April 7, 2021

CHANG | Where Have the Good Times Gone?

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I remember my senior year of high school fondly — perhaps a little too fondly. I took weekend trips to Kansas City and Chicago with my group of friends (any city is a big deal when you grow up next to corn in the Midwest). We hung out every day after school for hours and stayed up way too late after prom. I almost failed my government class but laughed it off, became friends with my teacher and got lucky enough to retake an exam (sorry Stuelpe!), graduate and end up in Ithaca in the fall nearly four years ago.

Where has that senior energy gone? Where is the obnoxious, spontaneous and “willing to do anything” spirit that evolves from nowhere for each graduating class? I’ve looked everywhere for it, but it’s absolutely nonexistent.

Instead, I’m wiped. And I know so many of my senior friends feel the same way. Instead of looking forward to each week and counting down the days until commencement on May 30, all we want to do is lounge around and scroll the days away on TikTok. We don’t miss classes out of spite for the professor or a genuine dislike of school. After all, everything is recorded so we have access to the material if we want to view it. We’re just done, and we don’t want any more.

Obviously, COVID-19 has taken so much more than simply our time, mental health and energy. It has meant millions of lives lost and an emotional and physical burden on nearly everyone. The pandemic has destroyed our sense of purpose.

For the class of 2021, we don’t have Senior Days, we don’t have a spring break, we might not have commencement (c’mon President Pollack, we’ve asked you for information about this for months) and we might not be able to do anything during our summer break. To get up every day without an end goal in sight — just to be beaten down by more school, new restrictions or the tragedy of 2021 — seems pointless.

I didn’t pick the easiest senior year, either, which might have been my fault or my saving grace. I picked up an additional major at the start of senior year, so there’s still a few classes I need to pass to actually graduate. My clubs and responsibilities (like writing this column) have meant that I have to get up whether I like it or not. 

I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed parts of this year — there have still been so many good memories made and so many quintessential fun college moments. Cornellians have found creative ways to still enjoy themselves — from socially distanced meals to  outdoor activities under the sun and  the stars. I don’t regret coming back to Ithaca and I’m okay with my decision not to graduate early. But there’s still a lot missing from what is supposed to be the capstone semester to four years of gritty, hard work. Instead of college seniors, we’ve become senior citizens waiting till the end. 

During the fall semester, I called on everybody to get some rest. Many, many others have said that we need more breaks. Part of it is certainly the university’s responsibility. Of course the administration tried, but that doesn’t make finishing the semester here any easier. Much of what I write reflects what I’m going through at the moment, and this current piece is no different. These last six weeks will be a crawl to the finish.

There truly may not be anything else to do besides waiting out the pandemic. Vaccinations are happening quickly and offices are returning to in-person work. By the time the class of 2021 begins their first job (or graduate school) in the fall, we might have some sense of normalcy. In the meantime, take those breaks. For the seniors, graduate and don’t fail your classes. Get that bread. 

Together, we can lament as Van Halen does, wondering “Where have all the good times gone?”

Darren Chang is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at dchang@cornellsun.com. Swamp Snorkeling runs every other Thursday this semester.