May 10, 2022

SAMILOW | Hail and Farewell to Cornell

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I have never been one for tearful goodbyes, priding myself on a certain (perhaps foolish) stoicism –– when the time comes to say goodbye, I usually think to myself, “let’s get it over with.” Yet, reflecting on four years of magic, chaos, disappointment, joy and everything in between, I’d be lying if I said my eyes are dry. Other seniors in my position have reflected that Cornell feels at once too short, exhaustingly long and, in a certain sense, eternal: “The fact remains: Collegetown exists, and will exist, in a perfect instant — just as all history, past and future, is situated in its purest moments,” my good friend Michael Johns ’20 wrote in these pages two years ago. For the class of 2022, whose time in Ithaca is rapidly dwindling, we can find solace in this –– we may be leaving, but our Cornell memories and their impact on us will never vanish. 

When you arrive at Cornell for your freshman fall, four years feels like all the time in the world (I have often imagined my college years as a montage set to the Louis Armstrong song of the same name). Freshman year feels long: there are so many people to meet, so many experiences to take in. But there comes a time — I am not sure whether it’s the same for all students — when the road ahead seems shorter than the road already traveled. For me, sophomore spring, which abruptly ended with a Friday afternoon email, was the crystallizing instant. I realized then that when I returned in the fall I would be a junior and then quickly a senior, and soon enough a graduate.

That’s a scary thought because while you are at Cornell it somehow feels like it’s the only thing you’ve ever known. So, you tell yourself that graduation is not for a while –– that you have plenty of time left. “Senior year will feel like forever,” I remember thinking to myself back in August. Yet, here I am in May, in what feels like the blink of an eye, preparing to depart. College students are always given the cliched advice to “make the most” of their four years. But what does that mean? I certainly didn’t know. The demands of schoolwork and extracurricular activities often make it easy to just let Cornell happen. I don’t have many things I’d change about my four years here, but my one piece of “wisdom” would be to approach one’s time in Ithaca with a sense of purpose and intentionality.

I surely do not remember all of the times I declined to go somewhere or do something because I was tired or had schoolwork, but I do know that I regret them. There’s always time to do work –– the rest of one’s life, in fact. But, there are only so many afternoons at Zeus, so many nights spent with friends in Collegetown and so many games at Lynah. So, as you feel overwhelmed by papers or examinations, remember not to let the essence of the college experience –– time with your friends –– pass you by. 

Surprisingly, I find myself departing Cornell at peace, with a calmness that results from the sincere sense that I have lived my Cornell life to the fullest and that all good things, to remain good, must come to end. 

I would be remiss, though, if I did not mention some of the people who defined my time on the Hill. To my roommate of three years, Alex Paley ’22, thank you for putting up with my penchant for clutter, late night complaining sessions and for being someone to whom I can talk about anything. Thank you to my forebears, Weston Barker ’21, Brendan Dodd ’21, Michael Johns ’20 and Isaac Schorr ’20 –– you welcomed me into Cornell conservatism, taught me everything about campus and became my closest and most loyal friends. With my successors, Avery Bower ’23 and Tyler Unrath ’24, the conservative mission at Cornell could not be in better hands.

My time at Cornell would also not have been the same without the Jewish community here. Thank you to the Cornell Center for Jewish Living, and all of the wonderful people who comprise it, for creating a robust and authentic Jewish space on campus. Finally, those who know me well know that I am no romantic, but I must thank Sara Stober ’22, my closest confidant and best friend. 

I’ll close with the words of poet Constantine Cavafy’s “Ithaka”:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

To the class of 2022, we have lived the marvelous journey, taken in all Ithaca has to offer and now it is, at last, time to say goodbye. 

Matthew Samilow is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. This is the final installment of his column On Mallot’s Front Steps.