May 21, 2014

HARRIS | Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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By REBECCA HARRIS

If college is a microcosm of “real life,” then extracurricular involvement is like career advancement on speed. In two or three years, any student with the right combination of passion and ambition can rise from an eager-to-learn general body member to a position charged with shaping the future of their organization. We’re tasked with teaching and guiding our peers, no more than three years our juniors, and if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s a lot — a lot — of fake-it-’til-you-make-it involved.

As a friend recently pointed out, the kind of professional development we can achieve in our four years at Cornell would take closer to a decade in the real world. (Another friend once noted that my office down at 139 W. State St. may be the biggest one I’ll ever have. Too true.) But is there really any better way to learn? In many ways, the artificial replication of life that we get to live here has, in fact, prepared us for the real world. The most important parts of my college education took place outside of the classroom — off of Cornell’s campus, even — and I think I’m the better for it.

Working for The Sun gave me life skills beyond my wildest expectations. I developed confidence, business and networking skills, a leadership style. I learned how to fail — spectacularly, publicly, repeatedly — and how to learn from those mistakes rather than wallow in them. That education didn’t come without its hardships. This organization is run by and staffed by some of the smartest, most inventive and, yes, most stubborn people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and our Cornell audience often shares those traits. Clashes and frustration were inevitable. Hours of late-night labor went unappreciated. I became a bit jaded along the way; but I choose to see that as a life lesson in its own rite.

However you chose to spend your time these past few years, I’d like to believe — perhaps need to — that it won’t have been in vain. I’m not destined for a career in journalism, but that doesn’t diminish the valued role The Sun has played in my growth. The star athlete who goes into engineering consulting will take the teamwork she practiced here with her into the next stage of her life. The art of representing diverse interests won’t be left behind by the campus politico who pursues a career in medical administration. The math major who goes into nonprofit work will … probably not … use linear algebra in his daily life. But you get the point.

Even if you don’t believe Cornell has changed you, prepared you, added direction to your life or otherwise offered a tangible return on your astronomical investment, hopefully you descend from our campus on the Hill with nostalgia and friendships in tow.  Take the memories (and Instagrams) of your favorite people and places with you wherever you go next. They say it doesn’t get much better than this.

Once we toss our caps into the air this weekend, the friends I’ve come to consider family will disperse to all corners of the globe: the Deep South, the open seas, various continents … the Lower East Side. The bonfires, bar crawls, trips to the gorge and lazing on porches we’ve crammed into the past week will leave me simultaneously satisfied and craving more. I’m ready and eager to start the next chapter, but I refuse to leave Ithaca behind. You can’t get rid of us that easy, Cornell.

Although I tried to resist the allure of circle-jerk shout-outs, the temptation was too great. (See “willpower” on the list of lessons I didn’t quite get around to learning here.)

To Mom, Dad, Sam and the rest of the familial clan, thank you for supporting my endeavors unconditionally, for being endlessly brilliant and funny, for actually reading The Sun and for introducing me to this magical place.

To friends old and new, your patience has transcended expectations and your company has kept me sane. Rachel, Jocelyn, Caroline, Geoff. The Bad Bitches of 209 Williams. My Only Way babies. Sam, Becky, Weinberg, Jesse. The House of Pancakes crew. C&S. The Lynah Faithful.

To the130th Editorial Board, especially my fellow news team, the nights of hilarity and hard work we shared made for one of the best years of my life. To Akane, Liz, Hank, Andy and the131st, it was a pleasure to serve alongside you. To Haley and the132nd, all my best in luck and wishes.

To editors past and present, you’ve been an infinite font of inspiration. Jeff and Juan, who taught me everything I know. Your mentorship was only rivaled by your friendship, and there aren’t words to thank you guys. Akane, whose judgment I trust above most. I’ve long marveled at your talent and dedication to The Sun.

To Liz, my confidant, trusted colleague, partner in crime and very best friend: Everything would suck without you.

Thank you all a thousand times over.

Rebecca Harris is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was the Editor-in-Chief of The Sun’s 131st Editorial Board. She may be reached at rharris@cornellsun.com.