May 10, 2016

HICKMON | Dear Cornell…

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I cannot believe that it has been four years and that it is finally my turn to graduate. It feels like I have spent my whole life working towards and waiting for this moment. As a kid, I could not wait to be “grown.” As a highschooler, I dreamt of college everyday. Sometimes I still dream about college if I’m being honest. I wonder if I did the last four years “right.” Did I work hard enough? Party enough? Experience life enough?

The answers to those questions does not matter of course. Because, even if the answer was no, I’m stuck with the college experience that I’ve got. Fortunately, I’m pretty happy with it — pretty happy with it and extremely grateful for it. I remember getting into Cornell and being so excited because I always wanted to attend an Ivy League university, and with my acceptance that dream could come true. It’s funny though because, I threw out the initial brochure that Cornell sent me. Thank God my mom saw it, believed in the marketing and strongly suggested, I mean made me apply because four years later, I can’t imagine having gone to school anywhere else.

Coming here opened up my world. Don’t get me wrong, I always knew that there was more to the world than my own backyard and I always believed I had a responsibility to people around the globe. But, I struggled with figuring out how to reach them, how to engage, how to become one of them. I always knew that I wanted more for myself than just experiencing where I’m from and Cornell made that possible by laying a sea of opportunities at my feet. All I had to do was pick which fish I was interested in and somehow reel it in. Some, I caught easily. Others were a struggle and some evade me to this day.

As a freshman, I had a post-it on my wall that said, “Forget the Big Red Boxes and just make your Cornell story a good one.” This has been my guiding light. Having big goals, but remaining flexible in how I try to achieve them in case the Universe decides it has other, hopefully better plans in store for me. I would admonish all who will still inhabit the Hill next year to do the same. It’s so easy to get caught up in classes, work, trying to secure a good internship and planning for whatever will come next. I know firsthand because I have been guilty of this more times than I would like to admit. But, I promise you that it does all work out, even when it looks like it won’t and all you can really ever do it your part and keep the faith in the process. Cornell is an institution that makes you believe it is and will always be the most important thing in your world. But it isn’t and it won’t be.

Make sure that you get everything you want from this place. Last week, someone asked me if I regretted anything about my experience or if I wish I had done anything differently and it brought me such joy to be able to tell them, no. My one, overarching goal, when I entered Cornell as a freshman was to milk this place for everything it’s worth and four years later, I know I’ve done that. Your Cornell experience will not be the same as the person next to you and that is the magic of this place. Yes, we all experience a similar form of torture, but the devil is in the details, so don’t be afraid to build on your details to stand out.

If you let it, Cornell will place you with people, in situations, doing things that you maybe only ever dreamt about. And if you have the courage to trust in the magic of your life, plus the gall to follow through, I believe there is no way you can leave this place worse off than you were when you first arrived here. So, today, in my last column for The Sun, I’d simply like to say thank you. Thank you Cornell for giving me more than I ever thought to ask for over the course of the last four years. Thank you for bringing me a village and thank you to that village — you know who you are. I leave here, a young, Ivy League educated, Black woman, ready to engage with the world. For that, for making little six year old Gabby’s dream come true, thank you.

Gabrielle Hickmon is a senior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at ghickmon@cornellsun.com. Gabbing with Gabby appeared alternate Wednesdays this semester. This is its final installment.

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