September 21, 2014

BHOWMICK | Before the Swan Song

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Fall Career Fair every year makes exceptional food for thought for forever-reflecting Sun columnists. This autumn marked my third career fair — yes, I was that floundering freshman who showed up for career fair tripping over upperclassmen who actually knew what they were doing. Not that the subsequent years have transformed me into an elegant networking goddess. Three career fairs later, I am equally flustered and still walk out wondering whether I should look into stand-up comedy, where the joke is on me as a career, instead of everything else that I apply left, right and center for. The point of this article is not the confusion that is obviously college. It is the fact that the days are flying at such a startling pace that I have already started having dreams about graduation with elaborate graduation speeches in them. The “this is it” moment is suddenly tangible to me and the fact that we are all having to enterprise and chart out all sorts of plans about what is after makes it all the more real. This sudden acceleration of the semester, school and life is thrilling and alarming at the same time.

On Tuesday, when I was marching out of Barton Hall at noon, I saw someone shake their head saying, “it’s a rat-race.” There is no reasonable answer to why the prospect of life beyond college needs to be so stressful, considering we go to one of the best schools in the world. There is also no logic explaining why we must splurge on Moleskine portfolios, expensive resume paper and uncomfortable clothes, trying to be people we are not necessarily comfortable being just yet, but we all do it nevertheless. There has to be some merit to the system, or else the best institutions of America would not be blindly jumping on the bandwagon. So I made my way back to my beloved Libe Café after Career Fair, and realized that I have been so engrossed in ensuring I don’t miss out on a single class (guilty of sleeping through an 11:15 though), every single club that ever existed, pertinent and random information sessions, homework — which never fails to disappear — and of course, the absolutely beautiful weekends and the last few days of resplendent Ithaca weather. Meanwhile, half of my junior fall semester did quite the disappearing act. As I sit across the table from my freshman year roommate (she asked for a special reference), I remember graduating seniors telling us during our freshman year, if there is one thing that flies forever and rests never, it’s college. At this point, I realize that there was never a cliché more real.

In light of all of this, despite the madness of recruitment season and prelims catching up, I am thankful that I am still stealing a couple of hours away for my friends — be it spontaneous hikes, procrastination dates or frolicking through Collegetown. As a junior trying to keep my head above the surface, I am grateful for the opportunity to be this busy at a place like Cornell. I could not appreciate my parents enough for being so selfless and sending me this far for college and working endlessly so that I could have an experience like this. I could not be grateful enough for my friends who have made Cornell worth it and keep the ship from sinking. Additionally, of course, Cornell’s founding fathers deserve gratitude for establishing a haven of possibilities such as this. In the midst of all of this overwhelming gratitude, it is a privilege to be supernaturally busy. One does not need a college education to be exceptionally brilliant or successful, but college exists for the experience that shapes you, and being part of this experience is nothing but an absolute privilege which, when blinded by stress, we take for granted. In my years at Cornell, I have never entered prelim season swelling with gratitude but this year is different, because I know the days are flying. I also know that, as Julian Barnes said, “what you end up remembering is not the same as what you have witnessed.”