December 2, 2016

WEISSMANN | The Beginning of the Middle

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I feel as though I am losing the core of my identity in one fell swoop, on the morning of Dec. 17, in Bartels Hall, in a ceremony rife with pomp, circumstance and vaguely unflattering gowns.

I chose to graduate early for several reasons, none of them quite good enough to dissipate the pangs of doubt and nostalgia I’ve been feeling for this place in the recent weeks. Ithaca has been my home for much longer than four years (I’m what you might call “fairly local”) and Cornell has been a goal of mine since I was old enough to spell “Big Red.” Granted, I’ve lost a fair amount of faith in this school in the past year watching election tension divide people and feeling the pressure to join what I fondly refer to as the corporate career conveyor belt. But graduation goggles are setting in, and I am sad to see my days as a student here end. Leaving something certainly forces you to remember it.

This is the end of my beginning, and the beginning of my middle. The beginning being, of course, my 18 years living with the routine of formal public schooling — the winter breaks, summers, homework sessions on Sunday nights, school sports games, etc. Beginnings are exciting. You make new friends, you choose what interests you, you practice your purpose. Newness is fun, as is college. I need not extrapolate my point with examples of the opportunities for reckless enjoyment that college affords. With graduation looming not weeks away, my beginning is almost up. That’s not to say that I will no longer make new friends and have new experiences, not at all. But the beginning years of my life are drawing to a close.

Middles are different. The middle of things can be monotonous in its own right (a fact not usually mentioned in graduating address; it’s not exactly an exciting part of the next-chapter-of-your-life narrative). The middle of life is the marathon. Middles usually involve years of work towards a career goal, or times when you are no longer the priority. I am expecting the middle to carry both new freedoms and new pressures. We, as students, do not yet know what it means to live an adult life, to be in the middle of daily frustrations and responsibilities and sometimes, perhaps, monotony. With any luck, we will be spared some of the more tedious and uninteresting favors of time.

But the middle is also the substantive part of life, the part where most of living resides. We might become successful in our respective fields, or get married and have children, or have children without marrying, or travel, or move to a foreign country in the wake of a hypothetically terrifying political climate, or any of the other options available to us along the way. Even with the petty annoyances and heightened pressures, our middle will likely be the most gratifying part of life. It offers us a chance to work hard at work worth doing and to reap the rewards.

This is where choice of mindset comes in. There will be parts of this middle that will be exasperating. There will be times when we are stuck between things, when life moves too slowly, or when life moves too fast. But we can make a conscious choice in how we think during those times. We can choose to remind ourselves that this is it, this is what we have been waiting for, this chance to put who we are to use. This is our middle.

I’ll be looking back fondly on these formative years at Cornell University, the way parents remember the years their children were young, cute and not asking them to shell out a quarter of a million dollars for a pricey education. I am lucky that Cornell was a part of my beginning; I think I am better for it. This is my last column for The Cornell Daily Sun, and it has been a wonderful few years. I want to thank everyone that has followed my columns, read my work, complemented it and criticized it. The readers of The Sun are faithful and passionate. I hope I have left you with an appreciation for your beginning here and an eagerness for your middle.

Ruth Weissmann is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]A Word to the Weiss appeared alternate Fridays this semester. This is its final installment.