This semester I have written mostly about matters outside Cornell that moved me enough to share my perspective on them. It’s almost October, and Fall Semester is always too eventful for me to ignore my dearest muse — Life at Cornell. As a Senior, I have been hiking through this semester displaying explicit split personalities. To be more clear, I find myself vacillating between agonizing over what the future — suddenly so close — will look like, and slowing down to absorb every second of life at Cornell. Tuning out real world anxiety and tuning into the present at Cornell is much easier said than done. However, we are fortunate that such is our dilemma. We are lucky to have reached this crossroad in the first place. A very popular statistical adage suggests that if the world were made of a 100 people, 83 would be able to read and write and 7 would have a college degree. How often do we find us berating ourselves for the one shot we missed — while not fully basking in the joy of the nine others we made?
This Monday, September 21st, presented one of the most spectacular sunsets I have seen on campus in the past four years. I remember walking to my night class and taking at least 100 pictures, appreciating the heartwarming familiarity of how traumatizing Olin stacks look from the quad and being grateful for being here. The next day, I received an e-mail about job deadlines. My friends are studying for LSATs, GREs, GMATs, you name it. I saw people across campus looking miserable on an absolutely gorgeous day, wearing suits, carrying already heavy backpacks burdened even more by resume portfolios. I remember a student from the Sesquecentennial Cornell video saying, “don’t let your education at Cornell get in the way of your education.” This week I understand those profound words with an absolutely different perspective. I was sharing with my classmate from one of my favorite classes this semester that when I am in lecture for the particular class I am really able to tune out everything else I worry about day in and day out. I will long for the opportunity to walk into class and learn from the best minds in the world less than a year from today. In a few years, when life works out, I will certainly be angry at myself for not appreciating this fleeting Senior fall semester more.
To be fair, I understand why senior year is stressful for so many of us. A portion of our class is already employed and is stressed about where their friends will end up or whether they will enjoy what they signed themselves up for as postgrads. A number of our classmates are worried about becoming employed or applying to — nevermind affording — graduate school. Those gravitating towards law schools, medical schools, Ph.D. programs and so on have their own immense share of uncertainty. As an international student, I know of the anxiety surrounding where, and in of what part of the world I will end up next year. Amidst all of this gnawing stress, there is the typical Cornell cultivated, self-imposed expectation of finishing our undergraduate experience strong. All of these forces have compounded self-apprehension beyond the innocuous threshold. Then there is a cliche Kurt Vonnegut quote, which I will quote again, as it never loses relevance: “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”
Well it is true, life will work out in ways you want it to now, or in a form you do not envision it yet. One way or the other, our days on this spectacular campus, in this rich, intellectually driven, caring and compassionate microcosm are limited. As much as you have hated Cornell while trudging through the deep snow, or while toiling in the library dungeons, you have appreciated it every day when you stop and admire the beauty, or see a friendly face and read my frequent Cornell-loving articles in The Sun. It is a wonderful ability to plan ahead, care about your future and be able to understand what you want to do with your life. However, in the exhausting process, I hope you are enjoying the hours you tune out existential anxiety, and tune into the magnificent arrival of Fall at Cornell — because, seniors, it’s our last one. Soon it will be cold enough anyway, both literally and figuratively.
Aditi Bhowmick is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.