August 22, 2016

DUGGAL | First One Back

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The first column of the semester is always the one that weighs the heaviest. It’s the one my idle mind wanders to those times in the summer when I feel like I haven’t done much of anything or those other times I feel like my internship has turned me into a middle-aged man that goes to bed at 10 p.m. and doesn’t particularly like his life too much.

I had a column outlined coming into the school year — something well-researched, with sources hyperlinked in and a powerful ending that forced you to reconsider your plan for the entire upcoming year (note: tune in next week, it’s probably better to plan out your year after you’ve fully recovered from O-Week). I changed my mind about what it is that I wanted to share with you all when I got to campus.

Coming back to campus is always a cathartic experience. O-Week is filled with the joy of being back at it with your friends, the excitement of a new school year, the angst of having to head to class in just a few short days and adjusting to a familiar environment with the not so familiar lessons you might have learned over the summer. It’s not always the same for everyone — it can be a lot worse for some than others, but either way, coming back to campus, O-Week and the time right before classes start is always something to everyone.

My O-Week had me thinking a lot about consequences. Newton’s third law states that for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — if you apply a downward force on a chair by sitting in it, the chair will apply an upward force on you in return. Newton’s third law, as critical as my high school physics teacher made it out to be, is not really that fascinating in itself to me. What is, however, is its application to our actions as (mostly) rational, decision-making characters.

Take Ryan Lochte and the three other swimmers caught in web of their own lies earlier this week. Now, I’m not sure about the term “equal and opposite” necessarily applying in every situation as well as it does in Lochte’s, but the part about a reaction for every action most definitely does. For those of you who missed every news channel and outlet for the past week, Lochte and three other swimmers lied about being held up at gunpoint after attending a party in Rio. Authorities in Brazil later discovered the four athletes vandalized a gas station and denied any robbery actually took place.

What does Lochte, Newton and Cornell’s famed O-Week have to do with each other then? For me, O-Week has been about discovering the impact of consequences. Every action here has a reaction. It might not always be equal and/or opposite, but it always occurs. In looking to the upcoming semester, it is my single hope that not everyone’s lesson in Newton’s third law is as harsh as Lochte’s.

Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at hduggal@cornellsun.com. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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