The relationship between ends and beginnings is parasitic. For something to end, it must already exist. For something to begin, it must not yet be. Burrowed deep inside the ends of things dwells a promise of the new. That promise — of a beginning — must slowly consume the ending within which it is sheltered until it is material and its host is not.
In the English language, we verbally acknowledge this cycle. Deadlines are aptly named, revealing that the death of a process must occur so a future product may exist. Commencement, too, is appropriately titled. Though it refers to the completion of a degree, the word implies that this conclusion is simultaneously the origin of something else.
And as I write this, I am exactly two months out from my graduation day.
Graduating from college is hard for all the obvious tangible reasons. Moving from one place to live in a new one. Abandoning an old routine in favor of a new one. De-prioritizing the job of student to get hired for the next. Settling your affairs here so you can enter different obligations.
We are actively making these transitions in the physical world, so though it may be difficult, we are able to conceptualize the necessity of the end to pave way for the coming beginning. On the other hand, the intangible transitions — those that occur within the confines of the mind, consciously and subconsciously — are much more difficult.
I consciously understand that I will no longer be a part of a cohort united by purpose and trajectory. I consciously understand that no institution will ever again serve solely to nurture me. Those are behavioral transitions, so despite their intangibility, they are comprehensible.
The most complex changes to process, however, are the subconscious ones. These are the transitions words fail to accurately express; the occurrences for which there is no easy language. They exist outside of the parameters of space and time. For example, the feeling that one remains reliant on the host, despite having in reality moved on.
Better writers than I have managed to articulate this ineffable experience. One was Dr. Seuss, who writes in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!:
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked …
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
The failure to move forward and choose a new path, according to Seuss, results in the inhabitance of “The Waiting Place,” which he says is “a most useless place.” There, people sit stagnant, waiting for something to happen, like “for the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No.” Others in the Waiting Place are there because they want a thing they don’t have, like “a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.”
As we embark on this journey towards the unknown, it is imperative that we remember that there will be no street signs, that the windows will be darked — that front doors will be closed, that no map can be found, that perils abound.
But we cannot wait for the windows to light, for friendly strangers to guide, for directions to be given. We cannot wait for something to come that might save us. Because if we do, they never will. When we wait, we delay the death that is our ending, and in so doing, forestall the birth of what might be our beginning.
In Spanish, the phrase meaning “to give birth” is “dar a luz,” for which the direct translation is “to bring to light.” All of us are parasites at first, burrowed deep inside our biological mothers, sheltered until our existence is realized and our host is no longer our home. Unborn children innately understand the parasitic nature of ends and beginnings — they consume without thinking, solely for the purpose of bringing themselves to light.
So too must we consume, without hesitation, our prevailing state of being, because only then can we bring to light what’s next. We know we must fully consume our Cornell education before we can embark on our careers. We know we must consume the experience of cohort membership in preparation for the experience of independence.
But we often forget that we must not fall into the Waiting Place of the immaterial; still holding on to what’s already ended.
They say home is where the heart is. In every blade of grass on the Slope upon which this place is perched, in every Keystone can littered in the making of chosen families, in every sidewalk scuffed by the march of our intentions, you can feel our heart beat. But as we trickle out across highways and skies just a few weeks from now, that pulse will start to fade away. At the same time, we will hear our own individual pulses grow louder.
This time, this place and these people are tangent lines, all three meeting once and never again. And our ways of being and thinking were truly shaped here — about ourselves, our relationship to others, to the world.
But you came here so that someday, you could go somewhere else. Squeezing every last drop out of this place made you who you are. Be unafraid to start feeding the person you’ve yet to become, and oh, the places you’ll go.
Jade Pinero is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jaded and Confused runs every other Thursday this semester.