Something I regret deeply is that I didn’t leave the Ithaca College bubble often. It was something I remember Nia Nunn, associate professor in the Department of Education, mentioned a lot. Being a part of the community where my school is located, giving back to the community that I infiltrated for four years. But that never happened.
To be completely honest, I have always been scared or discouraged to do so because I don’t really know Ithaca.
I know what you’re thinking, how can someone spend four years somewhere and not “know” the place? It’s just that simple, I don’t know Ithaca and it doesn’t know me. I am not comfortable with roaming around at night. Freshman year Frankie was a different breed; she walked to and from parties and wasn’t afraid of anything. A lot has happened since then, it’s caused me to second guess how boldly I walk into the world.
Senior year Frankie goes to class, does her job, and then goes to sleep. In between, I sometimes go to the occasional event, but it’s not that often. I can say that I regret that, but I do it to keep myself safe. If 2020 showed me anything, it showed me that I don’t really know the town of Ithaca. Who knew so many white supremacists congregated so close to what I consider my safe haven? Sure, there was the occasional glare at the supermarket or white women who thought it was polite to pet me, but I thought surely, the people of Ithaca weren’t cruel enough to think my life didn’t matter.
And then there was the video of a black student getting harassed at Dunkin’ Donuts in town that went viral. A Dunkin’ Donuts I frequent often. The spell was broken, and I now wanted to stay where I knew was safe.
I may be from Newark, New Jersey (which is considered “dangerous” by some), but at least Newark cares about me and is filled with people that look like me. In Ithaca, I worry about having a way to get there, a way home, if anyone I know will be there. My anxiety has gotten so much worse that if I don’t plan things to the T, then I won’t go. I wish I could just rely on the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) and go on an adventure, but it’s hard for me.
My roommates drive me to class, my coworkers drive me home, my friends drive me anywhere else. I am constantly with someone who I know and can trust. It sucks that my anxiety gets in the way, but I also spent a whole year away from Ithaca when I was trying to strengthen the bond. Next semester I’m going abroad, so I have been at Ithaca for exactly two years and home, not at the college, for the other two.
Leaving the hill and making a positive impact on the community is so important. It helps build relationships and strengthen bonds in case people want to come back after school. I wish I did leave the hill more, but I’m grateful for everything I’ve been able to do from campus. My biggest suggestion while you have time is to truly explore where you are with your friends. Go to the falls, go to gorges, take in the beauty that’s around us. Your time here is limited and if you don’t take advantage, you may regret it in the long run.