It’s standard college student protocol to hate certain questions: “what are you studying,” “are you seeing anyone,” etc. Every student has been asked these questions, and everyone has given the same, patient, noncommittal answers. Lately, I’ve enjoyed being asked the question: “Do you know what you’re doing after you graduate?” Obviously, I used to hate that question, because there’s always so much expectation tied to it. But that’s the culture we live in at Cornell, and since plenty have taken note of it already, I won’t say a whole lot more on the matter. This is my last column here at Cornell, so I’d rather reflect on my time here than complain about a university I will shortly be leaving.
I know it’s always been in vogue (and usually even justified) to hate on Cornell, but in reality these past four years have been pretty good to me. Growing up as a local unaffiliated with the university, I had that same opinion of Cornell as many others did; a passive disdain for those elites “far above Cayuga’s waters.” And to be completely honest, I only ever applied because it was close to home and I wouldn’t have to do much research to see if I liked the place. I did not care that it was an Ivy League, nor did I try to get into to any of the other seven. In fact, I only applied to three other universities: UNC at Chapel Hill and William and Mary (my parents’ alma maters), and Ithaca College, the other local school. Notwithstanding the academic quality of each of those schools, looking back it was a pretty blasé way to plan my future. And to be perfectly honest, part of me did not even want to go to Cornell.
But I’m sure as hell am glad I did. Yes, I confirmed several negative preconceptions during my time here. The crushing drive to succeed is very real, and I’ve certainly met a whole lot of people whose personalities can only be described as “inherited wealth.” Overall, my time at Cornell has been incredible, the friends irreplaceable and the education truly world-class. My professors, without exception, have been caring, wonderful people, and the English Department here is, as far as I’m concerned, without peer. I especially want to thank my advisor Prof. Londe and thesis advisor Prof. Anker for their incredible classes and all the help they’ve given me in finding my way in my major, my honors thesis and my professional life moving forward.
And thank you to The Cornell Daily Sun for giving me not only a platform to spout my trash viewpoints, but also a sense of purpose and community here at Cornell. Yeah it sounds sappy, but writing for this here newspaper really made me feel like a part of the University more than any other organization at Cornell did. I never really expected anyone outside my family to read my pieces (especially running alongside our much more popular and exciting sex columns), so it was always heartwarming to receive feedback or even simple recognition that someone I had never met had checked out my columns. Frankly, it still floors me that anything I had to say managed to garner a response at all (shout-out to my fans in the comment section).
But that question, “Do you know what you’re doing after you graduate,” remains the quintessential Cornell inquiry. What’s the next step in your bright and lucrative future as an employable individual? I don’t much care for question itself, but I love telling people my answer: “no.” I have no clue what I’m doing when I graduate. Yes, the fact that I don’t have a job lined up, that I don’t have a great Master Plan for my life, is anxiety-inducing. But that attitude is what got me into Cornell University in the first place, and it is one I intend to maintain after I leave. I never meant to go here, just as I don’t mean to go anywhere specific after college, and the last thing I want to do is forget to live a little on the way to my future. I know many people here may disagree with that mentality, no one knows the definitive formula for success, and so far, it’s worked out fine for me. And to anyone else in my predicament, don’t let it stress you out; to quote Jackson Browne, “There’s a world you know / There’s a way to go.” You’ll find your path, everyone ultimately does, and there is nothing wrong with wandering for a bit, I know I will be.
Take it easy Cornell, and thanks for everything.
Soren Malpass is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorenity Now appears alternate Thursdays this semester.