I have this weird habit of always putting the wrong contact in each of my eyes. When I’m taking my contacts out, I always put the left one in the left hand side of the container and the right in the right. The container is even labeled with an L and an R, but I always seem to mess it up in the morning. I could chalk it up to absentmindedness from morning exhaustion, but I’m lazy so I have no right to be tired in the mornings.
Yesterday morning was the last first day of school of my life. Just kidding, I’m probably going to grad school. Yesterday morning was the last first day of undergraduate life, which doesn’t sound as good. As with most special days in my life, I made a mistake almost immediately: I put the wrong contact in the wrong eye. I was running a little late, so I just kind of threw them in my eyes and left my house. I walked up Cook Street blinking a lot and my eyes didn’t quite feel right, but I figured my eyes were just dry.
I walked past all the same things I always usually walk by on my way to class: Jason’s, the ghost of Stella’s, that weird bike store and even some new stuff in GreenStar and the calzone place. I made it to my seminar in the Schwartz Center about four minutes late, surrounded by about five graduate students and five undergraduates. Every seat was taken and the professor stopped talking. I blinked weirdly at her for two seconds before mouthing, “Sorry I’m late!” as she began addressing the small as shit class again.
A TA left to get me a chair as I stood weirdly in the room. He finally returned as the professor began going over the readings we would be covering this semester. I recognized some of the authors, like Vijay Prashad, but others were completely alien to me. Unfortunately this was not a problem any of my classmates could relate to. She ran through the names and everyone else nodded and exhaled like she had just mentioned their childhood pet. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I thought. Why didn’t I look up the syllabus beforehand so I could nod too? Why didn’t I read more so I knew who these academics were too? Why was I late on the first day of school? Why couldn’t I see anything?
The professor ended class early and I walked to Olin by myself. I stared at my Teach For America application for an hour before finally realizing I couldn’t see anything, which made the application a lot more difficult. I switched out my contacts, and magically I could see again.
I have this weird habit of repeating the same mistakes I always make. For the most part, they’re simple mistakes with simple solutions. If I paid more attention in the mornings, I would never put the wrong contact in the wrong eye. Some of them are more complicated. Why wasn’t I more familiar with the academics my professor named off this morning? Why haven’t I written my senior thesis yet? Why have I had three years to choose to fully commit to either getting a corporate job or pursuing academia and reached no conclusion?
While I think I understand the value of learning from your mistakes, I sometimes feel like I just don’t learn from my mistakes. I’ve come through Cornell and gotten a little better every year, but I find myself repeating the same mistakes again and again. I used to be quiet and reserved and now I’ve smiled so much throughout O-Week that my cheeks hurt. But still, I find myself remembering irreparable social mistakes of my past affecting my current self. The same principle can be applied to my academic life. Every part me wishes I could go back and try my hardest every day of my college career. Maybe I would know every academic my professor named this morning. Maybe I would have picked up the economics major instead of the Performing and Media Arts one I chose sophomore year.
I find myself filled with a bizarrely high amount of regret as I begin my senior year. I guess if I could give freshmen advice this year it would be to explore, but also commit. And don’t repeat mistakes. I can promise you if you do, you’ll never stop thinking about them.