April 21, 2022

OLGUÍN | The Places We’re In, The Places We Go

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I’ve recently started to dislike the spaces I have loved in the past. The spaces that were my home during the early mornings of trying to catch up on work and the long nights of racing against a deadline. Now, simply walking into the areas I once loved gives me a feeling of such palpable out-of-placeness. These spaces feel novel to me now. I remember the amount of lively people that occupied a bustling Klarman on a busy weekday, and while that’s returned in our in-person year, I now feel like I don’t know the space anymore. 

It’s filled with the unfamiliar faces of two years of undergraduate students I never had the privilege or chance to meet in passing or an in-person class. When I walk in, I’m also hit with the knowledge that the person who used to spend their nights there is fairly different than the same person writing this today. And it’s the anxiety that the space isn’t home for me anymore, because this wider space of Cornell won’t be home for much longer either. It’s home and it will be home for the next and next and next classes of Cornellians to come. 

Through my undergrad years, I’ve been lucky enough to have spaces of refuge — places that I could go to and know that I would see a friendly smile or a familiar face. I’ve spent bouts of time in an Olin third floor library room knowing I would find a friend there, essay-writing evenings hunkered down in AD White and days and nights in the Klarman atrium. Time has been spent in Mann, and I had a little bout doing work in Bradfield. Hours of my time have been spent hanging out in Uris Hall and several naps have been had on the fourth floor of Rockefeller in between classes. Now back from the online year, I’ve taken to re-discovering these spaces I once found refuge in.

Reflecting on my fully in-person senior year, I’m glad that I got back a sense of normalcy in many ways. Acquaintances, friends of friends, friends in classes  — finally seeing the people you wouldn’t have seen in the past year. These types of experiences were made possible by this past year, and I’m thankful for that. Yet, I can’t lie that there was a steep learning curve in coming back. In realizing what it meant to come back to real life, to socialize in small talk, to speak out loud in discussion and to know that in the time we paused, two new years of students were hanging out for the ride. The pause that we had for the past year feels so long ago, and recently it’s begun to feel again like I’m running, running to catch up to the things I need to do, the people I need to spend time with, the places I need to see and the experiences I need to live through before I go. 

As I also see prospective students walk around and tour around, I’m tempted to tell them that they’ve only dipped their toes into what you could know about this place. That besides the history, besides the campus beauty, there’s stories and people behind the walls. That this place was home for generations of students before me and will continue to be home long  after I leave.

In all, the reality of the next few weeks of school is close to finally hitting me. I’ve belatedly figured out what’s next, but it doesn’t make the dread or the uncertainty of it all any less frightening. It’s a time of feeling ready for it, while knowing that it won’t be long before Ithaca becomes just another place you spent time in during your life. In these last few weeks, I sometimes wish time would suspend, but it seems to only go faster in the moments you want it to go the slowest of all. So I’ve taken more time trying to enjoy the spaces that I’m in, the Goldwin Smith Hall room, the Olin library view, the apartment home on Quarry and the friends in it. I’ve taken more time aiming to jot down mental pictures of where the pots were, where the couch and lamp are. I want to spend more time remembering what each space held for me, and recollecting events and memories that are tied there. In some ways, in many ways, this place and its people were a refuge to me. Yet in so many other ways, it has reminded me that there’s so many more places to go. 

Vanessa Olguín (she/her) is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Long Story Short runs every other Friday this semester.