October 29, 2019

NGUYEN | Rain, Rain … Maybe Don’t Go Away

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“It was a dark and stormy night …”

In just seven words, this string of text paints a vivid picture. A familiar image instantly materializes in our minds: a torrential downpour of ceaseless raindrops, set against a dreary backdrop of darkness. We recognize this archetypal setting as the precursor to a twisted tale of tragedy and melodrama. It establishes an expectation of mystery, of doom — a big, bad something looms ahead.

When I first stumbled onto Cornell as a freshman, anxiety weighed down my every timid step across the hallowed grounds. My first day at Cornell was draining: My mouth tired from the never-ending contortions of artificial smiles, my calves grew sore from the countless inclines that compose Ithaca and my mind flooded with doubt and dread. Everything was unfamiliar. Everything was uncomfortable. Trapped in my own insecurity, I convinced myself that my situation couldn’t get worse.

And then it rained that day.

And the next day, and the day after. New Student Convocation was marked by Ryan Lombardi delivering a speech under a covered stage as everyone in the bleachers shielded their heads from the downpour with flimsy paper programs.

The cliché opener “It was a dark and stormy night …” foreshadows of a danger yet to come — and as I drowned in the incessant rain of my first few days at Cornell, it wasn’t difficult for me to draw the connection. This was my big, bad something. This rain was a harbinger of a rocky four years to come.

Hailing from California, I was a novice when it came to precipitation. I mean, sure, it rains on the West Coast. But my experience with rain derived solely from the occasional sprinkles that characterize the too-many-puddles-to-wear-my-Birks-but-still-warm-enough-to-wear-shorts season that I endearingly refer to as California winter. So when I arrived at Cornell, I knew that I was experiencing real rain for the first time. Because in Ithaca, when it rains, it doesn’t just pour. It douses, it drenches, it drowns.

But fast forward to now: After countless days spent peeling off soaked socks from my feet and rustling my fingers through my hair to shake off raindrops, I’ve come to appreciate the rain. Don’t get me wrong — by no means am I a rain person. I don’t think I will ever be one. But now, when my weather app predicts a high chance of rain, I no longer dread my day like I used to. I toss aside my Birks as I reach for my Converse, don my trusty blue windbreaker and stride onto campus with all the enthusiasm of a new day.

The idea of rain has always been enigmatic to me. As a literary device, it’s sometimes employed as a means to dampen a character’s mood or to mark a rising tension on the horizon. It can give rise to adversity, hampering an individual’s journey towards their end goal. As a timid freshman, I declared war against the rainclouds, decrying their liquid offspring as my sworn enemy. To me, rain posed an inescapable physical challenge, as well as an emotional one — and I wanted none of it. It felt like the universe was intentionally taunting me, with its pouring showers that paralleled my crippling insecurity. But as I continued to traverse the puddled grounds of Ithaca, I slowly developed gratitude for rain. I acclimated to this East Coast seasonal norm and began to see rain as more than just a barrier. After each rainfall struck Cornell, I soaked in the sense of renewal that the showers left in their wake. Rain washes away yesterday, sets the scene for tomorrow. When distilling it down to what it is, rain is merely a conduit for supplying our planet with water. But water, coincidentally, is the paradigm of cleansing and redemption. It gives birth to new life, absolves sin and provides a healing equilibrium. Though rain can symbolize conflict and tragedy, it is also new life and new beginnings.

This time of year marks another season of rain. We strap on our rain boots, grab our umbrellas and don our raincoats before heading into the onslaught of precipitation. And though the rain is sometimes difficult to shoulder, it’s a rite of passage for Cornellians. Whether it’s hiking up the slippery Slope or trudging through a rainy Collegetown at night, the rain builds our resolve and prepares us for the impending snow of winter. I’ve come to view this time as a transition period between warmer autumn days and freezing winter ones. A goodbye to prancing in the rejuvenating heat of the sun and a hello to nudging friends into powdery snow. It’s the ushering in of a new Cornell — and I couldn’t be more excited to embrace it.

Niko Nguyen is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at nnguyen@cornellsun.com. Unfiltered runs every other Wednesday this semester.