March 22, 2022


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To the Editor:

I, like Noah, entered Cornell intending to pursue medicine. I stuck with it for about two years; to paraphrase J. Cole, the good news was that I came a long way, the bad news was I went the wrong way. As a female Nigerian immigrant, I struggled when faced with the decision to drop the pre-med track. I also faced a very loud and invasive thought: “I’m not good enough.” 

Society often coerces us into disingenuous performances, promising that the applause we’ll receive at the end will pacify our perpetual anxiety. And the thought of stepping offstage to face the unknown rather than playing pretend in the presence of what’s familiar — well, that can be scary. 

But there are critical costs to wearing this costume. It diminishes the light we’ve been given to share with the world — a light that can liberate ourselves and others from fear, as was said by author Marianne Williamson. Instead, we believe in a lie — that our true self isn’t enough. It makes us trade in empathy for apathy and vulnerability for prideful exclusivity when dealing with others.

My mentor recently reminded me that a successful life requires faith and courage. By walking away from pre-med, I thought I’d lose out on everything that becoming a doctor would supposedly guarantee: family satisfaction, income and reputation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Stepping out in faith to pursue a career in public health has helped me receive these things and more, in the way I was meant to. Better yet, it revealed a greater purpose that was beyond me. It moved me beyond biomedicine toward addressing the systems and social determinants of health for marginalized communities through intentional partnership. 

Cornell students: you are enough. Take courage and have faith as you move along your unique path at Cornell. Let your contributions to this world be rooted in meeting others in the present moment — in humility, empathy, curiosity, service and most importantly, love.

Adaeze Okorie ’20