March 3, 2022

BEARD | Don’t Forget to Say Thanks

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I love Cornell, and I’m not afraid to say it. The legions of Reddit users posting some variation of “where’s the sun?” to the Cornell Reddit page may disagree, but overall, I think our school is a lovely place. And, yes, I mean both in the depths of winter and in the summer. Bottom line: I am grateful to be a Cornelian. 

So why am I coming out against the Reddit-using, Big Red bashing Cornell opposition? The key word is in my last sentence: gratitude. Wherever I go around campus, I hear a cacophony of complaints – complaints about grades, job applications, club memberships, relationships and more. I know them well because they are the very complaints that I, too, vocalize to my friends and classmates every day. However, too often lacking between all gripes, both my own and my peers’,  is a sense of thankfulness. 

I’m not saying you should walk out of Bailey Hall, throw your arms wide to the sky, and exclaim “LET’S GO! I GOT A C ON MY PRELIM!” Obviously, that isn’t something to be happy about, but that isn’t gratitude either. What I mean is taking a minute to appreciate what’s around you.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who was insecure over whether they were making the most of their years at Cornell. This is a question I understand quite well. In my two years here, I’ve tried to join organizations and packed my schedule, both because of my interests and because I’m afraid of wasting away my college years, living lecture to lecture. In other words, both my friend and I have been trying to make meaning — to get more out of Cornell.

At the same time, though, this interaction provided a moment for an important reflection. I thought about it. My friend certainly is not “wasting away.” They’re involved in countless extracurriculars, they have a job this summer, they get good grades, they’re on a sports team and perhaps most importantly, they have a close-knit circle of friends who care about them. This certainly doesn’t seem like a person lacking experiences in college. If anything, it looks like someone getting closer to Maslow’s self-actualization. Perhaps, on the surface, I appear similarly well-adjusted and thriving. Yet, both my friend and I were feeling as if we were lacking something. What could be going on here? 

Cornell, like the rest of society, prioritizes achievement. In our infinite ambition, we’re always seeking something else. In pursuit of this ideal of more and more, we often live our lives from goal to goal, or contrastingly, from crisis to crisis. The world we live in is obsessed with the things we lack or the things that could be better. We crave comfort, yet at the same time, we too often take the comfort of normality for granted. 

The point here is this: Perhaps in my friend’s, myself and your search for meaning, gratitude should play a larger role. Every day, try to find something to be thankful for. I’m not saying complaining should go out the window entirely. As long as my world isn’t perfect, I certainly don’t plan to stop vocalizing my grievances. Even if your world isn’t exactly where you want it to be, there are still things worth appreciating. It could be the person who holds the door for you, your friend asking you how your day went, or the brief bit of sunlight you catch during your walk between classes. All of these are undoubtedly good, yet we let these moments slip by without recognizing their beauty. Appreciate them; cherish the fleeting moments.

Gratitude isn’t a cure-all for all of our worldly problems. While we’ll still have those higher-order complaints, I’ll tell you what gratitude can do for you. Stopping and staying thanks every once in a while can help keep your life to scale. It can help you to be happier with what you have and ground you in the day-to-day existence that may otherwise slip by. Our lives will never be “perfect” but appreciation can go a long way in making it better.

So yes, Ithaca may be cold, and Cornell may load us down with work, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world. Whether here at school or in our lives off-campus, we will always strive for more and things we want to change. We will always feel the allure to shun what we have in favor of something new or “better.”In order to appreciate what we already have, however, it is important that we embrace gratitude for all the good — no matter how small.

Brenner Beard ‘24 is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] Agree to Disagree runs every other Friday this semester.