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Dig out the fanny packs

Katie Palmitier | Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Last spring, while shopping in Chicago over Easter Break, I made the purchase of a lifetime: a fanny pack. For about a month I had been complaining to my friends and family that I was in dire need of a “hands free,” stylish accessory that could be used to transport necessities (keys, ID, lipstick, etc.) across campus, or even across Michigan Avenue. A purse was too big, and a backpack too bulky. The only logical choice was the infamous fanny pack, completely out of style since the early ’90s (that is to say if it was ever once considered “in vogue”). Needless to say, my life since the revival of the “hip bag” has never been the same.

Although many of you may have no desire whatsoever of digging out your neon, nylon fannies from the basement or treasured memory box, or even purchasing a new one, we all have something about us just wanting to break free. Whether it is material or ideological aspects being hoarded within our self-conscious psyches, the world is being sheltered from whom some of us really are. These ideas and creativity are no longer to be carried inside of us, but rather on the outside, hands free, for the world to see.

Instead of a fanny pack, maybe you are more of a pocket protector wearer, and long to keep your oxford shirts from receiving ink stains. But, ashamed and embarrassed to put the protector in your pocket, you suffer from the oblong navy blue ink blot on the upper left corner of your new, starched shirt.

Or perhaps you would rather discuss a new mathematical formula than watch Monday Night Football. Well, the time is now to bust out the fanny packs, pocket protectors and calculators, all of which may have caused you years of ridicule in high school. The bad news is your shirts are still stained, and your fanny pack may no longer fit around those Freshman Fifteen hips – but the good news is we are no longer in high school.

In college, and especially at a place like Notre Dame, we are allowed to start off with a clean slate. The nicknames, the embarrassing moments and the fashion don’ts are all erased clean. So what if you dropped your retainer in the trash can after lunch, missed sixth period digging through the trash cans and had to explain to your teacher in front of your peers why you had to miss class? The suffering is over. The humiliation? Eliminated. It is time to finally embrace who we truly are.

In high school, I felt restricted from expressing myself completely out of fear of being rejected by friends, boys, even the Catholic community. However, in the past year I have decided that I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime here at Notre Dame to be me. We are at an institution where academic and spiritual growths are promoted. Through discussion in the classroom, as well as conversations with our peers over dinner, we are allowed, and encouraged, to express ourselves freely. And the best part is, in doing so, we make new friends, learn about each other and gain a new appreciation and insight of our world. Faith, style, beliefs and opinions will not always be similar to those of our friends, the government, or religious teaching, yet those are the traits that define each and every one of us. By expressing these differences, we will not only learn about others’ personalities and beliefs, but also will strengthen and define our own personalities and beliefs.

Notre Dame and its students have been criticized as being overwhelmingly Catholic, white, wealthy and conservative. While it may seem that many students do fall into one or more of those categories, as a whole those accusations are not necessarily true. Being that many of the students do share the same politics, religion and economic background, we are challenged even more to embrace the differences we do have. No one wants to be just another stereotype.

While we all share much in common, not one of us is exactly the same. Therefore, express your differences and embrace those of others. Our school, country and personal well-being will benefit immensely. There is no greater liberating experience than shedding our masks and growing into our own unique mold.

We would never learn, or grow, if we all just conformed to government, religion and popular fashion. Currently our world, and, even more so, our country, are in desperate need of new ideas. Therefore it is our duty, for the sake of mankind, to be ourselves. Stand up for your beliefs, express your ideas and strap on the fanny pack for the “hands free” mission of being true to yourself.

Katie Palmitier is a sophomore Political Science major. She can be contacted at kpalmiti@nd.edu

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