November 18, 2014

ELIOT | Wanderlust

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At this point in the year, we find ourselves in the doldrums of fall semester. Ithaca, it seems, has finally “made it official” with winter, and the perpetual cold weather drags on ceaselessly. Even though the sky is constantly gray, we don’t get the chance to see it because some architect decided that it would be great to minimize the number of windows in campus buildings in an effort to “conserve energy.” (Energy is always conserved; it is all really just another Cornell money-grabber conspiracy.) We find ourselves working diligently in the stacks (… ladies), cramming for impending exams and thinking about how awkward the wording in our papers is. Let me premise the rest of this column by first stating that by and large the problems Cornell throws at us are not that compelling in the grand scheme of things, and we are, for the most part, quite lucky to be here.

Especially around now, people will more and more often think about being someplace else. Thanksgiving is soon, and many of us will be returning home. Abroad application deadlines are looming. (Aside: I have no idea if this true or not.) The dreary weather synergizes with our academic and extracurricular lives, making it easy to wish we were somewhere, anywhere but Cornell. True masochists will go onto The Weather Channel website and type in zip code 96753 (Wailea, Hawaii). At the time this is being written, not one of the next 10 days is projected to under 80 degrees. It also stays lighter longer, and they have sea turtles. So it is always a little jarring to snap back to reality and out of your daydream only to realize that Maui and enjoying its white sand beaches and beautiful Hula danc- I mean, ukulele music, is a roughly 15-hour flight away.

I can’t imagine that anyone goes through college without experiencing some sort of wanderlust. College is perhaps the stage in our lives where the impulse to explore is strongest. Look around in your large lectures and you can probably catch people browsing galleries of exotic locales like Seychelles, St. Lucia, Yosemite National Park and any number of other places on the Internet. Some significant percentage of us (though I’m sure a much smaller figure than what the tour guides tell visiting high school students) choose to go abroad and literally explore the world. Go abroad in Europe and have the opportunity to see breathtaking German castles and geography. Go to Tokyo and learn how to speak Japanese and navigate public transportation like no one else. Go to South America and get a nice handmade alpaca hat.

Even though most of us choose to spend all four (or five or six… or eight) years at Cornell in Ithaca, college forces us all to act on our wanderlust in a sense. As you progress through your coursework en route to your degree, you explore your major and learn more than you could ever care to know about heat transfer (or analogous topic for your major). If you are doing Cornell right, you also explore the extracurricular goings-on on campus and outside 14853. Though I subscribe to the “seen one tree, seen ‘em all” mantra, some people seem to be quite taken with the surrounding scenery and explore that.

The class of 2015 finds itself acting on its wanderlust in a new way. It’s true what they say: time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future, and May 2015 gets closer almost every day. Here’s to hoping that the Cornell cocoon transformed me from a repulsive caterpillar (sorry, freshmen) into a beautiful butterfly able to spread my wings and make enough money to buy a cabin in Banff and a 200-foot yacht I keep at my Hawaiian surf cottage. Just like browsing through images of places we may never visit, wanderlust may take our imaginations down impossible roads. Though we are told at a young age that we can be whatever we want when we grow up, we never fully grasp the idea that the choices we make growing up lead to who we are grown up — and soon I have to will enter the workforce with an engineering degree, crushed that I will never be able to live out my life as an Australian Shepherd on a ranch in Montana.

We all have to, at times, think about our life’s direction. There is certainly something to be said about Ferris Bueller’s “stop and look around every once in a while” lifestyle, but there is equal value in exploring where you’re going before forging ahead. My dream of being a happy canine with room to roam may not have been all that realistic, but my dream of being an NBA star certainly was — just a couple of different choices (like choosing to be 6’8” instead of my height) would have had me convincing Lebron to join me in bringing a title to Denver. If your dream is to make candles in Maine and have running water (but only cold running water) then think about what you can be doing today to make that a reality. Cornell will set you up nicely to join the professional or academic world, but if you want them to do the whole thing there will have to be some tuition hikes. Envision yourself in 10 years and make that person real.

Also for those of you who were disappointed in the lack of a hip-hop epigraph, let me leave you with this:

“Closing time,

You don’t have to go home,

But you can’t stay here.”


Christo Eliot is a senior in the College of Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Tale of the Dingo at Midnight appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.