May 1, 2023

DERY | One Last Lick

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The other day, I spoke with a friend who asked about how I liked my time at Cornell. To that I said, “I got lucky.” I got lucky starting a fantasy football league with two podmates on the fourth floor of Kay Hall. I got lucky randomly sitting next to a student at Appel, who later that night introduced me to a fellow physics major. They are all now my closest friends. I got lucky that home was a two hour bus ride away, and I could go see family and reset whenever I needed. I got lucky that I had a support system around me that talked me out of stupid decisions like pulling unnecessary all-nighters, and talked me into stupider ones like bat hunting in McGraw Hall. 

It was not too long ago that I was sitting alone in the silence of my room on North Campus after my parents had dropped me off for orientation week. My door was cracked open in the hope that a friendly face would come walking in, but none did. At that moment, I could not conceive the enriching experience that my four years on the Hill would turn out to be. I wouldn’t trade in my four years here at Cornell for anything. 

Thank you, Paris, for your warm welcome to Cornell that summer night in 2019 when I received the “Welcome to Opinion!” email. I will always cherish the opportunity to write my first column, Take Your Headphones Off, before even taking my first college course. And the moment at the beginning of French class where my professor shouted out Stop Glorifying Busy. I even cherish that time I wrote my first article after getting sent home for COVID, sluggishly typing every letter with my index finger as I layed sideways in bed. 

As the years have gone by, for better or worse, I started to wear headphones a little more, and my schedule has only gotten busier. Aside from winning a Pets of Becker competition by submitting pictures of my friends and me, I never really did feel the dorm pride either. What I value most from reading The Dery Bar over the years, however, is that I can unlock memories of anecdotes that documented each chapter at Cornell. I do not know what the right graduation column looks like, but in this last lick at The Dery Bar before it all melts away, I only hope to be able to unlock a memory or two when reading this down the road.

I did not know it as an incoming freshman, but The Cornell Daily Sun, and by extension The Dery Bar, was the only club I would join. I do not necessarily regret this  —  it meant that the (albeit limited) amount of time outside of physics was time without structure. I gained two main skills: The first is spontaneity, a trait I grew into over my time on the Hill and will embrace for the rest of my life. The other is Mario Kart.

I believe that my Cornell experience lacking diversity in activities is not an anomaly. A Cornell education, if done to its fullest, is highly rigorous and offers so many leads to take. I was soon faced with defining what are and are not valuable investments of my short time here. Unfortunately, for much of my time, a problem set was more important to me than that orientation week party, and eventually more important than joining clubs, and not too long after that, more important than hobbies, too. 

Once I’ve fallen down this slippery slope of skewed priorities, I find it hard to change. Long nights carried into weekends, ensuing prelim seasons, then finals weeks and eventually, semesters — now I find myself weeks from graduation still having a problem set to finish tonight. I’ve never been much of a hobbyist, but I’ve learned that Cornell takes any priorities you may have and exacerbates them to the maximum. I hope to reintroduce hobbies back in my life as I leave the Hill, and I encourage any young Cornellians to think critically about priorities — and divvy up four years’ worth of time here accordingly.

Thank you, Morrill Hall, for being my study spot and second home on campus for four years. My first memory was stumbling into the room closest to the Southern entrance and FaceTiming my mom in despair after my first ever prelim. I’ll miss the little walks from Morrill to Libe Cafe for lunch, and hearing the Chimes on my way back, hands full with a PB&J sandwich, cheese stick and chocolate milk. 

Morrill Hall sheltered me during the November 2021 bomb threat. It spectated hours of catch on the Quad and falling asleep during an all nighter only to be woken up by the janitor. Morrill bore witness to other successful all nighters that blended into West campus breakfasts. It watched as I stumbled in, exhausted and sunburnt after my first Slope Day. Indoor cricket games. Pasta night. Falling asleep after movie night and getting kicked out by another janitor. Writing my last column. It will certainly be my first stop whenever I come back to visit.

As for myself, Cornell has presented me with many challenges — both academic and personal — and I am richer for it. In four years, I have grown remarkably in my ability to perceive, do thoughtfully and, more importantly, do spontaneously. I am going to miss the people the most, but I am ready to graduate. I think any more time spent here would just have me burrowing further down the same rabbit holes I have nestled myself into. I can look at my time on the Hill in the eye and give it a confident smile. Maybe even take it out to dinner. But then again, I do have that problem set due tonight. . . 

Roei Dery is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. This is the final installment of his column The Dery Bar.