May 4, 2016

LEUNG | Just the Beginning

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With only around three weeks of freshman year left — and that includes the study period and finals — the nostalgia is real. Even though I’m only a freshman and I can’t imagine what the seniors are going through, there’s something special about the first year at a university; there are some things that happen freshman year which will most likely never happen again. Will I miss the lack of air conditioning in my dorm room? The buffet-style dining halls that make me eat far more than necessary to make up for the over-priced swipe? The cramped living quarters that make catching a cold all-year round inevitable? Not in the slightest. But freshman year has been a whirlwind of some of the best memories I’ve had. I know for certain that my next three years will be filled with even more, but I can’t help but look back on freshman year warmly and think of all of the incredible people who have entered my life. There will be no other time when I will be forced to live with a floor full of unknown people. Some of them will grow to be my closest friends and stay up until the late hours of the night (or early hours of the morning) with me, talking about everything and laughing about nothing.

I looked back on my first article I wrote for The Cornell Daily Sun, dated back to August 26, 2015. Apparently, “the swim test worried me the most” but I promoted the belief that nothing ever turns out the way you think it will and overthinking arises from the fear of not knowing the certainty of an event. As much as I still firmly believe all of that, I realized how narrow my scope was on what “fear” and “uncertainty” was, and how far that extended to. I focused on events such as making new friends, orientation week activities, classes and dorm living. And while accepting uncertainty in those events was important, from reading my article, I was pleased to find that I had grown — mentally, emotionally, spiritually — from the beginning of the year. Of course, that’s something everyone hopes to do, but seeing it in my writing was reaffirming.

In the beginning of my time here, I focused on how the uncertainty of events impacted me immediately and directly, but I’ve learned to think of things in a broader light. I think I’ve gained a better understanding of how all the events we face are related, each decision linked to another. We are all related and our actions, thoughts and conversations affect one another. We are in a stage of growth and flexibility and nothing is stable or absolute. We must learn to accept that life is fluid. People are constantly changing and we are continuously having new experiences that change our attitudes and perspectives about the world.

My generalizations and judgements about people have been questioned. Thoughts about what I would study or do in college have been challenged. Sometimes I don’t know what I want in life and sometimes I know exactly how I want to live. Sometimes choosing to do one thing has brought me exactly to where I thought I would be, and other times I find myself confused at where I stand. I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a friend who came into college knowing exactly what he was going to major in. He had taken classes on the subject in high school, his parents expected a certain job out of him and he was actually genuinely interested in the topic. Of course, Cornell courses and the grades that consequently followed challenged those initial beliefs. He had done so poorly in his classes first semester that he couldn’t find the motivation and passion anymore in his work. Second semester, he took entirely new courses in order to find a different major; a questionable choice, but a choice he made nevertheless. The point is, he suddenly had no idea what direction his life would take and he was scared.

But it wasn’t just the change in major that made him afraid. He didn’t know what he would end up doing for the next few years at school, who he would meet, what job he would have or where he would end up. He had, for the longest time, planned out exactly how his life would go and he reveled in the comfort of having direction. One event, such as a potential change in major, made him question his entire future. Dramatic or not, he had trouble accepting how life was constantly in a state of flux. I kept reminding him that we are young. How are we supposed to know what we want when we haven’t experienced enough? Why did it make sense that when he was only 10 years old he thought he knew where he wanted life to take him and nine years later, still believed all of it could happen — and still want it to?

Having some sense of direction is beneficial. From the very beginning, we have a sense of what we want and don’t want in our academic and personal lives. We should put some trust in that. But at the same time, we don’t acknowledge the subconscious resistance we have to external, unavoidable forces that change our minds. There are many reasons for this resistance: fear of the unknown, connection to the old way of doing things, exhaustion, low trust and doubt. But if you’ve been reading my articles all year, you will know that I am a lover of experiences, new people and real conversations. And these things are responsible for allowing us to grow and leading us in a direction where we ultimately belong.

This is just the beginning, and months or years from now, I can look back on this article just like I did with my first one and critique how young and naïve I was. But one thing is for certain, I’ll be reading this from a place or position I never thought I’d be in.

Gaby Leung is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached atgl376@cornell.edu. Serendipitous Musings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

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