Column by Cat Tacopina

Cat Tacopina
Cat Tacopina

Things didn’t start looking up this semester until my German professor gave me a fortune cookie.

I’ll just start by telling all of you how I’m having a really bad semester. I’m sure there are a ton of you out there experiencing this, too; after all, they say it’s usually in between sophomore and junior year of college when your life falls apart.

Or is that when you’re 39 and your 40th birthday is the next day?

Well, whatever -— back on track. This semester has sucked, point blank. Every story I’ve done for my one journalism class has had one or multiple things go wrong. I’ve had two allergy attacks during or prior to my German class and after an entire semester, I’m still terrified of my professor (No, really. I’d rather take a shot of my own pee than have him see me with my phone). Every class has given me some sort of emotional strife, whether it be work-related or personal.

I realized I had to turn things around when I stressed myself out so much I ended up making myself sick, which resulted in my sleeping on the Oracle couch last Wednesday night.

The passive aggressive emails from my professor concerning how I missed his class due to being sick helped me realize that, too.

In order to try and make things better, I decided I should go to Anja Wieden, my German professor of two years now, and ask her for help on my German essay (which royally sucks at the moment).

Since we’ve seen each other every semester that we’ve been here (my first semester was her first semester teaching in New Paltz), we’ve become very comfortable with one another. It only took about five minutes before I told her everything about this semester.

And, naturally, Anja was the sweet, wonderful professor she is and told me it was going to be OK. I mean, she is the reason I’m a German Studies minor*.  Not only would things be OK, but a fortune cookie would cheer me up.

“Who knows? Maybe the cheesy thing they always say will be funny.”

It wasn’t funny though. Actually, it ended up being quite relevant.

I have this issue; I affectionately call it my “Black Swan Complex,” but it’s a horrible, horrible thing. I’m hypercompetitive and strive to be perfect, and basically joke about wanting to be a 24/7 wide-awake robot.

But leave it to a fortune cookie to make me realize how unhealthy that was. Leave it to a fortune cookie to say, “One of the best things to do sometimes is simply to be.”

Leave it to a fortune cookie to slap me across the face and say, “Cat, you’re not a gold-painted unicorn at the circus dancing the waltz on its hind legs — you’re human.”

And I know all you little Black Swans are out there, too. I know you’re sitting there in your room torturing yourself about the 84 you got on your last article or essay (Ha, what are those?). Don’t do that. It really isn’t that bad of a grade. If it’s really bothering  you, I’m sure you have a professor who can help remedy that.

But the most important thing to remember, more important than the extra credit or how well you have to do on the next assignment, is that these bumps in the road won’t matter later on. What will matter is your sanity and your contentment being kept intact. What matters most though, is realizing your life is getting better, and you’re growing stronger every single day.

And maybe, you’ll come back to reality after talking with your German professor and having a fortune cookie.

Don’t let the good life pass you by.

*Actually Anja scared me into doing the German Studies minor. I think Anja tried to do this thing where she acted scary for the first couple of weeks teaching us. All I remember is wandering aimlessly around the major and minors fair in those first couple of weeks and having Anja say to me “CAT, you are so good at German. You’re going to do the minor, RIGHT?” The good thing is I love it, and that Anja stopped being scary after week four.