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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

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The long goodbye

There are 97 days left. Then, everything changes.

The final countdown started last Friday, marked by the celebratory senior class 100 Days Dance. And I don’t know about anybody else in the class of 2024, but for me, the countdown started early this semester. The 100 Days Dance just made the passing time more palpable. 

There’s this thought that keeps floating around in my head: This will be one of the last times … I ever do print production in The Observer office or I lose at O’Rourke’s trivia or I laugh with a friend in the dining hall or [insert activity here]. Every interaction is weighed down by a compulsive need to do the mental math, to measure how close I am to the end. And even though I try my hardest to silence the sound of seconds slipping away, the countdown is still there, ticking away, a metronome turning every joyful moment half-sad.

If I know our days together are numbered, why do I keep counting? 

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this question for the past two weeks, trying to come up with some piece of advice to distill into an Inside Column, and I still don’t have an answer. I just feel nauseous. 

For the majority of my life, I’ve subscribed to a philosophy of detachment. Admittedly, this decision to hold people at a distance is, for the most part, a coping mechanism that stems from experiencing grief at an early age. But as lonely and unhealthy as it is, it definitely makes leaving places easier. 

To be honest, though, I’ve completely sucked at detaching myself in college. It’s exactly like when Fleetwood Mac sings “Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’ / ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you” or when The Pogues sing “Can’t make it all alone / I’ve built my dreams around you.” I’ve built my entire adult life around Notre Dame, and there will be a giant Notre Dame-shaped hole in my life when I graduate. That’s probably the most attached you can possibly be to a place. 

This long goodbye — to the person I am today and to all the people in South Bend I love — is somehow the worst grief I’ve experienced, and the actual goodbye hasn’t even happened yet. (Plus, we all know pre-grieving doesn’t work.)

But here’s the thing: For all the tears I’ve shed (and will shed) this semester, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s better to attach yourself and feel the pain than float through college alone. Because here’s the other thing: None of us are getting out of this unscathed. As much as we kick and scream and drag our feet, the fight against time is not something we will ever win. We might as endure it together. 

We don’t have a choice when or how life will emotionally devastate us, but we do have a choice in who and what we choose to grieve and who we choose to do it with. I’m proud to have tied myself to Notre Dame, The Observer and all the people here in South Bend I adore. I just hope when the time comes, I’ll be ready to let it go. 

You can contact Claire at clyons3@nd.edu.


Claire Lyons

Claire Lyons is a senior at Notre Dame studying English and Political Science. She is currently the Viewpoint Editor of The Observer.

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