As a second semester senior, I am acutely aware of how I have finally made it to the last stretch of my Cornell experience after months of thinking, stressing, ruminating and writing about it. As someone who went to a boarding school, I like to think about how I have already been through the heartrending process of leaving life as I know it and moving on. Nevertheless, I also know that this time will be different simply because of how transformative the past four years have been. I have said it before, and I reiterate that these four years have been a lifetime and will determine what the rest of my life looks like in so many ways. To say the least, it is a staggering and paralyzing realization.
What am I supposed to do with the realization that after so many weeks of complaining about the snow, the hills, being in the “middle of nowhere,” the classes, the expectations and so many embarrassing weekends, it will soon come to an unequivocal end? Pick any senior on campus and ask them, “are you ready to graduate?” Even if you get an unambiguous yes or no, there will be a feeling of ambivalence that follows the response. Truth is, most of us are likely to say, both yes and no. I like to think that in the midst of all of these abstruse musings, it may be useful to think about why we came here in the first place. Ask yourself, and the answer will perhaps give you some direction as to how to go about the next few months on the Hill: to use the hackneyed phrase, “make the most of it.”
I came to Cornell to live and learn in the midst of intellectual giants — and that, I definitely did. As someone who has always been a “dork” of sorts, I had several arresting moments of unprecedented joy at the end of a brilliant lecture. For others, say a proud Cornell athlete, it may have been the camaraderie they found in their teammates or the experience of winning and losing together. For some, it may have been making some very difficult life decisions and finding a group of people who would back them up through thick and thin. For some, it may have been transforming as an individual, say from a shy freshman to a socially engaged and confident senior, or perhaps from a garrulous social butterfly to someone who is more grounded and reflective. The point I am trying to make is that it is a process that takes place even though we barely notice. By the end of it, we find ourselves evolved and different in several ways from when we first stepped on this campus, eager to find a way to survive the powerful experience of attending such a large university, and get through the unfamiliarity till it becomes second nature.
Besides, there are some experiences that will speak to all second semester seniors reading this column. The color red will never be just another color for all of us. We will know the joys of finally getting to spring like no one else both because how brutal winters in Ithaca are and how charming campus looks by the end of April. We will know how annoying it is to both participate in and witness a conversation where people compete about how stressed they are by narrating to-do lists. We will also know what it is like to live and learn with some of the best minds of our generation. Every time we see a clock-tower like structure, be it Big Ben in London or the Wrigley Building in Chicago, we will remember the wind against our faces as we trudge along Ho Plaza. In other words, there is this experience that all of us have shared that cannot be replicated anywhere else and is enshrined in the understanding and familiarity when one Cornell alumnus meets another.
We all came to Ithaca and lived a lifetime on the Hill. As graduation approaches, it helps to think about why we came here and how far we have come, what we did not know then and what we know today and to maintain an awareness of why we are here in the first place during the final months. Most of all, it helps to allow ourselves to feel these very palpable sentiments of fear, relief, nostalgia, apprehension, pride, accomplishment and confusion. The most important part of a phenomenal performance is the closing act, and it would be quite unfortunate if we slept through the ending to a splendid four years on the Hill. Therefore, I hope our last semester at Cornell is as aggravating and rewarding at the same time as every other semester has been.
Aditi Bhowmick is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.