As I look toward the semester ahead and consider how I should spend my last semester at Cornell, I realize how much has changed over the past three years of my time here. Most notably, so many on- and off-campus premises continue to be newly established or demolished that I may not even recognize Cornell three years from now. Renovations in Rand Hall have finally been completed almost three years after a car crashed into the building during my freshman year. Long-time Collegetown restaurants such as Aladdin’s have gone out of business and new apartment complexes are constantly under construction.
Personally, I have stretched myself far and wide to adjust to new situations as they arise. I had not expected to be graduating in fall 2019 back when I was writing my last column just a few months ago. If I was told back in fall 2016 that I would be spending my summers in Buffalo, New York City and the Bay Area I would not have believed it. Life really makes unexpected turns, but I would not have it any other way. I have become a more flexible person by learning to adapt to those unforeseen circumstances, which will undoubtedly serve me in the coming years.
I will also admit that it has not always been easy. While I endeavor to expand my current state of mind by venturing out into new places and accepting differing points of view, I am not always as ready to embrace change when it is closer to home. I hold on to the past when I reminisce about the fun times I had on North Campus in freshman year — from hanging out in friends’ dorm rooms to filling myself up with several plates on Sunday brunches at RPCC. I still use the iPhone SE I purchased during orientation week — my first week in the U.S. Even when the screen cracked into pieces last week, I repaired it instead of upgrading to more recent models.
Holding onto outdated items and ways of life from the past provide a sense of familiar comfort necessary to move on to a new stage of life. Yet without letting go of some parts from the past, I know very well that I cannot fully grow to become the best version of myself. I have realized that embracing inevitable change beyond mere adaptation is critical. I look through old photos reflecting on how I could have done better or how I wish I could go back to that point in time. I think about all the times I hadn’t been fully engaged as a student and community member at Cornell.
But I also know very well that I cannot make amends to what has already happened. While new situations that arise may not always be desirable, inevitable change should be thought of as a part of life — you cannot make history into what you wish it was. We all have strong egos and often mistake holding onto something as a sign of cherishing and caring about it, when in fact that may not be best for yourself. Just like a parent needs to accept a child’s maturation instead of holding on to them for too long, each of us needs to let go of some element of the past in order to move on to the present.
There are currently many uncertainties in my life. After having spent an exciting summer full of fond memories of traveling and spending time with family and friends — both old and new — I have yet to figure out what lies ahead for this semester and beyond. I could easily revert to reminiscing about times of the past as a way of coping with the daunting ambiguities. Instead, I choose to welcome and support what the future holds for me as I prepare to close out this pivotal chapter of my life as a college student.
DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here, There, Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.