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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Play my game: a call to be uncomfortable

Table games: there are a lot. While we were young, we sometimes struggled to fully learn the games our family and friends already mastered. For me at least, there was a level of confusion and a little bit of discomfort as a 4-year-old trying to understand Monopoly. But among this confusion, there was a willingness to play and a drive to be included.

As I grew older and made new friends I learned new games: “Pusoy dos” was not just difficult to understand, but an absolute blast to play (especially once I knew what I was doing). Of course, I did not learn this game overnight. It took some effort, some time, and a whole lot of patience.

College: we already play games we know how to play. We conditioned ourselves after those first awkward weeks of freshman year to avoid looking like a novice, possibly out of embarrassment? Especially if we pride ourselves with knowing what we are doing, or if we want to keep that facade of having our lives together. This facade can easily be broken when faced with a simple unknown: an unknown situation, unknown interaction, an unknown card game that could’ve been fun to play. To learn something new, a genuine humility is needed. Yes, someone can employ the common tactic “fake it until you make it,” and avoid that level of novitiate with those around, but to truly get to understand a game, one must accept a level of beginner. One must not be afraid to ask questions, and maybe even feel uncomfortable at first.

Along with avoiding discomfort, some of us have lost that drive for the new game, the new interaction, new people — we have a place to be included, why put ourselves in another position of discomfort? One of the ways we learn is through making honest mistakes, by asking “obvious” questions we don’t know the answer to and by being uncomfortable or vulnerable. We stop growing when we stop facing the new. We have our bubble: our immediate friend group. Most the time we stick around people who we can easily relate to, whether that be people in our major, or our dorm or of the same ethnicity as us. We have a niche, so why bother to move? Why bother to venture out of our comfort zone? Why learn a new game?

I could say something cliche like, “You’ll never know if you never try.” You might end up hating the game, or maybe even dislike the people who are playing. But I am going to say something even more cliche: We should play because we are all one family. I know we keep hearing all of this stuff about building the Notre Dame community, but with communities, people have that choice to leave. A family doesn’t get to choose its members (there are a lot of people I would’ve excluded here if I could). In families there are arguments, disagreements, a feud here and there, but the main point of one is to be there for support and to foster growth. I am stuck with you all, and you all are stuck with me, so maybe take some of your precious time, and get to know me. Be vulnerable with one another: play my game. As a family, we grow together, but that means we need to get out of our comfort zones every once in awhile.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.