As I return to the cold winter wasteland of Ithaca, NY, from the warmer climes I enjoyed over break, I can’t help but feel slightly existential and equally bitter sweet. The day I thought would never come has finally arrived. I am a second semester senior. The same freshman who got written up by RAs and lost both his sophomore and junior year security deposits is at long last within sight of the exit. As my peers and I reach the end of the proverbial road, I can’t help but be stricken by a litany of Hallmark Channel emotions about my four years here and an overall sadness about leaving.
Over break, I tried to think of different ways to make time last and ignore my all too close post-college future. I took up meditation, journaled a little bit, even came up with an Ithaca bucket list (feel free to hit me up if you’re interested in it) and yet my same existential concerns loomed with the coming of the second semester. Thankfully, since returning to campus, I’ve settled into a tenuous peace. It is peace refreshed by two realizations. Firstly, time has a way of just kind of marching on without regard for my petty concerns. I just have to grab it and try my best to hold on to the moment. Secondly, I have made myself a list of three senior year resolutions to keep my senior existentialism at bay. And, selfishly, I’m hoping to hold myself accountable by putting them down in publicly available writing.
My first resolution is simple. I would like to say “hi” more. In my four years here I’ve found myself increasingly more reserved as I walk about campus and the streets of college town. Freshman year, I would greet every familiar face I saw. If I saw you on the street I genuinely wanted to know how you were doing. I took the time to slow down and acknowledge people I knew. Now, somewhere between my purchase of noise-canceling Airpods and three more years of collegiate cynicism, I find myself walking right past people whose names and faces I know without so much as a nod. No more; this semester I will be taking the (not so) courageous step of saying “hi.”
My second resolution is in a similarly vocabulary-minded vein. Instead of just adding hello to my vocabulary, I also want to add “yes.” My motivation is simple: I need to stop saying “no.” I don’t mean this in the yolo kind of way either. Like, I’m not going to be saying yes to doing heroin or robbing a bank or other obviously stupid and morally dubious actions. It is more about making a conscious effort to fight the force of inertia behind the word “no.” “No” is synonymous with comfort, it is a way to avoid potentially awkward or uncomfortable situations and, in college, is especially easy to utilize as a senior. “I’m too old for that,” “I already have my friends” or “I’ve done that before” come all too easily. Each is an excuse often uttered from the lips of a senior saying “no” to some kind of socially hazardous experience. But, with less than a few months to go, I’ve decided I want to dive head-first into these potentially awkward moments and situations of social uncomfortability; and in order to do that, I need to say “yes.”
The last resolution I came up with is a little less easy and much more subjective than the simple use of “hi” and “yes.” This has to do with the tangled web of friendships, relationships, and connections I’ve formed in four years at Cornell. I have been lucky to meet some of the best people I’ve ever known at this school. I have been shown kindness and compassion in some of the least likely places and have enjoyed the unconditional presence of those who shared these parts of themselves with me. Lucky is an understatement. Possibly the scariest thing about graduating, though, is knowing that I will no longer occupy the same place as these people who’ve done so much to shape me. Like with the word “no,” I want to fight against the futility of graduation and to do this my weapon of choice is gratitude. I need to show the people in my life just how incredibly grateful I am for them. I want to thank them, compliment them, tell them what they’ve meant to me and do whatever it takes to know that when I finally don my cap and gown I know wholeheartedly that nothing has gone unsaid. See, like I said, this resolution is a tall order.
While three resolutions are hardly a bulwark against the inevitable close of this chapter in my life, I have a good feeling about them. I know it will be sad to leave, and, like with your cousin’s New Years gym resolution, I’ll certainly fall short of full marks. But, I think by saying “hi,” “yes” and “thank you,” I can drag these five months out and depart Ithaca with my head held high and a smile on my face. If you see me on the street and I don’t give you a “hello,” make sure to hold me to account.
Brenner Beard is a fourth year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. His fortnightly column Agree to Disagree is a collection of musings and opinions on campus and the Cornell community at large. He can be reached at [email protected].
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