Better than kryptonite

Bentley Ferraina

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? This question has plagued me my entire life. On the playground, kids used to ask this, and I’d immediately say X-ray vision. The application of this power is obvious: the ability to see through women’s clothing. I cannot, however, imagine a single heroic use of X-ray vision.

After a few years I upgraded my desired power to invisibility, again for the explicit purpose of seeing women naked, one of two recurring themes in my life. Nobody said superheroes needed to be noble.

But fate works in mysterious ways. There was that question, years later, as I applied to college. I lied, and not for the first time on the application. I chose a new power and claimed it had no voyeuristic intentions. I chose the ability to control time.

What a poignant choice that was, as I find myself almost four years later with an unshakable desire to go back in time and do college again. Not because I enjoyed it, mind you, but because I did not. I sucked at it.

This is the last column I will probably write on campus, and it’s sadly not about superheroes, nor is it about how Northwestern failed me. Rather, it’s about how I failed at Northwestern.

I’ve made countless mistakes while here. With the exception of this column and maybe that one time I brined and baked a turkey, I have done little worthy of admiration. I skip classes and then fail them or drop them. I join organizations and then abandon them. I have had no less than five majors and settled on the worst. I cannot say with a straight face that interdisciplinary studies is a legit major.

If this sounds like you and you’re like me, I sincerely ask you not to be. Maybe it’s hard to imagine underachievers on a campus full of overachievers. You always hear about the success stories. But then there are those kids who, for whatever reason, find themselves listless as they watch their friends run the show. Kids who are haunted, and have always been, by the word “potential.” Potential is the other recurring theme in my life, specifically the squandering of it.

A million little things have contributed to my failure here, but one stands out: When I arrived on campus, I was sure I’d be that superhero. The first time I failed, however, I gave up. I helped with a student film, and when I screwed it up, I thought, “Never mind, not film.” When I was rejected from writing programs, I thought, “Never mind, not writing.” Whenever I failed at anything I loved, I thought, “Never mind, not that.” Today, I don’t even risk failure. I avoid opportunity altogether.

It is this fear of defeat that has silenced any hopes of success. Fortunately, I can fake triumph and talent with amazing aplomb. I also laugh it off, calling these four years a comedy of errors. “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly,” they say. Maybe that’s true, but now I’ve turned my college career into a joke that’s only kind of OK to laugh at.

I’ll leave NU having learned one thing: My superpower shouldn’t have been X-ray vision, invisibility or time control. It should have been the ability to fail. Nobody said superheroes needed to be noble, but I think that’d be a very noble superpower.