May 21, 2014

CAMUTI | Never Good at Headlines

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In my time at the Sun, I’ve read a lot of goodbye columns (which I’ve criticized for being as disjointed as mine is about to be) and I’ve thought about my own story with this place before it was even fully written. Now I’ve gotten to the end and I can’t say I’ve really figured it out. I joined the Sun as a lost freshman and am about to graduate as someone who gained more than I could ever imagine from this University and from this paper. But I was never on the road to becoming a journalist — just a person who liked to read and write. Does all of this make my last four years with this paper the self-centered, pleasure-seeking, journey of a friendless freshman who just “needed to get involved?” The fact that I’ve admittedly spent time thinking about “my story” doesn’t bode well for the answer to this question.

There is undoubtedly a stigma associated with being self-centered — we criticize those who can’t see outside of themselves and give accolades to those who act with humility. Yet college is the one time in many of our lives where we are not expected to be anything but self-centered in our pursuits. Certainly, some of us have built and strengthened our communities here, but for the most part we have been focused on our own college experience — on making friends, and getting a good job and bettering ourselves. But when I say, “College is a self-centered experience,” it has, until recently, left a bad taste in my mouth.

The worst night I ever had at The Sun  — the night that had me running for the door in one way or another — was the eve of the 2012 Election Spread when my own self-centeredness got the best of me. I had spent one too many nights at the office that week, had a Soil Science prelim the next day and honestly, I know little to nothing about national politics (by choice?). As everyone enthusiastically worked on the spread, which turned out to be one of the coolest things we accomplished as a board, I was eager to get out of that god-forsaken building at 139 W. State Street. This was a project I could have been apart of, but my overwhelming feelings of being different (read: irrelevant), kept me from seeing the bigger picture: it’s not always about the product — it’s about the people.

In this search for my own perfect “college experience,” my life, both at the Sun and through my other involvements here at Cornell, has intersected with the lives of people who have undoubtedly made me feel like I was bigger than myself. I have been part of what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ’44 called a “granfalloon,” a group of people who imagine they share a connection based on some circumstance of little to no real significance (it is also a term a handful of Sun columnists have already used to describe Cornell). But I guess the one soft-spot in what may seem like my otherwise jaded outlook is that some small part of me refuses to believe that there was no significance to this group … at least not yet.

We’ve all been self-aggrandizing during our times at Cornell — whether that means believing a protest you organized on Ho Plaza, a play you directed, a game you played in, or an article you published on the front page of the Sun actually has real meaning outside of your personal purview. However, our most significant achievement at Cornell is synthesizing the good and the bad times of those around us and coming out better for it, as people who understand the world a little better than we did before. Even as we each pursued our own self-interest, we pushed and changed each other in ways that I still don’t fully understand the weight of. What I do know is the things I did at Cornell, I started doing for myself, but the things I accomplished (which include sticking it out through some tough nights down at the office), I owe to everyone else.

So, my story with the Sun, just like my story at Cornell, is not really my story. It is just as much Rebecca’s, Akane’s, Jeff’s and Ruby’s as it is mine. Whatever it is I both gave to and took from this place, I owe to them. My experience at the Sun is intricately tied to theirs and the rest of the editors who came before me, just as the new board will have pieces of their stories tied to mine. When I look back at my time at the Sun, it will undoubtedly be with gratitude for this office and for all of the knuckleheads who committed themselves to this place through the good and the bad.

Liz Camuti is graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She was the Associate Editor of The Sun’s 131st Editorial Board. She may be reached at [email protected].