Why is it so difficult to be a recipient of compassion?

by Sarah Luna

I’m halfway through my first week of my second semester at Cornell. I am taking Foundations of Epidemiology, Regulation of Macronutrient Metabolism, and the second statistics course. I’ll also be participating in two seminars and possibly taking Grant Writing. And I am responsible for leading two discussion sections as a TA (and dealing with the admin stuff, too). Oh, and research…never ending, nebulous research.

The week preceding classes I had been experiencing difficulty sleeping. This was only the second time I’ve experienced inexplicable insomnia, and I found it very troublesome. I woke up on Monday with my eyes burning and heavy. It was -26F outside, and the snow assaulted my eyes.

By 8pm that evening I had attended three classes, a seminar, and two meetings. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I had readings and research plans to wade through and partial responsibility for around 150 students who needed to be neatly organized according to their preference.

Throughout the entire day, I had support from my nutrition colleagues. We buoyed each other and collaborated to find solutions. We problem-solved together and sifted through hundreds of emails from disgruntled students. While I was with them, I found the means to function.

But as soon as I walked out of Savage, I felt fatigue collapse in on me. I had to stop by dance practice to drop something off, and I saw two of my freshmen friends practicing with their partners. When they saw me, they came up to me and each gave me a hug. They remarked how tired I looked and how my eyes looked.

I felt my voice shake as I responded to them. I can be strong until the moment I face compassion. My arms started shaking, too, and I realized that I would break down if I stayed any longer. So I continued my walk home.

I find it ironic that I am comforted by my freshmen friends. These are the girls I want to set an example for. These are the women I hope to encourage. I feel like I should be the one reaching out to them.

Accepting compassion is an admission of need.  I like being self-sufficient.
It is humbling. I am proud.