April 11, 2013

ATHANASIOU: Sentiment City: The Journey Begins

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Suddenly, April is here, spring break seems distant and the finish line is in sight. College is always a transitory process, but I’ve never felt that more than I do right now. As seniors looking to the future, our opportunities seem vast and endless, but also intangible and difficult to visualize, as Skyler Schain ’13 so beautifully articulated a few weeks ago. Leaving college is surreal, exciting and disorienting. Somedays, the everyday challenge of balancing the four pillars of college — school, fun, extracurriculars and health — take over and I forget to put things in perspective. But on the best days, I can enjoy the present while being responsible about my future.

This weekend, I’ll see my roommate perform in her last ever acapella concert. I remember when she got into her group during the fall of our freshman year. I’ve been to nearly every concert since. Still, whenever I hear her sing, I get chills. I’m excited and proud and without words (for once). This is perhaps the greatest gift Cornell has given me: supremely wonderful, talented peers and friends. There is something kind of amazing that happens when you take 20,000 people and put them in “the middle of nowhere” — it becomes the middle of somewhere. That development relies on students investing time and energy into their current location, into themselves and into Cornell. Whether it’s seeing one of my best friends cook a meal with her dietetics team for all of West Campus or listening to six inspiring, creative, awesome presentations at the Big Red Ideas festival last week, the human capital here is bizarre and wonderful.

There are a million bucket lists to be made during the stretch until G-day: trivia at every bar ever established, wine tours, lazy Sundays, picnics on the Arts Quad. We make these lists to try and comprehend the fact that we are leaving a place with great meaning and don’t quite know how to. While some might peddle a specific activity, I simply ask that we embrace one mantra: appreciation of the people around us.

As I wake up every morning in my house of cards, made of crooked floors and an outdoor staircase, I revel at the idea that I’m literally footsteps away from some of my favorite people. When else in my life will I be surrounded by so many young, talented people that are in one place with the unified goal of learning? Whether it’s late night talks on the CTB patio or enjoying your favorite professor show you Youtube videos of JFK and Marilyn Monroe, this is a time to soak in the people around you. Personally, I’ve been enraged, inspired, challenged and humbled by the people around me. Those fast feelings have led to a greater sense of self, a widened perception of reality.

In the second grade, I hit a homerun in gym. This was so unusual that my teacher stopped class so I could receive a standing ovation. He announced, “She didn’t actually touch any of the bases, but I think we should let that one count anyway!” As a lifelong benchwarmer, I’ve never had an affinity towards sports. But during O-week freshman year, I met a delightfully kind soul from Tennessee who just happened to be on the men’s basketball team. Always greeting me with a smile and a warm hello, he remained my friend over the years and ended up living in the house across the street from mine this year. Never in my life did I think I’d be jumping up and down in the bleachers of Newman, cheering on our basketball team in their last home games.

This is the what being a Cornell student means to me: experimenting and trying things I might not naturally. There is no greater joy I can imagine than seeing the people around you do the things they love and do them well. Whether that means enjoying a band’s concert at the Bear’s Den filled to the brim with rowers supporting their teammates, or seeing the ever-whimsical Pao Bhangra take the stage at Bailey this weekend, we are surrounded by so much raw talent. Sometimes it means having that long, impromptu three hour heart-to-heart when you have 15 hours of homework, and other times it’s just saying “yes” to the people heckling you on Ho Plaza. Of course, these interactions are not always easy; there will be moments of supreme disagreement — of rage, of disappointment. But branching out of the expected, thinking about what you feel, articulating those emotions, and expressing them effectively will make you better.

What is college for after all? It’s the sharing of experiences and perspectives that makes this time so pivotal in our growth and development into “real people.” So indulge, enjoy, fight, cry, do whatever you please, but do it together. There are few times we’ll be in this situation again, surrounded by a network of friends and strangers, all bopping along.

Katerina Athanasiou is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture and Planning. She may be reacched at [email protected]. Kat’s Cradle appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Katerina Athanasiou