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In 1944, amidst the height of World War II, renowned American singer Bing Crosby recorded “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” a catchy and uplifting ballad about the importance of attitude. The song inspires us to four main goals: accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.
As we gear up for Thanksgiving this week, some of us prepare to flip on our gratitude switch for the first time all year. Unfortunately, that can mean we turn up a little rusty. For some college students, stressful Thanksgiving circumstances, such as relative feuds or readjusting to briefly living with family, can make us itch to return to campus rather than hear another reason to be grateful at the dinner table. That doesn’t make us bad people — it’s simply easier to see the negatives accentuated in our limited vision. Despite its importance, being grateful does not always come naturally, but practicing the wise advice of Bing Crosby can help us re-envision our surroundings as perfectly timely.
Crosby’s first and foremost piece of advice to us all is to Accentuate the Positive. It’s easy to notice the things in our lives that seem to be going wrong: school, family, friends, the list is almost never-ending. But what many people fail to realize is that striving to extract the good from even the bleak situations can change our perspective on our problems altogether. I often feel that society has developed an over-reliance on negative tactics. It’s undeniable that we are swarmed right and left with issues on multiple fronts but it seems that our default solution is to resort to negativity, attacks, and division.
I believe we could be so much more effective at facing our problems if we took the opposite approach — recognizing the good in every situation and bringing it into the spotlight as a means of unity and gratitude. The more we focus on the positives, the more likely we are to find joy and purpose in even the wildest circumstances and persevere through them. Instead of approaching a seemingly unfavorable situation with a grim view, we can convince ourselves to make the most of it and find a place for ourselves amidst the chaos.
Accentuating the positive goes hand in hand with Eliminating the Negative. Eliminating the negative does not necessarily mean single-handedly dissolving all the world’s problems. Instead, eliminating can manifest in more practical ways that are less flashy. When Crosby tells us to eliminate the negative, what he really means is to eliminate our own negatives: To re-evaluate the world without our preconceived notions and remove ourselves from worrying about situations that are out of our control. Developing this laissez-faire attitude can do wonders in helping you appreciate your circumstances just as they are, always and everywhere.
Once we’ve developed this mindset, we must find a way to maintain it: Latch onto the Affirmative. To me, this means seeking company that makes us feel welcomed and encourages us towards gratefulness. Surrounding yourself with individuals that accept you can ensure that the wheel of positivity keeps turning. I have learned that you can find your people anywhere you go as long as you look for them. This past weekend, as I looked out at the crowd in the stands during Harvard-Yale, I felt overcome with a sense of gratitude for finding wonderful friends to spend the next four years with but more importantly, gratitude to be part of the larger student body that feels an intense sense of shared Crimson identity. When we fly home for Thanksgiving this week, I hope we can continue that commitment to latching on to our affirmatives and find comfort with our families, our people who will always support us and shower us with appreciation.
Finally, throughout everything, we have to learn to let some things go: Don’t Mess with Mr. In-Between. There will always be something we wish we could but cannot control, someone we hope would be our crowd but simply is not. I am a strong believer in fate and often, when something lies in the in-between, it is better left alone. Trust that the world can exist without our hand in every matter, that we can belong in our own happy place without worrying about where every other minuscule thing in the world fits. If we can be grateful for what is in our lives, it’s rare we will give a second thought to what’s not.
I hope to take Crosby’s advice with me into the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. My first semester of college has shown me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the next seven will not be an easy road, but it is up to me to adjust how I approach my circumstances. We can all benefit from injecting gratitude into our lives, embedding positivity, and stepping away from trivialities to celebrate our place — our belonging — in the world with a fresh perspective.
Labiba Uddin ’25 lives in Canaday Hall. Her column “BeLonging” appears on alternate Tuesdays.
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