May 29, 2021

FOX | We Got Lucky

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I met my Freshman year roommate on Facebook. He seemed nice enough and worried about the possibility of roommate disaster. I was happy to commit to 9 months in the same shoe box with him. The night before move-in day, my family drove  up to Ithaca and we spent the night in a small hotel about 10 minutes outside of the city. I walked into the lobby, bubbling with excitement, nervous for my first day of school. My new roommate, off the plane from Taiwan, was the first face I saw. 

By random chance, our families chose the same hotel to stay in that night despite all the other possibilities. That night, the fire alarm went off, and dozens of Cornell families streamed out of their rooms into the parking lot. This was my first glimpse of the community I was soon to enter and a chance to bond with my new roommate. This random confluence of events set the tone for my next four years, made magical by the unshakable marriage of fate and good fortune.

I am constantly grateful for my good luck. On move-in day, right after we unpacked our lives and our families  left, my roommate and I progressed down our floor of Mary Donlon Hall, knocking on doors and introducing ourselves. Countless neighbors who I met that day are still my dear friends; a dozen of them among my closest. Luck placed  me into a community committed to daily adventures, discoveries and expressions of love. Immediately I was home.

For my second Freshman Writing Seminar, I enrolled in a course about education policy that involved piling into a van with my class twice a week to drive to a middle school where we tutored and mentored students. We bonded quickly, spending time together outside of the classroom and showing up as a group for one friend’s dance show. That friend — the dancer, whose talents earned his group the top prize in a Red Bull national competition — was also the hiring manager at Café Jennie in the Cornell Store. When I needed a job, he had me in an apron behind the counter within a week.

Café Jennie proved to be a community of its own, netting food and fun that made work a true thrill to show up for. Both the students and the full-time staff were — and are — friendly, welcoming and ready to make something special out of any regular shift. The food is great, although eating it three times a week will make anyone grow a little tired of it, but the staff is a gem, embedded in the core of campus. I’m honored to have shared the space with them, if only for a while.

A friend from New York City transferred to Cornell sophomore year and promptly founded a club she invited me to join. It’s membership quickly became another social center of gravity. I cherish their friendship and take pride in our dynamic; just last week we earned first prize at Loco trivia night.

Last semester, when I chose not to return to campus in order to work on the presidential election, I was unsure if I would ever return full-time. At the height of the pandemic and with the fate of the country in the hands of just a few swing states, uncertainty hung in the air. I wrote A Premature Senior Column, bidding goodbye to this second home, just in case.

But I did come back. For my final three months of college, I chose to be present. Sure to savor these moments, I tried to do it all. I traveled the Finger Lakes Region, taking in its natural splendor. I tried new foods and caught up with old friends. Home-cooked family style dinners with friends became a staple. I spent days out in the cold but beautiful weather. On the really special days, the sun even came out. I collapsed into the couches of the homes of my friends from Mary Donlon Hall at the end of each adventure in this gift called Ithaca. 

None of this is to say that I hoarded all the good fortune to myself. Look no further than the endless testimonials of our fellow students or alumni. Look no further than the sheer number of Cornellians who came here and fell in love. 

We take leaps of faith in life. It’s why we’re here. We roll the dice countless times hoping for the best, but ready to take whatever the numbers are. But here, in this place, we roll doubles just a little more often than random chance would allow. My greatest fortune of all was to attend Cornell University, a place where magic abounds, where luck is just a little more plentiful and we never have to look too hard to find it.

Elijah Fox is graduating from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. This is the last installment of his column What Does the Fox Say? .