Freishtat: Why seeing Northwestern’s silver linings is a choice

Sarah Freishtat

My roommate and I sat trapped in our apartment during a thunderstorm, debating what I could possibly write for this column. As I distracted her from studying for her last exam — as I have done every finals week since freshman year — I worried about sounding cheesy, or like I had no idea what I was talking about. After all, I haven’t even graduated college yet.

But then I realized that was something I would have worried about freshman year. And if there’s one thing four years here have taught me, it is to stop caring what faceless readers might think. My college experience has been about what I choose to make of Northwestern, not what everyone else makes of it for me.

This may seem fairly obvious, but it gives perspective to of some of the big, campus-wide discussions that have happened during the time I’ve been here. When national media picked up on a rather explicit demonstration of a sex toy in Prof. John Michael Bailey’s class, I could have been scandalized by the portrayal of my prestigious institution of higher education, or, I could have thought it was cool to study with professors who push boundaries and take risks.

When students wore blackface to a Halloween party, and then again when minority students were harassed on a shuttle bus, and then again when a student group hosted a party involving racial costumes, I could have lamented the state of diversity at the school. Or, like so many students did, I could have taken the opportunity to discuss a difficult issue with friends and colleagues from a variety of backgrounds.

When the religious student group Campus Crusaders for Christ began its very vocal and effective “I agree with Markwell” campaign, in which students signed on to and publicized the beliefs of alumnus Matthew Markwell (McCormick ‘12), I could have taken offense at the apparent rejection of students of different beliefs. Or, I could have been inspired by one group’s ability to express its beliefs freely, in its own way.

I’m not saying I always had the reaction I should have had to these events, or that it’s easy to take something constructive from them. But, I could choose what to take away from them, whether I actually did so or not. I could have chosen to seize an opportunity, or to accept my school’s flaws for what they were.

NU is far from perfect, and can be unforgiving at times. But every fault of the school has a silver lining, if only that you can work to fix that fault.

This, I would imagine, will be what the real world is like. I can be worried about not having a job, or I can take advantage of having one last summer. I can stress about having to moving away from my friends and family, or I can be excited to explore a new place.

It will be easy to look back at NU and coat it with a rosy glow, or a shadow of thank-god-I’m-out-of-there-negativity. But neither of those reflects what we have gotten out of this place, good or bad. It is those moments when we choose to see an event in a certain light, or take advantage of a certain situation, that we should remember. The moments that teach us the most are the ones when we choose what we want to make of our experiences.