I recently came upon my high school’s new Facebook page and browsed through to see how much has changed in the year and a half since I left. The administration had finally given into students and parents’ wishes for improved facilities because really, the ceilings should not have leaked every time it rained. Along with the irritation I felt wishing such changes were implemented back when I was there, I spent a lot of time thinking about how much my own life has changed since I graduated.
Like many other students here, I was the student with great extracurricular activities and good academic standing. I had big dreams before embarking on my Cornell journey. I imagined that when I started university in the U.S., everything would be set. I would continue to be the student that succeeds academically and is involved with a variety of clubs and activities. Once I landed a spot at Cornell, I would be on the pathway toward becoming a lawyer that utilizes her position to help the less fortunate in the future.
Now, more than a third through my Cornell career, I find myself at a standstill. The academic rigor and intellectual curiosity I had hoped for has collapsed into mere wishes for a generous prelim curve. The volunteer work that I opted to do came to an end three weeks into freshman year. The diverse friend group that I looked forward to has morphed into endless sessions of soulless networking. The dazzling career plans I envisioned have become blobs of clueless internship searching.
I’ve gotten so accustomed to becoming average at everything ever since coming to Cornell. The girl who used to raise her hand at every question now sits in the middle of the classroom watching the clock tick by, longing for class to end. Whatever I do seems so subpar to what everyone else has accomplished that I no longer have the nerve to speak up or be proud of my own milestones. Knowing that I should stop putting myself down, I continue to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others.
I thought such problems somehow arose out of the blue from walking on this endless treadmill called Cornell University. That coming to this Ivy League school has made me realize that I’m really not as great a student as I had perceived myself to be. That I wasn’t really fit to be the Cornellian that the admissions officers had expected me to become. There’s a Korean saying that if you stay where you are, you won’t lose anything. That’s pretty much how I’ve been so far. I remained within my comfort zone because I had become accustomed to being the average student.
However, this was a matter of my own choice. I was the one that chose not to raise my hand, out of a fear that I would blurt out something stupid. I was the one that succumbed to the feeling of being the ordinary, mediocre kid. But I need to keep telling myself it’s OK. It’s OK to feel insecure about what I can’t accomplish. It’s OK to not get the grades I want, to not get the internship offers I had hoped for. Because being a Cornellian doesn’t mean being stellar at everything, and there is no golden standard for me to prove against. I am here for a reason. I deserve to be here. All I really need to do is to give my best so that in two and a half years, I have no regrets walking down the aisle to receive my diploma.
DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.