May 10, 2017

JEONG | fin.

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I’ve been told by my editor that this will be the last Opinion piece that The Sun will publish this academic year. I was originally going to write a piece of triumphant platitude that ended by quoting Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night,” but realized that by doing so, I would be going pretty fucking gently into that good night. So I will spare you the TEDTalk, because that’s what ILR classes are for anyways.

Instead, I want to talk about something much more fundamental and simple: nostalgia. As another school year comes to an end and I see close friends ready to leave Ithaca, it’s a sentiment that I’ve been thinking about often these days. Nostalgia is a funny feeling. It envelops you with warmth, but it is colored with melancholy. It shrouds our memories with a honey-coloured mist, turning even the most ordinary memory into something deeply personal and precious. It can be tainted by regret, blurred by “what ifs” or blushed with embarrassment, but the reason nostalgia is so sacred is because it is something that is forever lost. Lost love, lost youth, lost innocence — we covet the past because they are moments we will never have again.

We take capture pictures to capture even the most minute details of the present. God know how many hard drives worth of data you’ve spent to capture Snapchat stories in filthy annex parties in Collegetown. Or how many time you’ve paused by the stairs leading up to the slope to catch a picture of a particularly beautiful sunset. However, no picture we take can ever capture the full palette of pastels and oranges that paints West Campus from our view from the top of the hill. More importantly, no picture will ever recreate the carefree air that you breathe or the childlike bliss you feel when skipping class to bathe under the sun on the first day of spring. Nor can you recreate the coziness of friendship while sharing while going through pitchers at Regent on a Thursday evening. We take pictures not to capture the landscape or our environment, but the emotions of a particular instant.

I’ve always felt that happiness was too fickle of a metric to measure my life with; instead, I measure my life by the number of close relationships I’ve built and the list of fulfilling experiences I’ve had. Finding meaning in meaningful people and building meaningful memories seem much more tangible and less cheap than simply seeking happiness. The reason why our memories are so cherished is because time is evanescent, and by extension, our recollection of these moments is imbued significance by the people we spend them with and how we spend them. The March morning you first saw your college sweetheart walk out of Goldwin Smith, the autumn afternoons tossing a Frisbee across falling yellow and red foliage in the Arts quad, or those freshman nights stumbling back to North from College below a tapestry of stars — these moments, seemingly insignificant at the time, are what shape and become our conception of college.
As nostalgia usually works, the humdrum of Cornell will bring both fondness and wistfulness one day in the future. We’ll scroll through old Instagram pictures and flip through photo albums that will invariably bring up memories of “that one time in college” and all the emotions that came with it. By then, we probably won’t be able to shotgun as many beers or sled down the snow-covered slope without major injury. But the loss of our past is not something we should mourn. It is something we should embrace for having once lived.