August 26, 2014

ELIOT | Ithaca and Rhinoceros Adrenaline Tablets

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By CHRISTO ELIOT

This is my third first column. My first first column suggested Cornell recruit B-list celebrities to join the student body (namely John Stamos and, half of the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel). And my second first column asked people to reconsider parental embarrassment, because there is no way anyone who survives growing up embarasses his or herself far more than one’s parents ever could. Unfortunately, I haven’t sat next to Stamos or Garfunkel in class yet (though maybe we just are taking different courses), and seeing freshmen walking around campus getting embarrassed by their parents wanting to take photos in front the Ezra Cornell statue leads me to believe we still are not past that whole “I am way cooler than my parents” thing. Part of me wants to tell that young man or lady that while they are trying to look super cool, his or her father is wearing a “Life is Good” T-shirt tucked into some jorts with white cotton socks coming up from his running shoes and a camera around his neck and does not care at all about any passerby’s opinion — that’s pretty damn cool. Maybe something from this one will stick.

This is my third first column. It is also my last first column. I know reading the fresh and compelling perspective I provided bi-weekly for the past two years has been the highlight of each and every month we spend at Cornell — twice. But barring 7-11 and Club Suds, eventually everything comes to a close. To be perfectly honest, I might not miss writing for The Sun upon leaving Ithaca. Even though I write about what I want and now have a total of seven Pulitzer prizes and several invitations to speak with Jimmy Fallon about my work on The Tonight Show, a deadline is still a deadline. And deadlines aren’t fun. I know for a fact, against all odds, I will miss Cornell when it’s over.

In a couple weeks, some article on the Internet will surface about how Ithaca is “the best college town in America,” and it will pollute your entire Facebook page. I personally found it hard to believe the best college town in America could be a tiny town in central New York where the classes have a way of invading most of your free time, the first hard freeze takes place before the NFL’s first bye week, the winter lasts 75 percent of the year and almost no matter where you are going, you are going uphill. I think I still might need some convincing Ithaca is the collegiate paradise, but it certainly is special.

There will be times when it seems like attending Cornell is the equivalent to going to war.  Hurricane Sandy comes, and it rains for a week. Snow will be on the ground from October until two days before Slope Day (and then potentially back for an encore after Slope Day). And the Cornell clock keeps on ticking — that is to say, the clock tower chimes will never fail to interrupt any productivity you manage to find in Uris or Olin. It is easy to get complacent and punch your timecard before finally entering the “real world.” It is easy to think the real world will be so much easier. You are probably right, but I got a small taste of it this summer and have watched a couple episodes of MTV’s Real World so I know how good we have it here.

The real world is out in the parking lot doing push-ups, taking rhinoceros adrenaline tablets and is ready to knock our teeth in. The real world may not have prelims — it also doesn’t have unicycle kid or the gorges or a school-sanctioned day of debauchery on The Slope. Ithaca may be ranked as the top college town in America because there are three schools in the area, there is excellent outdoor recreation and the town is highly educated. Ithaca IS the top college town in America because, if nothing else, it is 6.1 square miles of relief from reality. It is a place where independence is at an all-time high and consequences are as low as they’ll ever be. It is a place where success only comes when you make mistakes. It is a place where every day several thousand incredibly bright people make each other even more driven, smarter and occasionally kinder.

Cornell is a place that sets you up nicely for your future. If you graduate and can put together sentences, you will find employment if you want it — no matter what your major is. I encourage you to think about your future just enough that you land on your feet. Although you might think you are only at college as a stepping stone on your way to your future, ask any jaded senior facing their last first semester and they will tell you the point of college is to be at college. Every moment of living in this very strange Cornell bubble is special. Everything — from the first night of O-week freshman year, wandering Collegetown locating free and easy beer; to getting destroyed by a prelim in a class you took in high school; to finally getting an attractive TA, looking at her and thinking to yourself, “This might be my only chance,” and still doing nothing about it — is important.

There are currently millions of college students in the world. All but 14,000 of them have to go somewhere else. 7,200 of them were really unlucky and had to go get easy A’s at Harvard. This year, take advantage of it. Every single group on campus wants you to join them. A capella groups haven’t even heard you sing, and they are still handing you quartercards. There is free food being thrown at you (figuratively) wherever you go. In the real world, you have to look for those things. Here, like in Soviet Russia, those things look for you. Being a Cornell student will at times feel like working a full-time job. Sometimes, it feels like more. But as I said earlier, don’t just punch your timecard and keep your head down. It is the only job you’ll ever have with a graduation date.

Christo Eliot is a senior in the College of Engineering. He can be reached at celiot@cornellsun.com. The Tale of the Dingo at Midnight appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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