I lost Cornell as my home when I was assaulted. I lost the trust and comfort. I struggled through my first two years on the hill, losing more of myself with every step I took. I keep receiving emails about donating to the senior class campaign, but how can I give back when I have lost so much here? Maybe in the future, when I’m not constantly surrounded by the pain, I will give back in areas that mean something to me. But for now, it’s too much. Cornell doesn’t hold the same meaning for me as it does for most. This is my last semester, and I cannot wait for it to be over. I will be in D.C. for my final semester before I graduate January 2017 and that is something to look forward to. I am not proud to be a Cornelian on the Ithaca campus, but I am proud to be a Cornelian when I am away from Ithaca. Every time I leave for weekends at home, I feel lighter, and every time I make the trip back the heaviness creeps back in. I feel like a victim here, but I know I am more than that.
I’m not participating in any senior events – I have been quite withdrawn ever since I returned last fall because it’s just not my place. I got lucky this semester to have amazing professors and classes that I love. Because of this, at least my final semester on this hill will hold good memories. Do I feel like I’m missing out on fun times with my friends? Sometimes. But our friendships won’t end after we graduate. Some of us may move to different cities, some will stay in the same one or somewhere nearby, but those connections and memories we created during our time at Cornell means something. I’m not trying to distance myself from those things, but rather from Cornell in Ithaca.
This past weekend I finally finished my PE requirements for graduation. Like many seniors, I put this off, but our reasons for doing so are very different. I had the full year gym membership my freshman year, but, as luck would have it, I ran into my monster twice at Helen Newman and once at Appel. I took a gym class during spring semester of freshman year at Helen Newman and was always looking over my shoulder. Even the thought of him made me more anxious to be there. So this semester I enrolled in the weekend wellness course just to get it over with. The key aspect of the class was relaxation and practicing different meditation techniques. We did yoga, took nature walks, did sitting meditations, and body awareness activities. It didn’t seem like much, but this weekend exceeded my expectations.
On Saturday we went for a three-hour walk through the arboretum, wildflower gardens and plantations. Most of the walk was purposefully silent, allowing us to mindfully absorb our surroundings. It was a beautiful walk in parts that I’ve seen many times, but this time, my awareness of the sounds and sights was heightened. One activity was to spend five minutes by ourselves observing one specific thing. As I sat on a bench listening to them give instructions, this giant tree in front of me caught my attention. While everyone left to explore different areas, I remained.
This water birch tree reminded me of my childhood – two birch trees grew on our land. This tree allowed me to reminisce about growing up on a dairy farm, shoo-ing cows and riding my horse. This tree was emblematic of childhood innocence, of the times when the overwhelming trauma didn’t exist. Nature has the power to connect us with our roots. I repressed many memories in order to cope with past incidents and lost many because of my traumatic brain injury. I lost myself for a long time and that loss has affected me in more ways than one, but I’m finally reconnecting because I’m focusing on getting better and on my healing. Connecting with nature helped me to connect to myself.