January 22, 2018

LEE | Allowing Me to Be Me

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Thinking this would pretty much be the last break I get to spend without being too fixated on academics or career-related activities, I had a very unproductive break.

I had vowed to start prepping for next semester and to exercise more, but neither materialized as expected.

But as unproductive as it was, I actually had quite a fulfilling break. For the first time, I had the chance to explore my hometown, Seoul, without being preoccupied with some sort of task like frantically trying to memorize SAT vocabulary. I also stepped out of my comfort zone going out of my way to get to know and meet new people. I attended the Cornell Club of Korea meeting as well as a Cornell alumni mentoring event, which were both really great and made me realize how many resources are available to me.

Of all these events, I think that one of the best things I did was to catch up to season 5 of Friends.

I actually used to hate this TV show. From the looks of it, the show seemed like it was about six pretentious New Yorkers trying to make a laugh about the smallest things that weren’t even funny. Perhaps when all my other friends praised how fun the show was, my middle school self was envious to become that blonde American girl that seems to have her life set out perfectly.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been preoccupied with the thought of Friends. I was amazed at how much I’ve changed since the first time I watched the show. I used to envy the American lifestyle and culture as was portrayed in Friends. Americans seemed to be so laid back and oh-so-sociable.

Before, I wasn’t able to relate to any of the jokes or characters, but I’ve since developed a love for Phoebe and her quirky personality. I wondered what brought about this sudden liking for the TV show. It wasn’t just due to the fact that I began living in the U.S. and started to understand more of the jokes. I still hadn’t found the show interesting just a few months ago.

In fact, I had initially forced myself to watch Friends so I would have more in common with American kids at Cornell. I had always felt awkward not knowing what they were talking about whenever they talked about TV shows, sports or general interests, and I had nothing to say.

But, making my way to season 5, I’ve actually found more of myself. I’ve started accepting myself more of who I am. As ironic as it sounds, the hobby I had pushed myself into has become something that I genuinely enjoy and like.

I had been used to trying to prepare responses that other people would like, instead of actually sitting down to think about my own interests. Who am I? What do I like? These were questions that I had never asked myself prior to this break. Instead of figuring out what I like, I had tried to make a version of me that supposedly fit the typical American (and the typical Cornellian) instead of letting me just be me.

And that is the number one goal I have for this semester — to allow myself to be who I really am.

DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a sophomore in the ILR school. She can be reached at margaretlee@cornellsun.com. Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays.