Today, I woke up with no motivation to attend classes, do work, or even leave my room. Every students experiences these moments. You work tirelessly on a string on difficult projects, reading assignments, and exams for several days–sometimes even weeks–and then suddenly, once you have completed them all, you crash. Your body wakes up, but your mind does not. You need 24 hours to relax and reset your brain before endeavoring to move forward on any new work.
Of course, it is better not to burn out too often as a student; otherwise, you can kiss your GPA good-bye. However, I had already committed to my mistake and could not avoid its consequences. I resolved myself to a lazy day indoors and scavenged my refrigerator for easy-to-prepare food. I lucked out for the most part, finding leftovers from last night’s meal laid out before me like a gift from the heavens. However, I soon realized that I didn’t have anything to drink. Not wanting to put on respectable pants (pajama bottoms are my essentially my uniform during sloth-like days), I ventured into Sheldon Court’s basement to purchase a drink from the vending machine.
There it was: a rusty machine with broken lights and a handful of soft drinks. I put in my seven quarters and listened for the glorious sound of Pepsi hitting the bottom receptacle. I picked up, opened the cap, and took a swig.
And I immediately hated it.
I regretted every quarter I had put into that machine. The soda tasted awful. No, it wasn’t flat or expired. It was just a terrible drink. I realized, to a ominous soundtrack playing only in my head, that I no longer liked soda.
Sometime in these last three years, I lost my taste for soft drinks. I used to drink soda all the time before college. I drank it with meals, with snacks, and even by itself when I got the midnight munchies. I thought water tasted gross and that tea was not for me. Juice was delicious, but soda was even better. When did that all change?
Since I had nothing else to do at the time, I spent a few minutes back in my room thinking about why I didn’t like the taste of soda anymore. I realized that it must have always been just a bad habit–one I picked up from my days back home, where everyone shared the same vice. Soda isn’t healthy for the body but, like candy and other sweets, it can become addicting over time. Since I grew up drinking soda, I never had the luxury of not having a taste for it. That logic would explain why I craved soda so much more than any other drink, particularly ones without sugar (such as water and tea).
Like any bad habit, to overcome it requires that you don’t do the habit for a long time. At Cornell, I never drank soda. Soda was not nearly as readily available as other drinks, and tap water was free. Also, I mimicked what my friends drank and they (being significantly for health-conscious than I am) always drank tea. So when I went to their dorm rooms or houses, tea was what I drank. Over time, I came to prefer it over most other drinks. That must have been the turning point.
Now my taste preferences have changed. I don’t like how soda upsets my stomach, and I despise the sticky film it produces over my teeth after every sip. Its fizzle burns my throat and the flavor is oddly bitter and sweet at the same time. I never lodged those complaints at soda before, but now I couldn’t get over them. At this moment, that Pepsi I bought from the vending machine still stands in my refrigerator untouched. There it will probably stay for several days, and I will never once consider topping it off.
What this experience taught me was that Cornell has an even subtler effect on my behavior than I realize. Subconsciously, I’m absorbing the habits of the people surrounding me and changing my lifestyle preference to reflect my needs in this new environment. It sounds like a basic concept that I should have learned in some sociology or biology course beforehand, but I still feel strange about having recognized it in my own life. Sometimes, this tendency can encourage people to take on bad habits. The positive twist to this story is that Cornell’s environment is actually encouraging me to lose bad habits. If anything else, I think this experience is a subtle testament to the value I receive through my education at Cornell. It’s easy to enumerate the various resources, career opportunities, and academic experiences I have received by being a student of this university, but it is more difficult to point out the more covert benefits of interacting with Cornell’s community. Subtle changes, like losing a taste for unhealthy activities, are benefits I should be grateful for when looking back at my academic career here.
So, good-bye, Pepsi. You will not be missed.