The first time I returned to Cornell following my graduation in the late spring of 2007 was a scant four months later during Homecoming. And, of course, the first thing I did was charge down the hill and return to the place where I was happiest — 139 W. State Street, otherwise known as The Sun office. Before I did that, however, I made sure to stop at the store and get something, because my parents taught me never to show up at a party empty-handed.
So I picked up a gift and proudly marched back into the office where I had spent two thirds of my collegiate life. And I was received with open arms — more accurately, the case of beer in my hands was received with open arms — and between backslaps and the clatter of bottle caps, productivity at the press ground to its familiar Thursday night halt.
I did this two more times. The second time I went back, one year later, was a muted rerun of the first. The rate of turnover in a college happens before you even notice. I used to help run the whole place, and now I didn’t even know half the kids there. I’m sure most of them wondered who this older man was and why he was giving them free beer. There are few, if any, good answers to those questions.
It wasn’t until the third time I did this, two or three years ago, that I finally felt like yesterday’s paper. Most everyone I knew in college was gone, and when I showed up with the case of beer in my hands, I didn’t really know anyone. I half-expected the new editors to assume that I was on the way to an engagement party, or a baby shower or some other such horrible event and had somehow gotten lost. They would relieve me of the beer and politely direct me to the nearest unemployment office
The writing on the wall was clear. It was time to move on. College was over and, for the most part, so were these short jaunts back to the most fun time of our lives. Not the best — God forbid that we peaked at 21 — and likely not the greatest — sometimes I want to jump in a DeLorean and go punch my undergrad self in the face — but almost certainly the most fun.
We are five years out now. We are in our late twenties. Some of us are engaged. Some of us are married. Some of us even went ahead and had babies. Intentionally. Which, yikes. But, you know, that’s great! Good for you!
We have credit ratings and car leases and office numbers and business cards. We discuss dental plans and 401(k)’s. We have commutes. We throw bachelor parties. We meet the parents. We thank God when we get to go to bed before 10:30. We have become terrible at beer pong. We are bona fide grown-ups now.
This is good. It is very good. I dare say that many — most of us, in fact — are happy and have dependable friends and fulfilling jobs and enjoy what we do, in terms of work and play. We are fortunate enough to be a third of the way through a wonderful life.
But Cornell never really ended, did it? Yes, we have moved on, and it is no longer the central linchpin of our lives. But it is there — a foundational truss, a load-bearing column. It helped make us into the lawyers, doctors, engineers and journalists we are today. And it is very much a part of our daily lives, through the mentors it provided, the education it imparted and the friends it sat at our tables.
And now, for three or four short days, we get to do it all over again. We get to sleep in the dorms. We get to wear flip-flops to the showers. We get to eat Wings Over Ithaca, and Hot Truck and Dino BBQ. We get to say hi to Happy Dave and Zamboni Dave and Schroeder Dave. We get to go to the Cornell Store and buy little tchotchkes for our offices. We get to take a nap on the Slope and wake up to the sight of Cayuga’s waters gleaming softly in the distance. We get to have a prayer circle at the location formerly known as The Palms and helpfully remind each other of what we did there that made us so sad to see it gone. We get to go on a wine tour and to sit downstairs at Rulloff’s and drink straight out of the pitcher. We get to see our old friends and we get to make new ones and we get to put our arms around each other’s shoulders and sway almost-but-not-quite to the beat and sing the alma mater. We get to go back to the old days.
Those good old days on The Hill.
Carlos Maycotte served as Associate Editor of The Sun in 2006 - 07, and he graduated in 2007. He may be reached at email@example.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.