Column: Finding the right perspective

For much of the past four years, it seems that all I have done is write. A political science major with minors in English and religion, I rarely find myself studying for tests; instead, I crank out page after page for term papers. When I am done with that, I usually head to The Chronicle office and once again wrestle with the keyboard in an attempt to produce something coherent and interesting for our readers.

So here I am, attempting to write a senior column and I have suddenly lost all of my words. Instead of language, I have been left with an uncanny sentiment.

This feeling I have inside of me is important. I don't want to mess it up, convolute it or taint its real message. So, as I narrate my somewhat non-succinct feelings, bear with me. In life, you really do have to take the good with the bad. But, over the past four years, I've noticed there are people out there who have that inspiring gift of being able to take the good, smile and pass the bad right up.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not some naive, oblivious moppet who thinks it's possible to live life without any troubles. I'm certainly not advocating staring trouble in the face and pretending it's not there. I acknowledge the importance of striving to change things for the better. All I'm saying is after four years of observation and participation in both leagues of thought, henceforth, I think I'll stick with the positive attitude.

I came to Duke looking to make friends with whom I could share bonds for a lifetime. I came expecting to find professors who inspired me so much they brought me to tears and classes that challenged me so much they too sometimes brought me to tears. I came to find love and heartbreak. I came to live, learn and grow up. And, incredibly enough, I think I found just about all of this.

This University is an amazing place. During my time here, I have experienced many of Duke's wonderful, formative aspects. But also during my time here, I have been disenchanted with a few things. Yet, I as I look back over everything, maybe it was not so much the campus that disappointed me, but rather myself.

It seems like there have been countless opportunities I have passed up here that I will never have the chance to do again. My friends have gone on mission trips over spring break. I wish I had done that. I regret not becoming involved in the various theater and dance groups on campus. There have been professors whom I wish I had sought out more actively and classes that I wish I had known about. For these missed opportunities, I have only myself to blame.

But then I stop and think about all that I have done here - all that the school with its ups and downs has allowed me to cherish. I smile as I think about all of the truly inspiring people I have met here who will soon head off to tackle the worlds of law, medical and divinity school at incredible institutions like Harvard, UVA and Yale. And then that rush of optimism and cheerfulness takes hold.

I don't think I possess the merit to give advice. I'm too young for that. I wish I had the capacity to convey the awe and contentedness with which I exit this campus. If my words have any weight, I'd like to pass on my fascination with the realm of the positive.

I suppose it's a bit ironic that for three of my four years with The Chronicle, I've devoted my efforts to the features department. The most common response I receive when I tell someone I write features is "Oh," with a smile and a nod, and then shortly thereafter, "What exactly is a feature?" Still not 100 percent sure how to answer after three years, I typically respond that they are the human-interest stories. Features involve in-depth reporting written in a more intimate style. But what I've come to realize about my department is it embodies the very spirit I am trying to capture as I leave Duke.

What is the features department? It's the positive stories in the paper. Not that there can't be positive stories elsewhere in the paper. But, I think it's safe to say that features are the only stories that are consistently optimistic. With my beat, I don't have to worry about covering heartache or the seedier side of the University.

And so, it seems my stories have embodied my spirit. Or, in any case, the spirit that I admire. As I say my good-byes to Duke, I take comfort in this powerful appreciation for the potency hidden within a pleasant, positive outlook.


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