May 3, 2021

GENDLER | We Are What We Pretend to Be

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I was going to write a Miley Cyrus-inspired “Seven Things I Hate About You,” where I detailed all the hard things about life at Cornell and then talk about how through it all, “you make me love you.”

Then I decided to Google “Kurt Vonnegut quotes,” and this one is too good not to write about instead:

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

One of my favorite parts of college is existing in this bubble, where we get to delay being real people for a while to learn, meet people and have fun. In a lot of ways, it’s a pretend world. Students in business clubs pretend to be business people, kids in English classes pretend to be literary scholars, members of student boards pretend to be high-ranking officials.

Working at The Sun for four years felt real: In a university environment where so much happens within this Cornell bubble, I felt like journalism was a part of real life that made an impact beyond campus. But really, this was a pretend school club too. I pretended to be a hockey writer, news-breaker and storyteller; really, I was a kid making friends and memories, doing some journalism work along the way.

What we pretend to be shapes so much of who we become (when I wrote my first article, I thought about pretending to be a grownup and being Raphael instead of Raphy, but decided I wasn’t old enough for that). One of the great things about Cornell is that you can do anything and be anybody — they should really have a slogan about how any person can study anything. But for all the talk about what I want to be when I grow up, I found more important the opportunity to think about who I want to be when I grow up.

I love Cornell, and my least favorite thing about Cornell (this is the seven things I hate rolled into one) is that sometimes people think they’re cool for not liking it here, or that they’re in a competition for who is most busy and miserable. I haven’t done a formal poll, but I think that more people love it here and think they’re super lucky to go here than will admit it. Consider this an attempt to encourage people not to wait to discover and then keep pursuing what you love about this place.

At Sweet Melissa’s for their first day of the season recently, I saw a four- or five-year old kid, big smile, bright green-blue tie dye shirt and felt, with graduation a month away, a combination of old and nostalgic. Ice cream with some great friends was something I should’ve done more of but that I felt so lucky to have now, and that I’ll remember much longer than I will trying and eventually giving up on figuring out how interest rates work in freshman year macroeconomics.


What feels like 100 years ago, I was the sports editor of this friendly neighborhood paper. Sports have the power to unite us and create a powerful sense of community that’s hard to find at our fast-paced and big university. At a place where school spirit isn’t high during a cold February, a buzzing Lynah Rink during a playoff game was an escape from winter and a reminder of what it can look like when people come together.

I loved this job because there’s always a story in sports, something beyond the score of the game that brings people together: Triumph, heartbreak, drama, unity, politics. Serving as sports editor was a lesson that at the core of everything is people and relationships. I’ll take with me the importance of telling real people’s stories and how these stories impact real life in ways that make a difference.


This is the self-indulgent part of the senior column that I said I didn’t want to write but here we are: Thank you to all the people at Cornell and The Sun who helped me grow up over the last four years. It’s been a wild time, and I feel like the luckiest kid ever to be able to say that if I could go back in time I really wouldn’t have done this any differently.

Thanks to everyone who read my work over the years, whether it was about hockey, the pandemic, or something in between. And thank you especially to my parents, who are probably the only ones to have made it to the end of this.

Raphy Gendler is graduating from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He was a senior editor on the 138th editorial board and was the sports editor on the 137th editorial board.