December 11, 2015

DENG | Despite Everything

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I lay in bed this morning, wincing slightly as I gingerly poked at a red welt that seemed to have grown overnight. I threw aside the sheets and shuffled slowly to the bathroom and gazed at the mirror for a minute. My ashen face stared back at me as I reached below the sink top, feeling blindly for my small makeup pouch.

I tugged at the zipper, which stubbornly refused to move. String must have caught between those teeth again, I thought, feeling the all too familiar frustration start to settle in. Then I relaxed, trying to let the pressure slide off, at least for today.

I’m still not sure why I attempted to adopt that mindset, especially in the middle of finals season. But I think it’s because I felt the need to take some time, especially now, to reflect on this past semester. We all do.

When I told others that I chose to come to Cornell, I was congratulated, but I also received a surprising number of less-than-enthusiastic responses. “Why? Why would you want to trade the great weather in Cali for unbearable winters? Why would you want the grade deflation and the stress that comes hand in hand? Why do you want to be in the middle of nowhere?” “Don’t die.” Sure.

I haven’t thought about this for a while, but as the last few days of first semester rush by, I think I am better equipped to counter these responses. Yes, during the last couple weeks of summer I became reluctant to fly thousands of miles from home; I felt the dread as I frantically scheduled excursions with people I knew I wouldn’t be seeing for a long time; I kept procrastinating when it came to shopping for the winter clothes as if pushing thoughts about bad weather out of my mind would make it disappear. Despite all this, these past few months have been some of the best in my life.

Dear Cornell, thank you for a close friend of mine now whom I met on the very first day during a sad “concert” that was part of O-week (still the only reason I’m glad I went to that…). Thank you for getting me up one chilly 8 a.m. morning to walk to the Arts and Sciences convocation so that the girl who asked to sit next to me now knows so many details about my life (even a tad too many). Thank you for providing so many aesthetically pleasing libraries and cafes in which I got to bond more closely with a friend who always jokingly accused me of avoiding him because we were always doing work at the same time, but never in the same spot.

Thank you for the all-nighters spent having conversations with others that made me realize so many things about the experiences we all have, for buildings with eccentric design and modern infrastructure that beg for late-night explorations, for that deathly Slope to climb to make me feel a little better about inhaling all the amazing food in sight at Becker. Thanks for making me walk so damn far to class everyday, which would get irritating if it weren’t for the fact that your campus is absolutely breathtaking.

Thank you for the courses I found so difficult at first that I considered dropping them, but decided to stick with anyways. I would have never discovered how much I enjoyed the material had I given up. Thank you for surrounding me with individuals who have seen and done much more than I have because it pushes me to grow. Thank you for forcing me to get up instead of continuing to lie in the dust after receiving a bad grade because I shouldn’t let those numbers stop me from relentlessly pursuing something I love.

I’m not going to lie about this: you’ve knocked us all down several times hard. But every time it happens, it only serves to strengthen our resilience and foster an eagerness to tackle the next thing we’re thrown into. That’s the best part about being here: I’m surrounded by people who know about all these pitfalls. The people who know the battles will be hard, but say, “Fuck it, Cornell is worth this struggle.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Sophia is a freshman majoring in Computer Science. Her favorite things include her sketchpad, grapes and Facebook Pusheen stickers. She may seem quiet upon first impression, but beware of her random laughing fits once you get to know her. Occasionally, she can be found outside the library. Her posts appear on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].