I’m not going to wait until Senior Week to write some sappy reflection on all that I have learned in four years and treat it like an ode to the senior class thereby assuming that it applies to everyone at Notre Dame. Instead, this is an opportunity to share an important lesson for all Domers in the hopes that whether you’re finishing your first semester or approaching your last one, you realize that it’s not too late to be intentional.
The message is more or less two-fold. Be intentional. Do what scares you.
Now, you’ve probably received the advice to “do what scares you” before. Be bold; explore the unknown, etc. But what I’ve realized to be prevalent among Notre Dame students is that we are in fact brave, adventurous dreamers who have high expectations and are willing to put in the work to make them a reality. Honestly, that is completely awesome. That is a huge part of why we are blessed to be a part of this particular community. Yet sometimes we over-do it. There is a beauty in simplicity that many of us are missing. I personally find that Notre Dame students are scared to relax; to do less; to say “no.” I know that I tried to do everything I could volunteer for in the past three years. I’m a big proponent of taking advantage of every opportunity. Notre Dame is full of them! It’s not like I necessarily bought into the idea that I had to do it all, but I saw so much I wanted to be a part of that I tried to make it work. This is true for many of my friends as well. Yet it took three years and the panic of “oh-my-goodness-I-only-have-one-more-year” that comes with senior year to finally say no.
At the same time, because we’re so scared to say no, we forget that saying no means we have the chance to say yes to something else. I’m not saying quit club A only to join team B. Rather, as long as you have one or two things that you can be proud of, can speak about in interviews, and are passionate about, then you don’t need to do it all.
You have roughly four years as a student at Notre Dame. After that, visiting the grotto at 2 a.m., swing dancing at Legends on a Thursday, making cupcakes in the Lewis kitchen, going to that lecture on the peace process in Colombia, spending two hours in the dining hall with your roommates, going to Sorin chili mass, attending that Undertones concert, jumping in the lake, and so many other little experiences like that will never be the same. I realized that I had all these things on my college bucket list that I was neglecting all because I felt guilty for not spending every moment in the library or in meetings. But the thing is, those seemingly trivial experiences make up a huge part of our Notre Dame experience. We will not remember the reading assignment for sociology, we will remember the night we went to the SUB concert then played charades until 2am. We will remember the people we made those memories with.
Saying “no” to one of my most beloved activities senior year was difficult. I was scared to give that up. Yet I said no to the stress and the missed weekends for competitions, and said yes to attending those amazing lectures, grabbing milkshakes from the Huddle, and taking walks to Eddy Street with a dear friend. I’ve actually been able to get a slightly more normal amount of sleep this year. (Score!) I’ve also been able to breathe. (Goodbye anxiety!)
I highly recommend you join me.
Unfortunately, I still see close friends struggling to say no. They’re too scared to enjoy what they have that it pains me to know that the minute we part ways, they’ll look back and see that they don’t have as many meaningful memories as they thought they did. Sleep, class, meetings, skipping the dining hall, repeat, day in and day out. Be responsible. By all means, we are here to get an education and to find success after graduation. But we are also here to develop as people.
Never again will we have this kind of freedom.
That’s why I challenge you, even if it scares you, to be intentional about your time at Notre Dame. Do what you need to do, but make time to do what you want to do. Intentionally say yes to all of the educational opportunities outside of the classroom. Don’t let school get in the way of your education, because your education is so much more than that paper or problem set. Education includes being intentional about your relationships. While running into people walking between the library and your dorm is a welcomed surprise, don’t assume that ten run-ins will replace a quality 30 minute lunch conversation. It won’t. You won’t be able to make those relationships with each and every person, but taking the time to intentionally invest in even a few of those can make the world of difference.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence…”
~Desiderata by Max Ehrmann