May 9, 2016

DUGGAL | On Picking Yourself Up Again and Again

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There’s a quote chalked into the wall near Rockefeller that I knew existed, but never really actually saw until about a week ago when I caught a glimpse of it on accident. It’s yellow chalk, carved carefully above a bench built into the concrete wall leading up to the Big Red Barn. “Dear God, be good to me,” it reads. “The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.” Someone I respect very much brought it up to me my freshman year. “I think about the quote a lot when finals come around,” he said. I scoffed — what would the smartest kid I know here know about small boats and wide oceans? The curve has always been in your favor; how much better do you want God to be to you?

Coming on a full year after that particular conversation, I’ve realized a couple things. One of those things is that there is a lot more to life to simply having things go your way. In fact, at least this year, I can confidently say very little has gone my way.

I came into the year wanting everything everyone else seemed to so effortlessly have: great grades, a social life, a Kim/Kanye level relationship and most importantly, adequate sleep. I can do this, I told myself. And with as much motivation as I approached this year, I am now leaving it behind filled with a sense of defeat and disappointment.

I want so badly to put a spin on this year, if for no other reason, but for the betterment of this column, and subsequently, your enjoyment. Every kid that’s chosen to “write about a time you failed” knows that that college essay only gets you into college if you end it on a positive note — something you learned about yourself, something you reconciled with, something good. Something ending with you looking optimistically into the future as a more mature teen, ready to head to college and change the world for the better.

Unfortunately, I am convinced that attempting to look at things this way all the time might get you into college, but it does not necessarily get you through college. Things go wrong. Things don’t go your way — not once, not twice, but sometimes over and over again until you are left frustrated and angry and sad at yourself, at the people around you, at Cornell and at everything you can find yourself in access to. There is not always a silver lining to find in every situation that goes wrong — and coming to terms with that fact has been what a large part of this year has consisted of for me.

What always holds true, however, is how you behave in the situations you have no control over. I came into this year believing I had a right to having things go my way, and if they didn’t, I had a right to take my frustrations out on the people around me. I have come to the conclusion that what separates those that make it out of college more mature than how they entered is how they have chosen to react to what has been dealt to them. “Be so good, they can’t ignore you” is usually a quote reserved for your academic abilities, professional abilities or maybe even  sporting abilities. I have found this year to prove that this quote stands true for your behavior as well — be so good to the people around you, no matter what you face, so that they are there for you and they are rooting for you. And even if they aren’t, they cannot ignore the good that you are.

Hebani Duggal is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.