As a history major, I hear a lot about people who are “destined for greatness.” Joan of Arc was destined to save King Charles. Mahatma Gandhi was destined to precipitate Indian independence. Ed Sheeran was destined to be the greatest singer/songwriter there ever was.
For a long time, I struggled with the idea of what I was destined to become and what would make me happy. A doctor? Most definitely not. An engineer? I hate math. A lawyer? Probably, yes. But what kind? What impact was I destined to have?
Perhaps being so obsessed with the future was why it was refreshing to hear Judge Sri Srinivasan, a man who I deeply admire for the life he has shaped for himself, say that there’s no such thing as being “destined” for one job. In fact, there are many, many things that each of us could do and be happy with.
I could work in the realm of Civil Rights, like our two speakers on Monday, Seema Nanda, the new incoming CEO of the DNC, and Faiz Shakir, the National Political Director of the ACLU. We discussed everything from family separation to voting rights with them. It was a truly wonderful experience to hear from those who have fought for the protection of civil rights and civil liberties in many trying administrations and situations and still come out hopeful and positive about the future.
I could be a community advocate like our speakers from Wednesday night. Lakshmi Sridaran, the Director of Advocacy and National Policy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and Anisha Singh, the Senior Organizing Director for Center for American Progress, talked to our WLP class about what it means to be a community advocate for the MASA (Muslim, South Asian, and Arab American) community, especially when that community has many diverse beliefs. They encouraged us to see the struggles that other people face and to empathize with these struggles – indeed, the future lies with those who stand together, not those who fall apart.
And finally, I could be a lawyer and then a judge like Judge Sri Srinivasan. I could argue in court on behalf of a client, faithful that the judicial system poses the answers to the systemic problems that our nation faces. He was both inspiring and just plain cool, as he talked about what it was like to argue in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (eek!).
What Shivank wrote in last week's blog about figuring out a future was very apt. There are hundreds of different doors that have been thrown wide open this summer, each holding futures more confusing and exciting than the last. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from our speakers and mentors, it is that it does not take courage to take an opportunity and stick to it because you think destiny demands it. It takes courage to take an opportunity, realize you are unhappy, and change it.
Indeed, if you live your life this way, destiny may not come knocking, but happiness definitely will.
Sincerely, Moushmi Patil Department of Homeland Security, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Cornell University, ’19
P.S. Huge shout-out to my amazing WLP class. You’ve all made D.C. a better place to be this summer and have encouraged me to grow beyond my limits. Thanks for pushing me, for putting up with my Lincoln Memorial obsession, and for always being down to eat some ice cream (and cake!)