Finding God and Identity Through Disappointment
Senior Compass Series
Not being accepted into Georgetown University is my biggest failure to date. Georgetown was my top choice when applying to colleges, but I did not meet the expectations during the first two rounds of admissions. This process — and my Georgetown experience itself — forced me to grapple with the idea of being good enough, of being exceptional.
I was deferred from early action and waitlisted during regular decision. My mom convinced me to remain on the waitlist, despite my concerns about losing money and the risk of making a dramatic school change at the last minute. Despite my hesitations, I accepted the offer to join Georgetown’s Class of 2018 on May 7, 2014.
I should have realized then that my expectations of Georgetown — and of myself — were wrong.
Once on the Hilltop, I did not receive the straight A’s I was used to, I never had a “hillternship” and I do not think I will be among the 70 percent of Hoyas marrying other Hoyas. I did not live in a Village A rooftop apartment or run for student government, nor do I speak a lick of Arabic. I assumed these would be the experiences that would make my time at Georgetown perfect. I did not realize any of them.
Instead, I found the flaws in my walk with God when I entered through those front gates as a freshman.
I stopped prioritizing the picture-perfect life of holding leadership positions, being relationship and squad goals and earning perfect grades. Instead, I was struck by the first Jesuit value: ad majorem Dei gloriam, or “to the greater glory of God.”
I asked myself why I was at Georgetown and for whom I was striving for these accolades. When my sadness kept me in bed because those
things I had valued failed me, I was left with one thing: God. When I was at my lowest, my chaplain-in-residence and individuals in the faith community provided a listening ear; they helped me rekindle my faith walk.
As long as I was seeking the approval of individuals, I could never be happy. I had to approve of myself first — and realize God already did.
As my senioritis has brought more time reflecting on my experiences than writing my thesis, I can say that I am content with what I have done and what I have not. Each “failed” moment as a Hoya opened up opportunities that helped me discover myself. My first Georgetown failure — being deferred by my top school — forced me to examine the most intimate parts of my identity: my status as a black woman and my relationship with God.
I have sat in classrooms in which professors looked through me and threw away my thoughts. I worried about being equal to those who thought I was at Georgetown to fulfill a diversity quota. I carried the burden of being the only black person in 34 of the 40 classes I took as a student here. I found the flaws in my walk with God when I entered through those front gates as a freshman.
I did not truly reconcile my blackness with my womanhood until my decision not to take Arabic sent me to Argentina. Continuing Spanish to fulfill my language requirement — despite my initial hopes to master Arabic while at Georgetown — helped me find la negrita en la ciudad: the black girl in the city. The language barrier and my appearance made hiding impossible; my insecurities were on full display. When I spoke, people listened; when I walked by, they watched. The kids with whom I volunteered studied my features and made a playground of my hair. I had no choice but to be bold in my identity and my thoughts.
Time away from Georgetown helped me discover my beauty, along with the important perspective my identity added to the conversations I had in the classroom. Being quiet and comparing myself to my peers was no longer an option when I returned to the Hilltop.
As my time at Georgetown comes to an end, I cannot help but be grateful for this humbling experience. I’m grateful for the alphabet soup of grades, being the oddball in the classroom, the all-nighters and the Club Lau nights at Lauinger Library, the long walks to and from Darnall Hall, the sticky heat and crisp smell of freshly cut grass on move-in day, the cool somberness of commencement ceremonies, the laughter of friends in my small bedroom, the dance sessions with my roommates and the many rejections that life brings.
Although Georgetown is my most immense failure to date, it has proven to be my most wonderful as well.
Kathryn Threatt is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the fifth installment in the Senior Compass Series.