I woke up this morning to the buzz of a cell phone. It was fairly early; I could see the light dappling the backs of oak leaves as they brushed across the bedroom window, creating intricate shadow patterns. I should have gotten up then, dressed and gotten a head start on what was surely to be a busy day. But I didn’t. In fact, I stayed in bed until almost noon, skipping my morning classes entirely. This is something that has been happening more and more often these days. It’s as if my body thinks that by staying immobile, it can somehow slow down time, keep me here in my beloved Ithaca for longer, delay that day –– so near now –– when I will don a funny hat and dress and sit with my peers on the threshold of something terrifyingly labeled “real life.”
What is this real life everyone speaks of? Oh my God, what does that even mean? What’s wrong with my life now? Over the past couple of weeks I have been becoming acutely aware of those aspects of this life I fear will soon become lost to me. I’ll be walking down the street in Collegetown and realize with a surreal jolt that there won’t be any CTBs outside my apartment in New York City. And then the theme song to the best sports movie ever made, Chariots of Fire, will start playing full blast in my head and I’ll have the sudden and uncontrollable urge to run barefoot down College Ave in slow motion.
On Sunday night I was writing a recap of the men’s lacrosse team’s awesome 10-9 upset over Princeton Saturday afternoon. I was irritated because the story was way past deadline, which was my fault, and the members of the team were slow to return my calls and I had this annoying essay that still needed a lot of revision before I could safely turn it in to my history professor. But then, the next morning, I turned the Sun to the back page and saw my byline, on what was surely the last recap I would ever write. And I reread my lede, which struck a pretty sweet balance between hilarity and metaphor if I might say so myself, and I started grinning like an idiot in the middle of Libe Café. Because this is what I love. Because this is what I live for: to have to hunt down sophomore defenders and play phone tag with head coaches and feel hurried and stressed and overtired, only to read my lede the next morning and laugh out loud. Because this is what I will miss more than I would ever be able to express in 800 words or less.
I will miss the Sun office at 9 p.m., when everyone is still cheerful and the design snack drawer is still full of cheese wiz and gummy bears and almonds. I will miss the Sun office at 2 a.m., when everyone is cranky and exhausted and people are so desperately hungry they’ve resorted to combination cheese whiz and gummy bear sandwich creations. I will miss how beautiful the sunset can be as I walk down the hill before our daily edit meeting –– a fleeting moment of serenity before the storm –– and how silent and peaceful the streets around the Commons are as we all stumble home to bed. Or the library to actually start our assignments for the next day.
I actually probably will not miss that.
The Cornell Daily Sun is an institution that is so special to this community, and so unbelievably important to my life. It is sacred. It is insane. And it would be none of these things without the ridiculously amazing, talented and insane editors and reporters who make sure that, every morning, there is a stack of newspapers waiting for me at the entrance to the library. We are so much more than a staff. It may be cliché and sappy to call us a family but I really can’t think of a better metaphor. We love each other, we hate each other, we have pitched battles with each other. We find each other spread-eagled beneath parked cars in lower Collegetown and carry each other home.
The Sports section is like a family unit within a larger, extended family. We’re the cool ones, obviously. And I will never forget my times as a sports reporter and editor. I will bring with me to New York my memories of countless ice hockey games, with the yells of the fans and the smell of hastily unwrapped dead fish. I will never forget how good our wrestling team can be, or how hilarious head coach Rob Koll always is. I will never forget crowded press conferences for men’s lacrosse, protracted chats with two generations of wonderful volleyball head coaches, the men’s basketball team’s historic charge to the Sweet 16.
When I was a young, innocent freshman –– so very long ago –– I picked the Sports department because I thought the editor, Olivia Dwyer, seemed so cool and confident, standing in a room full of male editors. Good for me. Because of that fleeting moment of naïve feminism I was able to work with and under the fantastic Cory Bennett, who truly taught me what it meant to be a sports editor. I will always love you, Cory. I was able to work with the equally fantastic Allie Perez, Keenan Weatherford and Alex Kuczynski-Brown, who are as great a threesome of coworkers one could ever hope to have. We laughed together, we cried together, we planned mass suicide as we struggled to put out massive Sports Supplements. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
And there are so many others, both in the section and out. I would love to spend the next 2,000 words detailing JUST how much I love every single one of them –– but I’ll spare you, gentle readers, such a monstrous self-indulgence. BRIFELY, HOWEVER, and in no particular order, I do want to thank Emily Cohn, Ben Eisen, Ann Lok Lui, Muni Salem, Chris Bentley, Deb Tan, Irene, Venus Wu, Stratford, Molly O’Toole, Sarah Singer and of course the top banana himself, Mr. John Schroeder. I’m sure I’m forgetting people but I fear that if I continue I’ll soon become too choked up to type! Even now, as sappy as this sounds, I can feel a funny burning STARTING TO GNAW AT THE BACK OF MY THROAT AND BEHIND my eyes. I always was a sucker for goodbyes.
Next fall, I will attend NYU’s Journalism program, where I will continue to uphold and promote the values and integrity of what I truly believe is the noble profession. I anticipate writing less about sports, however, and concentrating more on some of the issues that continue to plague our country, issues like our continuing homelessness epidemic, like the state of our health care system, like our insatiable appetite for illicit drugs which fuels the bloodbath across the border in Mexico. I want to write about the people who make a difference, people like the men and women who tirelessly serve our nation from the front lines of our inner city schools to the front lines in Afghanistan, and everywhere in between.
A wise fool I know once told me that journalism today in 2010 is the same as it was in 1919 –– which is a year, by the way –– as it was in 1865. While slightly confused and certainly more than a little insane, I think her point was that we need now, perhaps more than ever, the kind of integrity and values continuously exhibited by the staff of 139 West State Street. And I would ask additionally you never forget that newspapers, while certainly struggling in today’s advertising climate to find funding, can and do have an important –– I would say vital –– role in our society. Call me an idealist, but I believe that the best newspapers defend the weak, uncover injustice and provide a voice for those too scared, or simply unable to speak up for themselves.
And with that, I believe I will pack up my soap box for the last time. Thank you, gentle readers, for sticking with me, even when it was amazingly unclear what the point of my column was, even when I quoted country music lyrics at you with reckless abandon or ranted about obscure sporting events. It has been my deep honor and privilege to write for The Cornell Daily Sun for these past four years. This is Meredith Autumn Bennett-Smith, signing off, for the final time.