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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Love and attention

I’m not very good at settling on a favorite anything, but when people ask me what my favorite movie is, I usually tell them 2017’s “Lady Bird.” It’s a pretty basic answer for a twentysomething white woman, but I tell anyone who will listen that my favorite artist is Taylor Swift, so it’s not like I’m trying that hard to build my indie cred. If you haven’t seen “Lady Bird,” I’ll give you the briefest of synopses. Lady Bird is a senior at a high school in Sacramento, and the film depicts her relationship with her mother, the trials and tribulations of young love, and, more than anything, her desperate desire to leave Sacramento.

I saw “Lady Bird” in an independent theater in my hometown with my mom in the fall of my senior year of high school, and the film burrowed somewhere deep inside of me. I could write 1,000 words about how much I love “Lady Bird,” but instead I want to talk about a line from the movie that I’ve found myself considering more these days.

Near the end of the movie, Lady Bird meets with a teacher to discuss her college essay who tells her that it’s clear from the essay how much she loves Sacramento, much to Lady Bird’s surprise. Her teacher tells her that she writes about Sacramento with a lot of affection and care, to which she responds that she pays attention. Her teacher replies, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”

As graduation approaches, I’ve found myself wrestling with conflicting feelings - excitement and anxiety about the future, nostalgia and exhaustion with college. I’ve always felt a bit like I wasn’t quite enjoying college enough. I’ve struggled with the volatility of blossoming friendships, feelings of constant stress and competition and a homesickness that never quite seemed to dissipate. So I’ve been trying to figure out where that leaves me as we near the end: Am I relieved? Sad? Will I miss it? Did I love it here?

Nothing is ever black and white, of course. I will miss it and I will be relieved to get out - both of those things can be true. But I’ve been thinking about Lady Bird’s essay on Sacramento as I think about leaving South Bend behind, and while I’m not certain that I’ve loved it here, I am certain that I’ve paid attention.

I remember so vividly the heat billowing through Ryan Hall when I first moved in and hating the Welcome Weekend t-shirts they gave us. I can still hear the booming of thousands of feet running through Notre Dame Stadium when the football team beat Michigan at my first home game, and I remember feeling at home, finally, at the North Quad vs. South Quad snowball fight after the first snow. I remember how homesick I felt when I came back from winter break and how when I was lonely I’d buy more posters online, filling up my walls with reminders of who I am. The first warm day of spring has felt the same ever since that year when I walked across campus without a coat as my friend borrowed her sister’s car for us to see Les Mis downtown.

Sophomore year, things were no longer new, but I noticed just as much. I’ll always remember my roommate and me talking from our beds even after we turned the lights out, and how another friend always had her dorm room window open. I ran from meeting to meeting, filling my days with events and responsibilities and people. I remember the taste of the Starbucks Iced Blueberry Black Tea (which they have tragically discontinued) that I drank nonstop that year, and the feel of the card that a new friend gave me at the end of the semester. When I left for D.C. I remember feeling lonelier and smaller than ever in that city, working long days and walking 20 minutes with my groceries.

My junior year was a blur, filled mostly with masked walks to class and “Twilight” marathons with my new roommates in my new apartment. I remember missing my friends a lot and suffering through dining hall meals in the freezing, socially-distanced tent just so I could see them. I had an 8 a.m. that I dreaded each morning but became my favorite class I ever took at Notre Dame, and some days I even enjoyed how the morning light quietly spread through campus. I spent lots of nights fending off the mental pain I was going through, and remember how freeing it felt the first time I got to spend a night with my friends again. I almost felt reborn at the end of that year, excited to enjoy my senior year with people I knew I loved.

And, I have loved my senior year a lot. I’ve noticed how the house always smells like coffee, even at 9 p.m. and how I’m able to see the lights shine under the doors to everyone’s rooms when they’re home. I love how my world feels contained again, with everyone I love here within reach. I’ve noticed, perhaps more intensely than other years, the length of the cold, dark South Bend winter and the way that the shortest days of the year drag on. I love how it feels to come home after a night out, drink water and eat mozzarella sticks with my best friends, even if we’re all some different level of angry with each other. I hope I’ll always remember what my life looks like here - settled and comfortable, but still un-permanent.

I feel nostalgic and warm-hearted reflecting back on all of this, but many of my hardest moments still feel fresh. And maybe I haven’t loved every second, but I do feel like I’ve really lived here.

And don’t you think maybe they’re the same thing?

Ellie Konfrst is a senior studying political science with a minor in the Hesburgh Program for Public Service. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she’s excited people will once again be forced to listen to her extremely good takes. You can find her off campus trying to decide whether or not she’ll go to law school or bragging that Taylor Swift follows her on Tumblr. She can be reached at or @elliekonfrst13 on Twitter.

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