I wish I could say I plunged into my time at Cornell with the same determination as someone sprinting to the first empty table at Libe. With the same sheer intent to get to what you know you deserve, that willpower to beat out everyone else and bask in your triumph. You’ve been standing around for five minutes looking like an idiot, you’ve gotten your coffee, you’re ready to pull your laptop out and get next to nothing done — you deserve that table more than anyone else here, and you will have it.
That is how I wish every second of my time at Cornell looked like. Having (successfully?) made the transition to an upperclassman here, I can look back at the last two years and happily admit to myself that my time here so far has been anything but filled with the sheer determination to get what I know I deserve.
A lot of this realization stems from observing the people around me. College as an experience is generalized to be a place filled with all kinds of people, and Cornell fits that stereotype fairly well. If you take the time to find people that share different viewpoints, different experiences and different backgrounds, you will find yourself presented with a perspective that is greater than only your own. The most important lesson I have learned so far to never take things only at face value. If you are dense enough to think that any event, any topic or any opinion is as simple as only what you think, you’ve probably either chosen to be incredibly naive or have never allowed yourself the chance to grow from experiences that weren’t anything but ideal.
I would say I took on Cornell more like someone in line for a salad at Trillium for the first time. I strolled in, noticed most people were in line for a salad and fell in behind them. I inched up closer to hear what everyone else was ordering, figured out what I wanted somewhere along the way and ended up with something not bad, but also something I could learn a lot from for next time.
Don’t get me wrong — the purpose of this column is not to condemn everyone that enters Cornell with a clear idea of what they want, how they want it, and why they deserve it. If you can do that at the age of 17 or 18 (or 12 apparently), good for you. I’m glad your background has allowed you the vision to look confidently into the future, and it is my hope you recognize that “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (casual Great Gatsby quote, I couldn’t resist).
For those of you, however, who find yourself at this institution forever doubting why you’re here, what you’re here for, and whether you deserve at least as much happiness and success as the next person, keep your head up. Know that in the end, the only person that can convince you of what you do or do not deserve is yourself.
Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.