People like to say we shouldn’t live in the past, because we have our whole futures ahead of us. We shouldn’t dwell on what has happened, shouldn’t think about it, because that part of our lives are over and there is nothing we can do. But is that really true? I think there’s a difference between living in the past and remembering it- it’s closing your eyes and practically feeling the touch of that one person, savoring the decadent mixture of greasy hamburger and Miller lite, witnessing the brilliant colors of the sky as the sun sets. It’s called nostalgia.
I think Cornell’s graduating class of 2017, just like my Study abroad friends, will understand me when I say I’ll miss this past semester. I’ll miss the familiar, earthy scent of my favorite café, just as a senior will miss the smell of a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from CTB. I’ll miss sitting on the wide, green pasture of the Meadows, remembering when the frost from the January hail storms made it too cold to sit on, just as a Cornell senior knows he’ll miss sitting on the Slope- whether it’s to sled down it, or fall asleep in the May sun.
More than the places though, more than the tangible things you can grasp and hold in your hand, I’ll miss the people.
Most things don’t last forever, but it’s been said, and I do believe, that some things do. Things like a good song, or a good film, or even a good memory you can take out of your back pocket and unfold in the darkest of times, embracing what you see when you lean in close.
Some of my greatest memories from my time abroad are sitting around the kitchen with my flatmates and quite literally doing nothing. The kitchen of my dorm was not the nicest place to be- it consisted of a sink that whined when you turned on the hot water, a perpetually stuffed fridge that constantly threatened to fall over with the weight of its contents, and my favorite, a mouse we named Clarence- a disgustingly fat, furry little thing that at times scurried over our feet even with humans around.
The kitchen left much to desire in every which way, but I arguably spent more hours on its dirty blue couch than anywhere else in Europe with my flatmates, talking about nothing and simultaneously everything, having conversations and making memories I knew would last me longer than any overpriced café avocado toast I would ever pay for.
In January, the other girls I lived with in my flat made a bet with the boys that if they didn’t run the half-marathon that was taking place in Edinburgh in early March, the boys would have to wax their legs to the knee. The five of us drew up a physical contract and each of us typed our name in block letters and left our signatures at the bottom of the page to seal the deal. The two boys ran the half-marathon with me (not without severe cramping for the next week), and though the other girls didn’t delight in watching the guys walk around with bare legs, watching them suffer through 13 miles was just as rewarding. We hung up the “Half-Marathon Contract” on the wall of the kitchen.
I have always been told that there is no point in being nostalgic. But as I sit on a plane leaving Scotland and writing this blog post, there is nothing I find more comforting than closing my eyes and imagining the laughter and hugs of my friends in that disgusting kitchen.
I realized that these people I was randomly paired up with became my family, and that over the course of a lifetime we all have SO many families. You start with your family of origin, but then it gets bigger as you move through different stages of your life. People come and go, because that’s how people are, and yet every person that becomes a part of your family helps shape who you are. I am sure that any Cornell senior that closes their eyes can think of the people that have, over time, become their family. Each of them, I’m sure, has their own “Half-Marathon Contract” hanging on their wall. Each of them has memories to cherish.
And as we’ll all move quickly and inevitably into the next chapter of our lives, I encourage us not to forget the experiences that have made our time so incredible, but instead remember them, and remember the people that made them with you.
The other day, I spoke to a senior friend of mine at Cornell, who, with the rest of her graduating class, is currently celebrating “Senior Days,” which is what the university calls the last week of celebrations on campus before graduation. Those days consist of wine tours, house parties, and BBQ’s- all very normal activities for a summer day, but ones that have far more meaning when you realize the friends you celebrate them with will soon be far away, evolving and maturing and becoming adults without you as a witness.
“How do you feel?” I asked my friend through the phone. It was my last night in Edinburgh and I was feeling down at the prospect of not seeing my friends again, so I was expecting to her to say something like “I’m really upset,” or “It’s been so sad,” but instead, she surprised me.
“Oh, we’ve been having so much fun!” she laughed. “We had a booze cruise yesterday and just enjoyed the fact that we were in a boat and it was so sunny…” “Really?” I asked. “You’re not sad?” She laughed again, and I held the phone closer to my ear, imagining her smiling on the other end. “Well, of course it’s a little bit sad,” she said. “But when you think about what this week means in terms of endings, it almost makes it better. You think whoah, we only have one more week to live it up with our best friends. So you do everything you can to make it the best one ever, and in return, you leave with these unbelievable memories.”
Her voice over the phone was so earnest, so positive instead of negative, that I couldn’t help but embrace her words, and now I feel compelled to share them:
“One day,” she told me, “when I’m old and grey, I’ll sit with my granddaughter on my lap, show her a picture of my university friends and I, and be wonderfully nostalgic and say, “I remember when we did this thing, and it was amazing.”
In the meantime, though, she and the rest of the Cornell Senior Class is done, POOF, and the college part of their lives is over. Just as quickly, my time studying abroad is done. I’ll always remember the incredible people I’ve met and what I’ve shared with them. I’m not afraid of nostalgia. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that helps the homesickness, the sadness of the realization that “done” actually means done forever. But I’m also excited for tomorrow, and for the chance to meet even more people and do amazing things that add to my story, and seniors, I hope you guys feel the same way.
Ready? No? Be nostalgic all you want. When you are ready, though…