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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024
The Observer

Overcoming purgatory

At the start of my senior year, I had just emerged from a ten-week stint living in Northwest Arkansas. I had finished a productive internship that gave me good insights into what working in finance looks like in the professional world and was looking forward to kicking off my last year of college on a strong note. During the summer, I had plenty of time to reflect on my first three years at Notre Dame, and craft an idea of what my final chapter in South Bend would look like. Priorities naturally shift over time, and I wanted to invest all the time I had available into solidifying my existing friendships and authentically connecting with the people that came to define the essence of my Notre Dame experience. 

Naturally, a fall semester is abuzz with activity and excitement. The late summer weather has everybody in a good mood, and it is very easy to maintain a busy social life when the sun sets after 9 p.m. and you do not have to worry about wrapping yourself in thousands of layers of warm clothing to make the frigidly dreadful walk between your dorm and DeBart. Football consumes the better part of most weekends, and somehow, there is always something to do. This past fall, I was also busy recruiting for a full-time job, which kept me pretty busy preparing for interviews and scootering to and from the Career Center dressed in a full suit. The fall was a wonderful time, and the combination of recruiting, college football, going out three nights a week, Halloween, the midterm elections, the NFL, and the FIFA World Cup were more than enough to make it one of the most memorable fifteen weeks of my time as an undergraduate. The fall steadily marched to a satisfactory conclusion in December, and before I knew it I found myself on a plane back to Nicaragua for the first time in a year. 

After three weeks back home in Nicaragua, and a jam-packed ten days of activities during my roommate Ryan’s whirlwind visit to the country, I was back in South Bend on the verge of starting my last trip around the Golden Dome. As soon as I got here, it was evident that things felt different. Firstly, I am finished with both my major and minor. Instead of the usual load of Mendoza classes that had me banging my head against the walls of the Library late at night, I found myself with a straight flush of electives. The classes are all on topics I find interesting and can sometimes be very passionate about, but the departure from the usual Mendoza routine was extremely off-putting. The transition away from number crunching into learning about the ins and outs of Chinese politics, Cosmology, or the history of the Crusades was a weird one, as the essence of the classes is fundamentally different. Furthermore, knowing with certainty what the contents of the next chapter of my life are going to entail, I felt encouraged to simply coast through my last months in college without much care for divorcing from the routines and habits of the previous seven semesters. After all, what’s one more semester working nights running plates out of NDH’s dish room, sneaking through the Keenan basement for a late-night slice from ’Zaland and liturgically timing the doing of my laundry with Stanford's Sunday mass? The answer is simple: a bad idea.

This time around, the very things I found entertaining for so long felt quite limiting. I came to the conclusion that life needs to be spiced up, to avoid making my final weeks at Notre Dame the same as the ones that preceded them. College should never feel like purgatory and I became determined to slash whatever felt constraining with activities that make the days seem more invigorating. As my friends jokingly put it, “life’s become one large collection of side-quests.” After all, it’s more amusing to convince your freshman neighbor to run for Hall president in exchange for running his campaign than to spend yet another night stuck in the library for hours on end. It’s better to pick where to have lunch based on spinning a wheel rather than mindlessly marching into the dining hall to get a quesadilla for the fourth day in a row. It’s also better to spend your Saturdays exploring South Bend’s restaurants and finding things to do rather than laying in bed and watching reruns of some series you got hooked on halfway through high school for the fifth time 

Time at Notre Dame is limited. Most of us will only ever get four years, and then be ushered out into the real world. Even when the clock is ticking and the end is near, one should not allow life here to transform itself into a dull purgatory, where you’re just spending your days waiting for something to arrive and a new chapter to begin, be it spring break, an internship in a far off city you’ve never lived in, graduation or the next The Last of Us episode so air on HBOMax. 

There is meaning and satisfaction to experience and extract every day. I have done my best to do so in the 1,200 days I have spent at Notre Dame since my freshman year, and I should continue to do so in the less than 90 days I have left here. 

Pablo Lacayo is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in finance while minoring in Chinese. He enjoys discussing current affairs, giving out bowl plates at the dining hall, walking around the lakes and karaoke. You can reach him at placayo@nd.edu.

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

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