For a period of time in my childhood, I thought Cornell was the only college. I didn’t understand the concept of a University, but I had also been conditioned well. I was shaking an upside-down newspaper at a hockey game when I was in elementary school. Most of my role models, family, family friends, and others I met along the way, had gone to Cornell. I had heard fascinating stories, met inspiring alumni, and knew I wanted to be a part of the tradition.
We all have the painful awareness that, during our lifetime, we will not have time to read every book worth reading, to visit every place that fascinates us, to learn what we’ve always dreamed of doing, to play musical instruments and knit scarves. In response to this anxiety, we make lists; bucket lists. Things to do, things you must see, 100 movies to watch at least once. They help us keep track of the meaningful time, of the time that does not dissolve between library hours and scheduled meetings and meals and sleep, the time that crystallizes in scrapbooks and gleaming pictures, in timeless anecdotes and stories repeated over and over. Cornell has its own bucket list, 161 things to do.
This is an open letter, one that will never reach the addressee, the type of letter that mostly benefits the author and maybe open some isolated, outcasted pairs of eyes. One of those that are not meant to be read, but meant to be written and spoken to strangers with familiar faces about familiar situations, one of those often charged with aggressive passivity, when maybe all they do is delineate a relationship between two people where names are not needed, where intimacy is beyond the point and from which no friendship will spring. I start and end with who I am, and in virtue of this identity of subject and writer I sketch the outline of who you are. To begin with, this is where I am from: a multitude of places, but – for the sake of this letter’s focus – from the self-sustaining micro-universe of a crowded dining hall. My face, I know you will not know, but maybe the colors will sound familiar – red speckled with a golden name tag, black over my hair.