest of your life.” But those are all frighteningly black and white. They are all compartments. Our experiences and successes are supposed to be represented by arbitrary honors cords and latin titles as souvenirs of the experience, but after graduation we are expected to pack up boxes and move onto “the rest of our life.”
But I don’t want a souvenir and I don’t want a box. I want the real thing.
After some thought (and a night of sleep), I realized that its the people — the ones who have made me and my experience here immeasurably better — who are the reason I should not fear the boxes. This community, which to me has become synonymous with “college,” cannot be stored away for convenience. They simply can’t. Leaving Cornell does not mean leaving behind friends, experiences and personal growth.
So I guess this is the natural place to mention my friends, my immediate community — the extraordinary people who have made my memories meaningful and have left me afraid of losing them. These wonderful people, the ones who have made me laugh as often as they have made me proud, are the ones who have allowed me to be myself for the last four years (and haven’t given me the boot for it). It is the moments I have shared with these people that I am most afraid of losing.
Because we did it. We survived mice, carbon monoxide and Montezuma. We drank too much, and slept too little. We celebrated job offers and graduate school acceptances, but mourned losses of loved ones and consoled the occasional broken heart. We went to more a capella shows than were probably necessary. We bombed prelims, but we aced finals. We acquired nicknames. So many nicknames. We slept in cramped rooms in sorority houses, and in sleeping bags in Botswana. We had meaningful debates about religion, politics and Khloe Kardashian. We “borrowed” things from people and places we don’t know. We won’t return them. We cheered each other on as we passed our swim tests (a few years late). We repped brown and blue at the Big Red. We perfected the Jell-O shot. We watched each other sing, dance and dazzle a sold out Bailey Hall. We survived freshman year together as next-door neighbors. We helped our community, and we helped one another. We watched anxiously as our president was reelected, and angrily as marathoners were shuttled to Mass. General. We ate too many Souvlaki salads (red sauce on the side), but maybe took too few walks in the plantations. We stayed up too late studying, and even later doing nothing. We went out on Mondays, and stayed in on Saturdays. We ate more pizza after 1 a.m. than we’ve ever eaten in daylight. We wine toured. We wore costumes. We traveled the world together. We got bigs, and then we got littles. We got old. We lost coats and credit cards at Pixel and Johnny O’s. We only sometimes found them. We took a lot of pictures. We went to apple and chili festivals and a state fair. We told — and created — too many stories.
We’ve had a good run. Most of the reason I was avoiding addressing graduation was because I didn’t want to acknowledge how scared I was to tuck away these memories on some unreachable shelf.
Moving forward, our joint memories will undoubtedly look different, as we will no longer be in this free-for-all called “college” (I hear Jell-O shots are less appropriate in the “real world”). But the important part of these experiences — the wonderfully kind and caring people who were right there with me — won’t be shoved anywhere. I can carry all that they are to me, and all that they have done for me, wherever I go (wherever that may be). So for that, I thank them. All of them. I love you all. Life will look different, but it doesn’t have to mean forgetting what all of this was.
It is, after all, only fitting that I bid you all adieu with one last piece of meandering ambivalence — for me, a final Shade of Grey. Stay complicated, Cornell.
All the best moving forward (and hopefully without boxes),
Hannah Deixler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shades of Grey appears alternate Thursdays this semester.
Original Author: Hannah Deixler