“Everything happens for a reason.” This is a mantra I repeat to myself whenever my world is shaken. It’s a recitation I do with foresight, knowing it will help to eventually make clear the vast improvements the simple passage of time can create. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon. But, everything happens for a reason. Whatever happened was in the past, and in some way, it could have been for the best.
Everyone has dreams, and a college degree has always been seen as a crucial means to reaching them. As a result, more people than ever are trying to obtain higher education, and they have good reason to believe that the quality and prestige of the college they attend can have a significant impact on the quality and prestige of the work they do after graduation. Controversy arises when it’s deemed that certain groups of people have an unfair advantage in the admissions process. I have listened to engineers — male engineers — lament the school’s allegedly lower standards for female applicants. They had to work extremely hard to gain acceptance to Cornell’s engineering program, while others, they claim, just “walked in” because they “have vaginas.” Despite the misogyny conveyed by this language, however, unqualified girls in engineering are the least of our concerns, when one considers the apparent injustice done when black and Latinx applicants with credentials inferior to those of white applicants are given what those white applicants deem preferential treatment in college admissions.
The United States of America is currently “The Divided States of America” according to TIME. How did we get here? Part of it has to do with emotion. Much has been made about the role of emotions in the most recent presidential election. They played an important role in shaping a massive populist movement headlined by Donald Trump, one that underscored the need to retain some semblance of a ‘greater’ American past in which its foundational promise as a nation to be open-minded and big-hearted is not made.
Chandler’s boss made a joke in a Friends episode referencing a possibility that many Americans have been waiting to witness for quite some time: Hillary Clinton as President of the United States, becoming the first woman to wield the title ‘leader of the free world.’ He said “I strongly believe that we should all support President Clinton — and her husband Bill.” It was based on the premise that Hillary was overstepping her role as First Lady, to the point of essentially doing her husband’s job. She was out of her place. Although the tasteless joke was made by a schmuck and Chandler only laughed to avoid any conflict, it did touch on how sexism can affect a powerful woman. Pundits have speculated over the multitude of reasons for the election outcome in the past few weeks. Conservative commentators have been quick to argue that any effects of sexism were cancelled out by Hillary’s status as an elite.
Getting to India is the struggle. With each year that passes, my parents renew their interest in travelling back to the country they spent the first half of their lives in. They have nostalgia for practically everything they used to do; my mom missed sampling the seemingly endless supply of street food along MG road in Bangalore, and my dad missed playing cricket at his agricultural college he attended in Coimbatore, amongst a million other memories they formed during a time fondly recalled as ‘the days before the kids were born.’
India pleaded with my parents to make arrangements for a return every year, and without fail, the travel agent listing the hefty costs of such an endeavor as well as the complaints of how incredibly busy my sister and I were with middle and high school responsibilities answered. Excitement was always tempered, but never lost. A trip to the decent Indian buffet alleviated any case of home-homesickness, followed with what has now become a staple in my house: a viewing of a Bollywood film.
I have been a research assistant for the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, now known as the Youth, Risk and Opportunity lab, for a few years now. One of the projects I worked on last year was transcribing interviews. The interviews were conducted to clarify the course of one’s relationship with NSSI throughout one’s life as it relates to the trans-theoretical model. This model reflects an individual’s readiness to act on incorporating a healthier behavior into their lives, which in the cases of these individuals would be working towards ending their engagement in NSSI. The interviews themselves were of many perspectives.
My parents found a perfect candidate to look after me since they couldn’t anymore. What qualified him, however, had nothing to do with the fact that he was my resident advisor whose job was to ease the drastic change to college life. He was a respectful and seemingly responsible Indian student who fondly reminisced with them of the motherland, using “aunty” and “uncle” throughout their conversation. As we mature, we come into identities shaped by the culture we were raised in. My parents came to America for my sister and me, but ensured we would grow up in an Indian household.
It didn’t take more than one semester at Cornell for me to realize how extremely competitive we all are with each other, but not in the conventional sense. What seems like the standard grappling for achievement is only our brand of competition at its surface. Each of us strives to be the one who is doing, or rather, struggling the most. Who pulls the most all-nighters, takes the most credits, has the most prelims lined up for next week and won’t let you forget any of it. When you complain about trudging through the unending daily tasks, you are the jaded, quintessential Cornell student in all his or her glory.