October 28, 2010

Live and Learn

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The most inappropriate thing you can ask someone, while they are crying uncontrollably over one thing or another is: “What can you learn from this?”

But that’s exactly what my friend, D, asks when all I want to do is curl up and wallow in self-pity. He always sits and curiously stares, as if he were seeing my tears for the first time. After a moment, he’ll ask again, “What can you learn from this?”

“I can learn how to stop crying,” I bitterly reply.

Over the past two weeks, I have been seemingly condemned by Murphy’s Law — everything bad that could happen, happened. I even went to New York City for a weekend just to get away from it all, only to come back to find the same problems were still just as hard to swallow. And again, I was asked, “What can you learn from this?”

For those of you who have followed my columns from the very beginning, you may have noticed a change in my tone. I went from being sarcastic, cynical and petty to something more — ah — serious. It often takes a tragedy for us to find our real voices and open our eyes to the situation around us. What I found, last semester, was that there was something wrong in the way students viewed the world. There was a sense of unhappiness in the air that many would shrug off until it became too heavy to bear. And for a while, I sought to bring more encouragement in my columns and make everything seem more light-hearted. But I also found that there are some things I needed to learn before I could help others in reaching their own individual potential.

Since this is one of the last columns I am going to write for the rest of the year, I wanted to make another effort to say that we always have to look at the bigger picture. But we can’t see it if we’re always standing right in front of it. In my years at Cornell, I believe that I’ve learned more than I ever could have anywhere else. And even though it’s clichéd and cheesy, it’s true when they say that you must live and learn.

I hope this list helps you, and I hope you learn these things easier and faster than I did:

10. Do not be reactive, be proactive. Murphy’s Law doesn’t exist. Shit just happens, and you have to learn how to face it. If you continuously react to the things life throws at you, you’re going to be stuck in a never-ending pity party.

9. Your friends are never too busy to listen to your problems, no matter how big or small. If you’re willing to share it, chances are they’re willing to listen. And chances are, they’re going to buy you a round of beer and fried ice cream to make you feel better.

8. There is no such thing as finding yourself. The world is not going to wait for you to find out who you really are, all you can do is make your own way and go with the flow. The world is your easel, and you are the artist.

7. Every person does indeed have some “good” in them — you should never judge a book by its cover.  But that does not mean you should exhaust yourself to find the “good” in every single person. Some people are selfish, others are hurtful — you can accept them for who they are, but you don’t have to put up with it.

6. Being book smart can only get you so far.

5. Your professors are people, too. Talk to them.

4. There is a reason why you’re at Cornell University, and trust me, you are good enough to be here. Just because you got below the mean on that one prelim does not mean you aren’t smart enough to do anything else in the world.

3. You should always have passion for everything that you do.

2. Listen to people around you because everyone deserves a chance to tell a story, and you never know what you can learn from that story.

1. Always remember that there is an entire world beyond the hill, and an adventure waiting for you.

Sandie Cheng is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at scheng@cornellsun.com. That One, Please appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Sandie Cheng