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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame should not be the best years of your life

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, I had either officially (or unofficially) toured 33 universities. 

Yes, you read that correctly. I toured 33 colleges in my search for the “perfect fit.”

My parents wanted my older sister to start looking at colleges when she was a sophomore, and I was roped into it as a freshman. Many of the colleges we looked at were within driving distance, though we made a few long-distance visits on the rare occasion that our family went on vacation. 

I’ve always been a very anxious person, and the frequency of our trips combined with my tendency to hyperfixate on things was a recipe for disaster. When I wasn’t at school, participating in extracurriculars or hanging out with my family, I was reading countless articles online about how to get into your dream school or watching YouTube videos about random people’s college acceptances and rejections. I researched ways to get in touch with admissions counselors, stared at lists of majors, clubs and sports and even looked at the restaurants and shops in particular college towns until the early hours of the morning. 

Considering my parents are Notre Dame alumni, many people questioned my search, especially since I researched every university I toured except for Notre Dame. The answer is simple: I didn’t want to go. I wanted to forge my own path and show that I could make it at a different school on my own. 

Obviously, this determination to avoid anything Notre Dame-related at all costs backfired. I’ve been very happy at this university, and I’m eternally grateful for the friends, people and places that I’ve encountered. In fact, I’m so happy that I don’t want to leave. 

Against the many fabrics of my being, this feels unnatural. While I like routine, I’ve never liked to stay in one place for too long. I never wanted to come here in the first place. There have been great opportunities that I’ve explored outside of South Bend, and I’m itching to leave the beige fields and gray winters of the Midwest behind — so what gives? 

About this time in the typical four-year cycle of learning is where I begin to feel the ever-approaching reality of the future. It happened to me in high school as well. While studying for an AP Psychology exam, thoughts of college applications and major choices infected my brain. It came over in a wave, with a small thought intruding first and the rest coming in an onslaught. Dealing with it the only way I knew how (baking), my busy brain pounded and my racing heart crushed my ribs as I sat on the floor of my kitchen eating cinnamon rolls out of the pan and sobbing. 

This pain I felt is an indelible memory, and I never want to go back to that time. Despite logic’s attempts, I crumpled under the weight of the unknown and of indecision. 

I’ve returned to this state, though not in the same frosting-coated hot-mess manner from high school. This time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the world. 

Starting in the fall, I will begin applying to graduate schools. I will have to face the reality of my future and of adulthood. Notre Dame has kept me safe, but it can't guard me forever. All of my anxiousness in high school led me here, but it can’t keep me here. 

The idea that college is “the best years of your life” shouldn’t be true. That’s not what we come here to do. Life doesn’t stop here even though this chapter of it ends. This stage of living comes with new notions of independence and responsibility, but it’s a gift to make it this far and to be given the opportunity to consider paths beyond Mishawaka.

I wish that I could go back in time and tell my younger self that everything was going to work out. It always does. Dealing with the unknown is part of life, but it doesn’t have to mean suffering.

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