Mend your broken bridges

By Leah Pearlman , Columnist

My name is Leah Pearlman, and I am a perpetual bridge burner. Or I was would be the more accurate way of putting it, because I am departing from my past bridge burning ways.

As students on such a large campus, we may feel that our poor actions will not follow us very far in the future. Well, as a current junior (I know, I’m an upperclassman, how did this happen?), I can tell you that this mindset is very far from the truth.

At the University especially, a pretty large majority of us regularly go out to bars or socialize with friends in other settings. These college nights are the times we hear about in songs and see clips of in movies, but we never truly realize how much is going on under the surface of those visuals we’ve seen.

Yes, that girl is super cute and may be giving you flirty eyes, but you know she is in a relationship with someone in your political science class. And no, you don’t know that person in your political science class, but you will have to sit right next to them knowing you drunkenly kissed their girlfriend at a stupid fraternity rush party when you both drank and both knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.

So many situations like these are happening, because college is quite literally a summer camp for older kids who are now drinking, having sex and making all of their own decisions for the first time in their lives.

From meeting new people on a pretty constant rotation to commonly seeing a few familiar faces on campus and even seeing people from your high school you may have not been close with back then, this University is a huge school filled with people to get to know.

Think of all the people you know (your bridges) and how their experiences and interests may range across the entire University, from friends in your major to friends in your dorm or Greek house to differing RSO’s and workplaces. Then, imagine another student’s connections (or bridges) and how they overlap and intermingle with your interests and your connections’ interests. All of a sudden, this school is shrinking and making out with that girl was not a good move.

Here is the good news: you can mend broken bridges, and you should try to do so. The ones I’ve burnt I’ve since repaired or, at the very least, sent a carrier pigeon across the charred bridge to the owner, “Yo, sorry I set flame to your bridge.”

People make mistakes and that’s okay, we are human. When we are emotionally charged, we do not think clearly and we may say things we don’t mean. Additionally, adding alcohol to the equation makes situations like these worse. But learning from those mistakes and apologizing to those you have hurt is very important not only for the friendships harmed but for future relationships as well.

I was sitting in a journalism class last semester when a girl I didn’t necessarily get along with walked in. I said to the girl next to me, “Ugh, I can’t believe she is in this class.” Surprise, surprise. That girl came and sat down right next to the girl I just whispered that rude comment to. They were friends.

I realized the mistake I had made and, after class, apologized, “I shouldn’t judge that girl; I honestly barely know her. I regret saying that. I hope we can move forward.”

The bridge was only smoldering, and I quickly mended it. But there are other examples in which I couldn’t catch myself as quickly, and in these instances, when the bridge is complete ash, serious work is needed in order to mend it. And I truly believe you should try your hardest to mend those old burned bridges as well.

You may have to prepare yourself a little humble pie and eat it with a smile, because the first step is admitting fault. You need to give the other person closure in the matter and simultaneously elevate them. When they feel like they have the higher ground, it is much easier to resolve things.

Also, the apology needs to be clear. Put the responsibility on your shoulders and take the blame. “I’m so sorry I ever let this get so out of hand” can work wonders. There is no shame in asking someone to forgive your former wrongdoings as well. You can be stubborn and say that you did nothing wrong, but it won’t mend your bridge with this person (and it probably isn’t true.)

Admittedly, this process doesn’t always work. And it didn’t work for me a few times, but I know that I tried my hardest and that’s okay with me.

You’ll be surprised by how many students know other students and how our campus that seems so large truly shrinks once you start to get to know other people. And for that reason, mending any bridges you’ve burned in the past is a good idea and very possible. You never know who knows whom, and you never know who you may become friends with in the future.

I am a recovering bridge-burner, and you can be too. And once you have fixed the bridges, remember to be mindful of burning bridges in the future.

Leah is a junior in Media and FAA.

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