My brother guided me through clubfest (giving your email to too many groups will result in non-stop notifications), our ever-hated DUST report (is that only for Arts & Sciences?), and Greek life rush. He gave me advice without ever trying to sway me to do or join the things he did.
As I was frantically attempting (note the word attempt) to balance prelims, quizzes, interviews and job searches over the weekend, I took a moment to open up the fortune cookie that’s been lying around on my desk, hoping it might provide some insight to the essay I had been struggling to finish. The slip of paper read the following: “Before you wonder ‘Am I doing things right,’ ask ‘Am I doing the right things?’” Well, no offense to fortune cookie producer Wonton Food Inc., but I think that’s what I’ve been doing most of my life, only with little success at actually finding what the “right things” are. I’ve always been an advocate for exploration — traveling to new places, absorbing new foods and keeping various career options open. For the longest time, I’ve been told by teachers, elders, career counselors and upperclassmen that the journey to find yourself is essential to discovering the right career path. While such guidance has helped me become a more flexible and open person, it hasn’t helped to answer the question of what I’m most enthusiastic about and where I find myself to be the right fit.
ClubFest is a tease. The long-awaited Sunday afternoon came and went, as did the freshmen who emptied North Campus and congested Barton Hall. Our task was simple: walk around, shake some hands, share some NetIDs and so on. But add in hundreds of other freshmen and a two-foot visibility radius, and voila: Any chance of meaningful interaction with club leadership vanishes. In the midst of the chaos, email lists are saturated with overcommitted rookies who gladly feed their NetIDs into Google Forms or Excel spreadsheets.
A noncontagious epidemic of sore throats and 18,610 posters and quarter cards en route to choking a landfill somewhere: These, alongside mailing lists misleadingly bloated with marginal interest, are what remain of the clamor of energy Cornellians heaved this past Sunday afternoon. Upperclassmen might note the dull familiarity of recycled tri-folds displaying faces long since graduated, barely pausing as they leave their shift for More Important Things. Those browsing might find themselves frustrated by the maze they glaze by in search of specific clubs. But though I question some of her excesses, I’m starting to recognize something amazing yet understated about the way Clubfest brings the breadth of our campus to the cavernous body of Barton Hall. Anyone else faced with the impossibility of winning interest for an esoteric club might share my initial jadedness.
Somehow, three years after I’ve come to Cornell, I am more confused than ever about what a “community” means. This is not surprising — Cornell, in many ways, has always been a congregation of pieces to me: a campus too wide to grasp, with too many people to meet and too many opportunities to seize and miss at the same time. Going into junior year, these elements seemed to come to a stagnant halt. Being an upperclassman started feeling like I’d been part of the same clubs and organizations all my college life, yet I’d established my roots too deep to find an identity anywhere else. I decided to quit Cornell’s competitive ballroom dancing team at the beginning of this semester. Or at least, take a very long break from it.