July 7, 2020

JUNEJA | Rays of Sunshine

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I came to Cornell as a naive, optimistic, wide-eyed freshman, filled with a sense of unbridled excitement about what the future would bring. I left as a cynical, pessimistic senior with bags under my eyes, filled with a sense of overwhelming fear about what the future would bring. Not exactly the profound character development I had been hoping for. Alas, life isn’t a sitcom and happy endings aren’t guaranteed, but I am so incredibly thankful for the many moments of Sun-shine I experienced in between an awe-inspiring arrival and a dismal departure during my (almost) four years in Ithaca.

Four years ago, I didn’t know what I was going to major in, I didn’t know who my friends would be, I didn’t know which extracurriculars I wanted to join and I especially didn’t know if the brand new winter coat and snow boots I bought would get me through the Ithaca winters. I joined The Sun on a whim during my first semester of college, attending the information session in a large auditorium in Goldwin-Smith. I had never written an article before, and I suddenly found myself constantly reporting on a variety of topics, talking with students, faculty and community members I otherwise never would have met. As a news editor, I went from writing content to assigning content, realizing just how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep The Sun going. Stories would fall through at the last minute and breaking news would occur when least expected, so front pages would have to be redesigned at a moment’s notice. And as a senior editor, I went through The Sun archives with a colleague to write a series of “Solar Flashbacks” about Cornell history through the eyes of The Sun. Going through the archives was truly fascinating (and not a bad quarantine activity if you’re particularly bored). It was enlightening to see how campus life evolved over the last century and a half, and it was humbling to realize that we were all just a small part of something much bigger than ourselves. I never imagined joining the editorial board when I first arrived at Cornell, but I am honored to have been a small ray of sunshine that contributed to such a star of an institution.

One of the quotes that stood out to me while digging through the archives is this one from Sun editor E.W. Huffcut 1884: “No one expected [The Sun] to live. In fact it was commonly predicted that it would not last a month, a week.”

It’s kind of crazy to think that The Sun almost didn’t make it to the present day, because my college experience would certainly have been different, but it was reassuring to know that the previous editors were nothing more than students like us, filled with confusion and uncertainty, but driven by a sense of purpose. The Sun definitely lasted more than a week or a month, becoming an integral institution that persisted through previous epidemics and world wars and even endured a factional split that briefly produced two Suns in 1893. And the reason The Sun has survived and thrived all these years is because of the endless energy countless of dedicated editors and writers have poured into it.

I’d like to give a huge shout out to the 136th Editorial Board’s news crew (you know who you are) — you were a fantastic team to work with and always inspired me to be a better editor and a better person. Some of my favorite memories of college will definitely include undertaking midnight snack runs to Shortstop Deli, complaining about why Sunstyle doesn’t use the Oxford comma, brainstorming alliterative photo captions and puns, sitting in “the corner” of CTB, sending memes on Slack and GroupMe, procrastinating in Klarman KG42, watching horror movies after all stories had been published for the night, attempting to concentrate on editing stories amidst intense Nerf Gun battles, venturing to the upstairs floor of The Sun office solely for celebrations and walking back uphill to campus from the Commons after a long night of desking “just for the fun of it.”

I have been so impressed by how the newest editorial board has risen to the challenge of providing such thorough and informative reporting during a global pandemic, and I have every faith that these rays of Sunshine will continue to keep The Sun shining brightly through these dark times.

On my flight to Ithaca in the fall of 2016, I read the paper copy of the entire freshman issue of The Sun, feeling that it so appropriately captured my feelings of anticipation, and entered campus proud to be a Cornellian. On my flight out of Ithaca in the spring of 2020, I scrolled through the headlines on The Sun app on my phone (before switching it to airplane mode of course), feeling that it so appropriately covered all the continuing chaos, and left campus proud to be a Cornellian.

If this column hasn’t contained enough sappy cliches and cheesy sentiments, I’ll end on this note. Like many seniors, I initially felt a sense of profound loss about senior spring and graduation, but after processing my feelings I realized, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” (which I thought must have been a quote from a romcom, but Google has informed me that it is apparently from Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne). There were a lot of things I didn’t get to properly say good-bye to. I pulled my last all-nighter in the Cocktail Lounge, thinking I’d be back there again soon to study for finals. I had my last Cosmopolitan at Ruloffs, thinking I’d be back there again soon for another trivia night. I ordered my last pizza bagel at CTB, thinking that I’d be back there again soon for another brunch. I ate my last soup at Zeus, thinking that I’d be back there again soon after another class. I watched my last sunset on the slope, thinking that I would be back there again soon for a final Slope Day. I said casual goodbyes to various peers and acquaintances, thinking I would see them again soon at graduation. Yet despite the way it all ended, I still feel lucky that I found so many people, places and memories that made me proud to be a Cornellian.

The Class of 2020 will forever be impacted by what we experienced on and off campus. But we were a small part of something bigger than ourselves, we were each rays of sunshine that helped make Cornell the shining star that it is, was and will continue to be.


Shruti Juneja is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was a Senior Editor on The Sun’s 137th Editorial Board, and a News Editor on the 136th Editorial Board.