For my first article of the semester, I originally intended to publish an article I began writing in the summer. It was a sweltering hot day in July, I remember, and I had been jostled around on a crowded train for far too many hours. I was left with only my thoughts and not much else, with the cramped spaces leaving all else impossible. Strange things happen when my mind is left entirely alone with time to ponder, reflect, think and analyze; some of my proudest epiphanies are born when I’m forced on these long rides. A particular thought hit me on the train and from there, my fingers were flying. No capitalization, no punctuation, just the use of my frequently forgotten Notes app on my iPhone. When I finally had the time to put my jumbled thoughts down and form coherent sentences, it was an article I was proud of; one I was excited for others to read and think about. But in my hurried mess to finish my own work, I almost forgot to read what my fellow writers had published upon coming back to school. And when I read them, that’s when I knew I had made a mistake.
Most writers were nostalgic, reminiscing on their times at Cornell and the wonders of such an incredible institution. Others discussed what they had learned from the school and the people that shaped their overall experiences. My heart swelled with the love and pride I have for this school and the excitement that I know almost everyone feels upon their return. But I also felt a strange sense of guilt for not writing about coming back. Although I knew it was up to me to choose what topic I wanted to write about, I hadn’t tuned into how I actually felt. With my thought that I had to submit an article once I arrived and produce something that would be worth reading, I had simply ignored my present experiences that were truly worth writing about.
That’s the thing about Cornell. We fall into a hole of spending too much time on one task, of putting our entire effort into finishing something and making it the best we can. But we forget about the present and what matters in the moment. And since I’ve been back, I sure haven’t been thinking about any of the stuff I wrote about on that bumpy journey on a train. I’ve been overwhelmingly happy with returning back to Ithaca. I’ve been happy with Orientation Week, which was an absolute whirlwind, and running into friends I hadn’t seen all summer as well as seeing those I had seen almost every other week for fear of being apart for too long. I’ve been happy with moving into a new house and being surrounded by gorges and open skies and waterfalls again. But most importantly, I’ve been happy with being confident. As a freshman, I was self-conscious about who I was with and where I was going. The trek to collegetown that first night was one filled with anxiety, excitement and everything in between. The contrast between that first night and the one I had just a few days ago made me recognize how many strong relationships I had built over the school year and how ecstatic I was to be back.
And that’s what I want to write about. I want people to know that college is a constant bombardment of homework, quizzes, projects and prelims. Cornell makes us work our hardest, strive for the best and desire more. And the reason so many of us power through is because it’s worth it in the end. Sure, good grades affirm that we worked hard. But these small pockets of joy render even the worst grade bearable. When we talk about college years from now, we can quickly discuss the failed prelim or the forgotten paper or the disastrous group project. But it’s the stories of the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done that will stand out. The laughter and the heartache. The memories and the moments we wish — really wish — we could forget. We get so caught up in a single task and pour all our energy into one thing that we tend to overlook the people surrounding us, the environment we are in and the emotions we are feeling — all of which can alter our actions and decisions.
There is no doubt that working hard and attempting our best at everything we do is important for success. But so is staying true to ourselves and listening to how we feel in the present moment. And it’s perfectly okay to act upon that. With the start of classes and the hectic rush of a new school year on its way, I know that embracing the present will keep me sane and happy. And that’s all I can ask for in this crazy, college world.
Gaby Leung is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Serendipitous Musings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.