February 5, 2018

LEE | Sickness and Stress

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2018 was going to be my year. This semester would be one where I would finally expand my network, get good grades, find an internship and just feel great about myself. I returned from a de-stressed break a week before school started to get over the jet lag and prepare for the upcoming semester, by planning out classes to take and striving to become a morning person.

As the start of the semester approached, I began to feel tired and I developed a tickle in my throat. I was awfully exhausted on the first day of classes and had to drag myself to Cornell Health only to find that I had a fever of over 100 degrees. I couldn’t let this happen. This was supposed to be the start to a great semester, and I just couldn’t allow myself to start it out by being sick.

In hopes of recovering soon, I did everything I could possibly do — took over-the-counter medicine for cold symptoms, drank lots of warm water and tea (often with honey), and rested as much as I could. But none of that seemed to work because my fever jumped to 102 degrees, my throat felt like it was burning and I was coughing non-stop. Despite being told that it wasn’t the flu, I felt awful both physically and emotionally.

I had spent so much effort trying to start out the semester right, but was already behind on my classes and feeling miserable.

People say that time will heal everything, but it didn’t feel like that at all. All I could think about each morning was how much I wanted to go back home, halfway across the world. I felt terrible just walking to Ives, dreading the thought of having to repeat this for another four months. Never had I wanted to get out of Ithaca and Cornell so badly, simply because of this dreadful cold.

Homesickness was another illness that was aching away at my heart. Even though Seoul’s weather is currently almost as bad as Ithaca’s, I felt like being home would have made all the difference. No number of friends or acquaintances in Cornell could make up for the warmth of family I had back home.

What’s worse, I hated myself for having such feelings of homesickness. I shouldn’t feel sad to be here because I am privileged enough to have this position of Cornell student over some other person that didn’t get in, or some other person that couldn’t afford to come here.

I’ve realized how much an illness can make one feel completely drained. I was hopeless as I saw no end to this cold. I was upset, watching the rest of the world carry on fine without me. I had planned to sit in on all these different lectures to choose suitable classes for the semester. I was hoping to attend club info sessions and mock interviews before my coursework piled up. But none of that could work out without being healthy. I finally understood what my grandma meant when she constantly reminded me that health is the most important virtue of all.

Prior to the start of the semester, my goal was to become a better student, friend and potential intern. I had been so fixated on developing a better me for others and never really thought about what it means to be a happy, healthy version of and for myself. I now know how critical it is to fully care for and look out for myself, because only then will I be able to fulfill any other aspirations. I also know that 2018 will still be my year; I’ve only taken a small step back to make a bigger leap forward.


DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a sophomore in the ILR school. She can be reached at [email protected] Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays.