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  • Writer's pictureCagla Sokullu

Where Do We Go From Here?

Updated: May 28, 2020

I graduated from university a few days ago. My apartment on campus, I moved out of two weeks before that. My home to be is somewhere in Chicago, and not for another three months. So where is home now?

A few days before my first friend on this campus packed away her apartment into her father's car and drove away, she dragged me out of my half-packed room, in a tiny dress decidedly too thin for the cruel winds of Ithaca. I resigned and embraced my fate, and we walked in heels we had forgotten how to walk in around the most enchanting parts of campus for location hunting. My little Cornell flag I took off my wall seemed incongruous to the moment we were trying to capture. But we managed to scout a few pretty nooks around the school not infested already with sorority girl groups trying to pose in unison while complaining about how "this is not their good side", and posed for each other, mostly trying to hold in our laughter — partly from the hilariousness of our situation, partly from the awkwardness of posing on campus as passersby stare unashamedly.

After an hour or so, we had what I now know are my only graduation photos. Four years of studying, blood sweat and tears poured into work I am proud to call mine, and I get to celebrate with this photo. I am thankful for that first friend, on our last day, for dragging me in heels around our campus in the cold.

Artist without a Studio

I spent the final few months of my career in university on a campus now empty of sounds or students, on annoying Zoom meetings that barely replace the excitement of being in the classroom or in studio.

I moved out of my studio in March. In a single trip with my friend's tiny blue car, we packed up my paints, my prints hanging on the otherwise boring white walls, my screen and tablet set-up, and the many leftover paraphernalia from past installations. They fit into the car comfortably. That was the end of my studio: a few bags. From then on I didn't touch the paints, nor the prints. I kept my tablet close, but barely connected it to draw. Something didn't feel exciting about any of that right then.

Instead I wrote, and read, and thought of making art. Mostly, the poems became installations, which became my thesis. It was not what I envisioned my final art exhibition to be when I started Cornell.

And now that it was all over, what was I supposed to create? Where would I make a home for my art? Where would home be now that I packed my last one away?

More importantly than my studio or campus, I had to give up people. The ones I called home for four years, the ones I lived and breathed with, I helped them pack and close their storage boxes or suitcases, one by one, and watched them either get into their cars, or cross the security check in airports. Then it felt lonely no matter what I did. Like leaving part of one's soul, something was amiss, is amiss, no matter what.

These people had become my home. They were my family now. And then there were none. Where was home? Where would home be now that I packed my last one away into eight heavy boxes, and sent all my people around the globe?

I'm still looking for the answer to that.

This generation of graduates, more than any other I think, is stuck in that chasm between school and whatever comes after. And different than any other year, this generation was thrown into that chasm, forcefully, suddenly, some of them ripped from their houses or sent back to their hometowns without a choice (I know of people who dreaded leaving, knowing their mental health would be compromised, others whose countries closed down and they were left worrying for their families..). This generation was robbed of something, we all realize. We lost that chance to feel secure in our achievements, in our future, some of us are condemned to not knowing what is coming for their next year, when they imagined themselves working, studying, traveling. This is no one's fault, but it is a fact. This generation, us, we have lost something fundamental and precious this year.

I truly hope we all find more, better things in times to come, whatever we are pursuing in search of happiness.


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