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Jackson: What I learned about friendship during my freshman year at NU

Cassidy Jackson, Columnist

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I’ve recently realized what freshman year and the rest of this weird four-year period is all about: adjusting to the culture that permeates this campus and digesting a new pseudo-adult life. It’s about being a metaphorical sponge, absorbing everything from the minute details to the grand themes of college life. When it comes to the small bits and bobs at Northwestern, I’ve learned the difference between residential colleges and residential communities, taken note of the high prevalence of Canada Goose jackets, concluded that Allison is the best dining hall on campus (hot take) and gained an unlikely appreciation for doing laundry. The bigger things, of course, were more difficult to understand.

My most valuable lessons this year come from hitting rock bottom. In high school, making friends seemed like child’s play, in that it didn’t take work to make a friendship flourish. But on campus, I learned that it definitely takes work.

I’m someone who thrives off human connection and relationships. I had a number of meaningful friendships Fall Quarter, but I couldn’t shake the frustrated feeling that they weren’t as fulfilling as they could be. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that, on estimation, I come into contact with 500 people on a daily basis and I was only forming significant relationships with a tiny subset of that population.

Yet I was blind to my dissatisfaction with my friendships until … I wasn’t. Whenever things end, I’m always forced to confront my true emotions: As Fall Quarter ended and I drove away from my dorm, I looked out my car’s rear window and just started tearing up.

I will never forget that moment, the moment when it hit me that I was fully dissatisfied with my friendships, and that I was to blame. I wasn’t putting my real self out there — it was like I was fishing without bait. I wasn’t reaching out to people. I wasn’t saying yes to every invitation that was coming my way. I wasn’t taking risks.

It’s so easy to paint yourself as the victim in situations like this, to place the blame on other people rather than see faults within yourself. As I went through the rest of the year, I vowed to myself that I would take leaps. I would talk to the people I wanted to. I wouldn’t let life pass me by; I was going to seize it.

I’ve learned to go after what I want, from extracurriculars to people to my career, etc. I only have four years here. And you can bet that when I graduate, I’m going to pack up my dorm, look out the rear window of my car and, instead of tearing up over what could have been, I’m going to look out that window proud of the risks I took.

Cassidy Jackson is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at cassidyjackson2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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