Senior Wisdom: Tatini Mal-Sarkar

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Tatini Mal-Sarkar, former ill-informed Bwog advice columnist, charmed her way through Columbia one fried cheese product at a time – and now, she’s here to share some wisdom with you.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Tatini Mal-Sarkar, Columbia College, Sociology and Psychology (after, like, thirteen other departments), proud Midwesterner by way of Cleveland, Ohio.

Claim to fame: I once sent myself a CU Admirers post. It went something along the lines of, “U cute.” Even when hitting on myself, it seems I am not the most creative.  I also wrote a truly terrible advice column. It’s unclear why anyone let me publish it, nor why I’m linking you to the most blatantly fabricated article I ever penned.

Where are you going? Dinner! Just kidding. Actually, after four years of non-stop complaining that people expect me to read and write things, I’ll be continuing to read, write, and complain uptown, studying public mental health at Mailman, Columbia’s public health school.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2021?

Okay, here’s where I’ll get on my soapbox (I’ve lowkey been drafting this since I first joined Bwog freshman year. Actually, scratch that, I don’t believe in lowkey. I’ve highkey been drafting this for forever.)

1) First and foremost: don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a weird, scary, hard place, and you are not alone if you’re not sure you belong here. The stupid thing is, no matter how many op-eds or thinkpieces or whatever come out about fraud paradox or duck syndrome, they never seem to convince any of us that everyone else is also struggling. It is very hard not to internalize the shame of inadequacy in any capacity here. Find approachable, accessible adults to talk to, who will remind you that it is going to be alright, because chances are, just by virtue of what it’s like to be totally engrossed in this world, your friends aren’t always going to be able to. Perspective is such a bullshit word, because not having it is kind of what got you here. Nonetheless, you need it. Find people who inject it back into your life.

2) Be friendly. Screw the New York reserved and cool thing. Remember the girl who you met on your terrible Nuss floor? Say hi when you run into her at 3am buying three pints of Halo Top at Morton. Spot the same floppy-haired, bespectacled kid sitting in the front row of class for three years straight? Introduce yourself. People deserve to be acknowledged. If you recognize someone, acknowledge them. It’s not that hard to be polite (but maybe that’s just the Midwesterner in me). Relatedly: don’t be afraid to be excited about things. It’s very cool here to not care. Don’t buy in. Don’t be scared to give a shit. It’s much more fun to engage than disengage. It’s also more painful. But worth it, I think.

3) Also though, don’t let people off the hook. That’s just another way of not really engaging with the world around you. If you’re offended by something, say something! Nothing changes when we all stay silent and complicit. There is a way to not insult someone while contradicting them. And if you do insult them, screw it. Do yourself the enormous favor of saying what you actually think. Your authenticity does not deserve to be compromised.

4) Find people you don’t have to explain yourself to. It’s exhausting to always have to translate yourself, or to have to pretend. Don’t bother. Spend that energy on much more valuable things, like actually getting to know yourself and the people you genuinely find interesting. Pretense is a waste of your time.

5) One last thing: sleep! This whole work hard/play hard, “you’ll sleep when you’re dead” thing is just the WORST. You deserve nice things! Your body deserves nice things! Treat yourself well. Rest is important. Rest is when you build up strength. Take time off when you need it, and try not to feel the pressure to always be somewhere and be something. You are enough! (Sorry, I am an unabashedly sappy person. People are not told the good things about themselves often enough around here.)

6?) Also, just a sidenote: remember how smart the people around you are. And not in just a grand, abstract way. One day when half your closest friends are in insane positions of power, remind them incessantly of the time you cleaned up their vomit off their pants. They’ll appreciate you keeping them humble.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: You never have to justify your existence. Ever.

But I did once eat seventeen mozzarella sticks at JJ’s, to both the horror and delight of half my Lit Hum class. Kudos to me, charming my way through Columbia one fried cheese product at a time.

What was your favorite class at Columbia? This isn’t super generalizable because it’s going to be upper-level seminars in my majors. That said, here’s a piece of actually applicable advice: major in a small department, or at the very least, a department with lots of easily-accessed seminars. It is nice to know that someone cares what you actually think. This is how learning should be.

In the vein of more unnecessary, unasked-for advice: take a lot of random shit. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever use that one semester of Introductory Russian ever again, but hey, now I get to list “proficient in Russian” on my LinkedIn profile. It’s also just a guaranteed way to make yourself a more interesting dinner guest at some point or another. I can still recite the first two sentences of a Russian poem about pharmacies. Who says I’m not a good house guest?

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’m lactose intolerant, so. (Mozz sticks notwithstanding.)

One thing to do before graduating: Stay up all night on the steps with a friend or two or even someone you don’t know all that well. It sounds really very inane, but whenever I pre-nostalgize about undergrad (and I’m a hyper-nostalgic person), the first image that comes to mind is the steps. For better or for worse, this is where a lot of us grew up, at least a tiny bit. The things you’ll wind up remembering, I’m convinced, are the people you talk to. It’s never the capital-T Truths that wind up mattering, so much as the time you stayed up till 4 talking to your roommate about dumb boys, or the bakery you loved on 103rd with the perfectly-textured, marzipan-esque almond cookies, or the all-nighters you collectively spent not so much accomplishing any real tasks as watching weird YouTube shit and comparing results to stupid BuzzFeed quizzes.

Any regrets? Eh. Boatloads and also none, really. Do dumb shit. Give yourself the chance to be a little stupid, if you can afford it. You’re supposed to do dumb things when you’re young. You have all the time in the world to figure out the details. Get the big picture for now. Anyway, none of it will really matter in the long-term, besides the stories you’ll make of yourself. Make good stories. Do interesting things, or, I should say, things that interest you. You’ll grow out of it and realize you are mostly a better person for it. It will be alright.

Photo via Tatini Mal-Sarkar

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  1. tats fan  

    tatini is such a beautiful person <3

  2. friendly acquaintance  

    you literally just spoke all my truths. thx for this while i procrastinate on the final final paper at this wonderful, exhausting school.

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