I’m a junior now, and as such, I am informally obligated to live off campus or die an outcast. Luckily, this is a mandate that I’m thrilled to obey — I will sacrifice communal bathrooms and an utter lack of privacy if it benefits the system. So, four months ago, I voluntarily signed a lease for a three-bedroom apartment, as one does when one is craving a real taste of adulthood — electricity bills, trash days, grocery shopping, the whole affair. We’d toured the unit, and it seemed, from an outsider’s perspective, to satisfy.
With a debatable mastery over the art of timeliness and a lingering fondness for O-Week, I arrived at Cornell long before necessary. I was primed for the era of (budgeted) glamour and independence — life as a temporary homeowner, if you will (tenant doesn’t sound as exciting). A freshly painted exterior greeted me upon reaching my new apartment. It was a glistening coat of heather grey, and where buildings are concerned, what glitters has a decent chance of being gold. My mind map was already enlisting words like modern and chic. There’s nothing like a good neutral to make a millennial girl’s heart swell.
Just a few seconds later, it became painfully clear that my surge of optimism was misguided. What followed after observing the paint was so incongruous with my vision that I had to write 800 words about it. The floorboards were densely speckled with stains, unnaturally-occurring black spots, and enough grime to swim in (finally, a pool party with some substance). In the walls, I found portals to other dimensions whose residents had five eyes and ten legs. Most objects were creaky, broken, or collaborated in a rude display of both. I’ll spare the details, partially because they’re buried in my subconscious and I’d rather not retrieve them, but in that instant, a thousand pounds of disinfectant wipes would have been too little.
I felt like an idiot for trusting a surface-level contortion of facts. It’s an ancient, biological habit to value appearance, but lately, it feels like we broadcast ourselves and our thoughts and things for the viewing pleasure of the world. Attention is currency, and popularity is wealth. Authenticity is at the mercy of desirability, and perception is a stranger to reality. Categories are not just present; they are prevalent. In the midst of this constant external advertising, I miss sincerity. The marketplace of carefully crafted aesthetics and calculated personalities is draining to sift through. Especially in a college setting, the drive to impress and charm is overpowering, and sadly, some of us lose ourselves in this tournament.
It has barely begun, but my junior year is off to a rough start. I expected a lot of things to be different, better. I thought I wouldn’t need my parents’ help to transition into this new chapter, but I did. I thought O-Week would be invigorating, but it wasn’t, not really. I thought that living in an apartment would be the official stamp of growth, but we’ll see.
Still, all this yin means nothing without its yang. A week after settling in, I feel better. My room is pretty cozy (not to be confused with tiny, stuffy or lacking space) and coral-themed. We have a pretty nice kitchen, despite the blinds that fell from the window mount and almost beheaded me. My move-in experience was a nice reminder not to project assumptions onto people or circumstances, even if encouraged to, and to take time to understand the core of a situation. If it sounds like I’m using denial as a coping mechanism, you might be onto something, but I really think I can be happy here, regardless of how it looks.
Priya Kankanhalli is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matters of Fact appears every other Tuesday this semester.