November 6, 2017

DUGGAL | Blank Spaces

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I am blank. I have been renting this space in The Sun since freshman year, every other Tuesday, with the same punny title my editor picked out for me on the second day of freshman year. And I’m out of things to say. I’ve gone back and forth on sending off an email that officially ends it — dear Jacob, I’m too old for this, find a freshman too scared to send in a column late to replace me and we’ll both be better off — but I’ve held back each time. Unsure why, but maybe by the end of this column, I’ll flip in favor of just calling it quits and you’ll never see me again.

For now though, here I am. Full on Larry David attitude, complete with the scowling face and “eh” expression. I feel cranky, like I’m being forced to do this (I am, it’s 3 a.m. and if I had it my way, I’d sent this in five minutes before it’s supposed to run tomorrow) and I feel irrelevant. At a certain point, you have to admit that you’re writing for the sake of writing, and if you had to ask me now, that point was two semester ago.

I wish I could tell you I did something inspirational lately that had me #recommitted to this column. I didn’t. I thought that Nicholas Kristof talk might do it for me, but all I realized at the end of that is that if I could somehow scheme my way into having people pay for me to travel and then also pay me to write about my travels, I know that I would a) start meeting (or even paying attention to) deadlines with more gusto, and b) write better.

In a way this attitude is liberating. I literally don’t care. I care slightly that this goes up on the internet until the end of time (or at the very least, the foreseeable future that I am alive and kicking and looking for a job) so I should probably refrain from spouting too much trash. But beyond maybe engaging in hate speech, I can’t say that I have too much skin in the game here.

So why do this at all? Well first of all, I barely am. And second, there is something important about learning to care less — or not at all. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — the best (possibly only) thing I’ve taken away from Cornell is learning how to deal with when every single thing you were scared would happen does. I hate this place because I have found myself in situations I thought I had done everything in my power to avoid being in, I hate it because it makes me face failures I didn’t know I was capable of committing. I love this place for the same reasons.

I don’t mean “don’t care about anything,” and I also don’t mean “pretend like you don’t care about things you care deeply about.” There is power in honesty, and being honest with yourself about the things that matter to you and the things that don’t is perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself in college. There was a point in time that this column was the most important thing I did on campus. I sent every piece in (almost) on time, I researched and put thought into the concrete national issues I was going to address with the space I had been afforded, I shared each one on social media — I cared. That point has since come and gone. Today, I’m a senior and frankly, if I told you the most important thing I did on campus was write a 900-word column every two weeks that internet trolls could comment on under a pseudonym and with no accountability, I would need to seriously reconsider my priorities and what they say about me.

So why am I here? I was supposed to come to a conclusion about my presence here for my own sake, and for your reading pleasure’s sake — I’ve been told a good column develops a greater argument and reaches a gradual conclusion, one that isn’t crammed into the last paragraph of the piece. Good thing I’m not here to write a good column or I would actually have to worry about that one.

I am here because writing this column is a reminder that you do not always need to apologize for a change in your priorities. In fact, I would argue that it’s almost always better to revel in the change. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column on immigration policy, an issue freshman year Hebani would not have dared touch. It felt so good. I sent it in, shared it, and was proud of it. I reveled in the nitpicking comments, the blatantly racist emails — and the positivity that comes along with people relating to your experience. It was the first column I’d written in a long time that had me picking a side. I wasn’t hedging because I was afraid what people would think, I wasn’t pulling facts to support arguments that I knew I didn’t believe in. I was just writing. Some people come into college with this mindset — props to them. For those of us, however, that need time and experiences to grow up and be honest with ourselves about the things that matter and why, there are always indicators to help you recognize your shifting priorities, if you choose to look for them. Mine was the exponentially increasing amount of time I was handing in columns past my deadline. I hope yours mess with fewer people’s sleep schedules.


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