May 5, 2011

Life After Being a Student

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So there are about four to five thousand kids right now who are feeling about the same way I am. (“wtf. this is the last day of classes. in college. of my life. oh.my.god.”)

You’ll probably not even stop by classes at all today (pregame, baby!). You probably clapped at the last class you went to this week (and people tell me it’s a Cornell thing, that professors usually don’t get that privilege elsewhere — in case anyone complains about our lack of manners). You’re probably freaking out about that paper or two you need to write, or presently wishing death to the professors or T.A.s who had no choice but to give you a test today at 4 p.m. (my most sincere condolences to you. And I will spare the rant on the lack of consideration for school spirit to those who are already complaining, because you have every reason to do so).

Life does go on, just as with every Slope Day I’ve been to.

Slope Day? I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed it. Freshman year sucked. No one was around and the bands were not even that interesting (I don’t even remember who they were). Sophomore year, however, was fantastic. The lineup was fun and the bands actually rocked when they came out, and I remember playing with my band at Thumpty as the rain came in and people started swarming into the house (and getting drunk, and making out and slowly moving upstairs) as we played on. Very Deftones-video-ish. I think it was one of those first times I realized that I was in college, you know? The oh-my-god-these-types-of-things-do-not-happen-just-in-movies kind of thing. It was nice. Then, junior year, I recall ending up walking gorge paths while the music continued, after house-party drinking for the previous five hours. Can’t say it was bad, but sophomore year was 10 times better. Let’s see what this one brings — I AM stoked for the lineup, and the plans as I was writing this column were promising enough. Yay. It’s Slope Day, and for the four to five thousand kids out there who are in the same boat as myself, it’s our last day as college students.

The performative nature of graduating is fascinating. By the virtue of those who say so, we become something else, something different. Sigh, pragmatics. So now someone will say we’re not students anymore (though some of you are going to grad school, so you’ve got that label for a while longer. Jealous. *sticks out tongue*.) and poof, we aren’t. It’s really interesting. And it’s an overwhelmingly amusing and creepy thing at the same time. It is a change in our identity: we’ve been students for twenty plus years. And now, life is supposed to start, or something like that. Not sure. I think life started a while ago, but don’t take my word for it.

I posted I was writing this column on my Facebook newsfeed. I got, amongst other things, an article (shoutout to Prof. Shimon Edelman!) about how much more boring life is going to be once we leave here. Which is totally true, don’t get me wrong, I know. Life does not change every semester when you’re in real life. There are fewer deadlines and fewer changes from one month to the next, and I have talked to friends who are working already who do tell me they miss this sense of accomplishment the end of semester would bring. But, up to a certain point, that change is probably welcome. No more paper writing, no more lab reports or insane deadlines, no more tests for which no studying is enough. No more getting up for 8:40 classes where everyone is half asleep, no more walking down Tower Road at 10:10 a little annoyed at how people do not respect street lights. No more counting points and discussing standard deviations to measure how terrible my grade is in comparison to everyone else’s. No more taking seven classes per semester and wondering how I didn’t take any more.

But it also means no more of a lot of other things that I will miss. Sunsets on the Slope. Walking around the Arts Quad in the middle of the night. Talking about random subjects like astrophysics or the mating behaviors of insects for hours with my friends over drinks on a Friday night. Discussing consciousness, awareness, memory or dreaming at the level that people talk about them here — unless I go for a Ph.D., I have just ended the period of the highest level of those discussions in my life, ever — knowing there is always something amazing and cutting-edge for me to do, feeling that there’s always something and someone interesting (and interested!), that there’s a world out there that I can eat in a bite.

Though we can embrace the possibility of (probably much necessitated) boredom in our post-commencement lives, looking back is both unavoidable and encouraged. Four years is a long time, especially the four years we’ve been here, constantly having to reaffirm our identity, our purpose, our capability to move forward. There may never be a time when we define ourselves as much as we have here. There will probably not be a time when we are this stressed (though life tries, as I’ve heard, lol), this sleep deprived, when we will party any harder, when we will have our feelings be any more intense than this. But we can remember how we feel about all this, and apply it to the somewhat less relentlessly changing version of life we’re now entering, and be happy, in whatever fashion we can muster.

I guess there is not a lot left to say because since there are so many things to say in the first place, anything I say will not cover anything at all. But, for what it is worth, thanks to all of those who have made this ride the totally true bildungsroman it was. You know who you are. And for you, dear reader, my advice may not be worth much, but as cheesy as it sounds, if you love what you do, that’s an awesome start. Find the start if you haven’t yet, since, as you can see, we all run out of time.

Peace.

Florencia Ulloa is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at fulloa@cornellsun.com. Innocent Bystander appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Florencia Ulloa