April 30, 2020

GUEST ROOM | Come Back, Cornell, All Is Forgiven

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Note: This column was inspired by a New York Times article that can be found here.

I forgive you, Cornell. I forgive your tenacity, your anxiety, your hustle and bustle. I forgive your tuition that seems to always be higher than necessary. I forgive the Sunday morning hangovers. I forgive the late-night study sessions and finals week. I forgive the record of your varsity sports teams. I’ll even forgive your parking that’s only available at the most inconvenient times. I’ll forgive everything if you just come back.

I know I’ve complained a lot, but I forgive the mud-covered floors in fraternity annexes, the beer cans littering the sidewalks, the pizza and calzones that make us sick, the expensive Insomnia cookies, the long lines outside Hideaway, the drunken stumble of fishbowl Wednesdays, the Starbucks where we get no work done, the crumbling homes and apartment buildings, the beer pong on front porches. The truth is, we loved the excitement of Collegetown; we never imagined it would end.

You gave us so much, but we failed to recognize it. I don’t know how I was so blind that I couldn’t appreciate your creativity, your confidence, your angst, your courses, your close communities, your encouragement, your tough love. How could I not see that every student on your campus possesses that Cornell ambition and that indescribable empathy for one another?

I forgive you for it all. For your freshmen wandering on North Campus, your engineers complaining about problem sets, your shushers in Olin when we speak too loudly, your philosophers deconstructing every argument we make, your professors that forget we have other courses, your business students bragging about their future income working in finance, your organic chemistry classes, your distribution requirements and your skill in breaking students down just to build them back up better than before. I forgive you.

I am willing to forgive Greek life. I forgive your fraternity brothers and I forgive your sorority sisters (and all their date nights too). The scorching dorms in August, forgiven. The 14-inch snowstorms that aren’t quite bad enough to get classes cancelled, forgiven. I forgive the prelims, the 20-page papers, the stress, the common struggle, the cursing, the tears shed. And of course, I’ll forgive those awkward interactions in front of Klarman with that guy we met once during freshman year.

I forgive your Student Assembly, your Board of Trustees, your bureaucratic nonsense. I forgive you for your “Join Band” chalkings on Ho Plaza, for your dancers who implore us to buy a ticket to their show at least once a week. I forgive you for the chimes concerts when I’m trying to sleep, and I forgive you for making me hike up the slope. I forgive you for the far walk from the townhouses to Duffield, your gothics on West Campus, your gyms that aren’t free for students. I forgive the shortage of tables at Libe and Terrace because I know your hungry students are just trying to unwind for a few minutes between classes.

I forgive you for the career fairs. I forgive the existential fear of life after Cornell. I forgive the LSAT review sessions and resume critiques and practice interviews. I forgive the social rounds and coffee chats that are somehow both formal and informal and always nerve racking.

I’ll forgive you for ClubFest and for overwhelmed freshmen that don’t even know where to begin. I forgive you for the ten extracurricular commitments each student has, the hours-long executive board meetings, the project teams and the way you convince students that competing over who gets the least amount of sleep is normal.

I know you’re hurting, and we’re hurting too. But I forgive you for making me question myself sometimes, for making me question you sometimes, for making me want to crawl into a hole and forget my responsibilities sometimes. There’s no denying that we’ve had rough days together, but we’ve also had some amazing ones. I forgive you for all your flaws, and I appreciate you for all that you offer.

Thank you for the sledding down the slope, for that bike ride around Cayuga lake, for your delicious ice cream, for the sunset hitting the clock tower at just the right angle, for the trips to Waffle Frolic and for PokeLava and Asian Noodle House. Thank you for your insightful professors, for your diverse student body, for the Botanic Gardens, for your hockey games, for Slope Day, and for the cookies at Zeus. Thank you for the meaningful friendships you create, for your compassion, for the knowledge you provide us, for your valuable lessons and for the opportunity to drive through Ithaca, glimpse your beauty on top of the hill and think to myself, “This is home.”

As a Cornellian, I took you for granted. I was in a hurry, and I was forgetful. I hope you can understand that. Please forgive me and all the students who forgot to savor the moments they shared with you. Just for you, I’ll even forgive Oakenshields. Just come back. Please, just come back. I know we can work something out.

Jason Katz is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically throughout the semester.