May 12, 2023

YAO | Saying Goodbye to ‘Hello Katie’

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I’ve been accumulating snapshots for this final column since freshman year. Amorphous ideas stored in the back of my mind, half-baked phrases in the notes app on my phone, 3 a.m. text message wisdom to friends. Yet now, when I have to transform my jumbled miscellanea into coherent sentences, nothing I can write feels adequate. After all, how do you consolidate four years, one pandemic, a million existential crises and a billion more memories into a cohesive narrative? 

This is the 29th and final piece that I will ever write for Hello Katie, so to say The Sun was a big part of my time at Cornell would be a gross understatement. I admittedly chose the name Hello Katie for my column because my 19-year-old brain thought wordplay on Hello Kitty was the apex of wittiness. But my column name also signaled an introduction. Hello Katie became my way of making sense of Cornell and the strange, terrible, wonderful ordeal that is college — and it allowed me a voice so that Cornell could make sense of me. 

I joined The Sun as a freshman in January of 2020, and for the next four tumultuous semesters, these articles served as a constant in my life. Like clockwork, the biweekly Sunday deadline provided me stability through the first, daunting days of the pandemic, when my fledgling college career took a steep nosedive into uncharted waters. I documented the weeks in limbo where I had all the time in the world to ponder my existence, my major crisis (literally), my decision to stay home sophomore fall and my decision to return to campus sophomore spring. As life returned to a normal-adjacent state — and I panicked over how limited my time in the college bubble truly was — my column bore witness to a slew of upperclassman introspection. In the safety of my Google Docs, I grappled with the discombobulation of being a junior with the traditional college experience of a freshman, learned what it meant to grow up and grow independent and raced to chronicle the small joys I had missed out on for 1.5 years.

I hadn’t planned on running for an editorship at any point, but a conversation with Odeya Rosenband ‘22 and Catherine St. Hilaire ‘22 in November of 2021 changed my mind and the trajectory of my Sun tenure. I will be forever grateful for their unwavering guidance as my editors, for answering my extensive questions about compet and, most of all, for believing in me when I was filled with self-doubt. 

My time as The Sun’s opinion editor introduced me to the most brilliant, creative community. I am beyond thankful for Emma Leynse ’23, my wonderful associate editor and Sun playlist connoisseur. Every day I wonder how I got so lucky to call you a friend. And for Vee Cipperman ’23, the best editor-in-chief I could have asked for (I dedicate any and all Sun puns I make in the future to you). For all the other editors and writers who poured countless hours into this organization, sacrificing sleep, school and sanity to keep the cogs of The Sun turning for 140 years and counting. 

In the words of my amazing first opinion editor, Pallavi Kenkare ’21, “Working at The Sun, gleaning insight into the joys and woes and ideas of Cornellians from all over campus, was the only way to love Cornell properly.” The opinion section, especially, in all its quirky, controversial, poignant glory, has taught me more about Cornell’s eclecticism, resilience, flaws and beauty than anything else I have been a part of. To me, loving Cornell meant shining a light on these student voices, challenging the status quo and seizing the opportunity to write (and edit) Cornell’s history. 

Despite the overall sappiness of this column, my time at Cornell hasn’t been all sunshine. If I could map my college experience to weather patterns, it would probably resemble Ithaca’s mercurial climate. I spent most of my time on the hill floundering, convinced that I would walk out the same, uncertain person I was when I moved into Donlon freshman year. 

Now, two weeks before graduation, I can say that I have changed in many ways. I’m more open to spontaneity and more likely to ask for help if I need it. I’m actively working on untying myself from a perfectionist mindset and finding worth outside of work. But I would be lying if I said I was no longer afraid of the unknown. I still have no idea what I’m doing most days and spend way too long overanalyzing every decision. And I still get out of breath hiking up the slope. To be honest, I don’t think I could ever be fully settled at Cornell, even if given an entire lifetime. But I don’t mind as much anymore. Though I sometimes wish for a do-over of my four years, equipped with everything I know now, I think I’m ready for graduation, for new introductions, lessons and experiences. 

With that, I officially say goodbye to The Sun. To writer’s block. To churning out an article on the day of the deadline and letting the editors work their magic. To columnist pitch meetings and archaic rules about Oxford commas (or lack thereof). To Thursday evening edit meetings in Klarman. To laying out the masthead (re. sobbing at midnight over the Herculean task of laying out the masthead). To the unparalleled rush of knocking out an Adobe InDesign page in 15 minutes and the overwhelming anguish of forgetting to press save. To the best parties (thanks Sun social team!). To Hello Katie

And, I say goodbye to Cornell. To attending acapella concerts and dance performances and midday music recitals. To the absolutely lovely and not at all fraught process of pre-enroll. To despairing over failed prelims and embarrassing job interviews and crushing imposter syndrome. To wondering, in the nascent hours of the morning, why loving Cornell has to be so hard. To playing the pipe organ in Sage Chapel and throwing frisbees on Libe Slope. To the Johnson Museum, my favorite building on campus. To marveling at the immense talent and drive of my peers and the ingenuity of my professors. To learning, losing sight of and rediscovering what it means to be in the good old days while I’m actually in them.

I realized, as a heartbroken freshman haphazardly packing her bags in March of 2020, the precarity of Cornell’s ivory tower. But I can tell her that I’ve snapped photos of the Ithaca cherry blossoms and danced my heart out on Slope Day and done so, so much more. I have spent my four years in the ivory tower — some half-asleep in front of a Zoom meeting, some socially distanced and masked-up, some completely maskless. But, my freshman self predicted correctly: It’s been four years that I have cherished. Four years of memories that nothing but time can steal away. 

Katherine Yao ’23 is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She served as Opinion Editor of the 140th editorial board. She can be reached at [email protected]. This is the final installment of her column Hello Katie.