March 31, 2020

GUEST ROOM | Thanks for the Memories, Cornell

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I wish my microbiology of human contagious diseases class was still theoretical. I never thought that my homework would play out on the news. Like a Cornell hockey power play, COVID-19 has stolen the show. I have learned that this pandemic-causing virus has a lipid bilayer and a RNA genome. But, despite the microbiology knowledge I have gained from this class, I’m still baffled at how this RNA shattered my senior year.

Senior year is the last stretch of the Cornell marathon. But, unfortunately for us, the class of 2020 will never get to run the final leg of the race. Some seniors are missing the NCAA tournament. Personally, I’m missing my last sorority formal. We are all missing Slope Day, birthday parties, bottomless mimosas at brunch and sunsets on the slope. For the class of 2020, senior year will forever be a fictional Neverland.

All of the goodbyes and final memories were supposed to come in May, when the flowers bloom and the sun shines. Our final moments in Ithaca were not supposed to be backdropped by gray skies and bare trees. We left Cornell in a hurry, ending our four year relationship with the University with more panic than romance. There was no Pomp and Circumstance, just quick goodbyes and long lines at the UPS store. In lieu of a graduation speaker imparting words of wisdom, we got a daily armageddon briefing from Governor Cuomo.

And, after all of this, it’s hard to imagine that I will be submitting my final Cornell assignments from the same table on which I did my high school homework. I guess that’s that.

I find myself feeling guilty worrying about such trivial matters when people are getting sick, dying and losing their jobs. My fellow Cornell seniors have to confront economic struggles and familial issues in addition to a lost graduation. It’s hard to lament missing Slope Day when the stock market is in a perpetual nosedive. And Cornell’s empty campus just does not seem like that big of a deal when tumbleweeds are rolling down New York City streets.

As a government major and biology minor, I view this pandemic through both lenses. The Trump administration’s piecemeal response and blinding focus on the Dow Jones will be detrimental in mitigating this virus. A national travel ban is necessary to implement social distancing. Governors cannot fight this alone because, to everyone’s surprise, COVID-19 does not understand state borders. Regardless, it certainly forced me to leave New York State.

The fact of the matter is that everyone has lost something because of COVID-19. And it’s healthy to express our anguish amidst this turmoil. Sure, there’s some privilege behind us seniors mourning Cornell. We are not the victims of this pandemic, but we have lost.

All that seniors want now is closure. Closure is like the period at the end of the sentence. Lack of closure is that sadness when your mom throws away your favorite shirt from high school or that headache when you can’t remember the words to a song. Closure is everything to us. But, alas, the class of 2020 is going to drift into the real world without it.

We expected a gradual ending. However, this has taught us how absurd it is to plan your life — how unnecessary it is to have the 5-year plan tied up with a pretty bow. You also need the stamina and courage to readjust as life turns upside down. The senior class must and will move forward because “there’s no crying in baseball.”

Instead of the marathon ending at 26.2 miles, we’ve stopped at 26 miles. The crowd has dispersed, the finish line has been dismantled and the medals have disappeared. The runners in this incomplete marathon now have to sign up for their next race. For me, my next marathon will be a job in a major city.

I’ll finish up my courses from home. The silver lining is that my mom, who did not take wines during her Cornell undergraduate career, will now audit my wines class from our living room. Thanks to COVID-19, my mom gets to finish her Cornell bucket list. The family is, therefore, one  for two.

As I move back home, with my friends thousands of miles away, watching politicians struggle with this disaster, I will have to make flashcards on COVID-19 terms for my microbiology final. My Quizlet account has never seen a darker irony.

 

Mollie Cramer is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at mcramer@cornellsun.com. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.