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The Notre Dame need to belong

Kevin Kimberly | Monday, February 21, 2011

It begins from the very first moment of Freshman Orientation, shortly after you make that first step onto campus and immediately know this is the place for you, and it continues all the way through your four years at Notre Dame. That of which I write is the need to belong, the Notre Dame need to belong. Sure, every human wants to belong to something and be a part of something, but what measures are necessary to truly achieve it?

I have found throughout the years that at the core, students at Notre Dame are very diverse. We come from thousands of different places and have thousands of different experiences to talk about, but somehow we seem to tuck that away in the midst of our time here. Forming friend groups freshman year, becoming comfortable in our dorms and fitting in with our section, trying to find that significant other (earlier than we probably should anyways) — all times when we focus on adjusting our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors to fit those we seek acceptance from. What’s the point? Who are these people coming to know?

As cheesy and cliché as it may be, is there really something wrong with being who you are? Is it really that different or difficult to be different? Because in altering who you are, you lose who you are; you lose the ‘me’ part of yourself, the meaning behind you. And eventually that person you were becomes lost and this new persona takes its place without you even realizing. Of course people change, but to do so for the wrong reasons is the issue.

Take for example the dorm stereotypes on campus. Let me guess how amazed you are that each dorm seems to have a certain type of guy or girl that fits the mold. Sorry to break it to you, but ResLife’s random placement is not that genius. Dorm stereotypes are not formed by the residents put in but by the residents that come out. What I mean here is that far too often we see that we can become cool or popular and fit in if we act like everyone around us. We see it and we emulate it just like those before us and thus continue the trend. We form the stereotypes, not some random computer generator.

One way this issue has become amplified here is through the obsessive use of labels. Too many times we rush to label someone entirely based on their political views, religious beliefs, ethnicity or thoughts on particular issues (and so on). Now, these and many other things certainly contribute to one’s personality and who they are, and it is because of this that we are not required to be like everyone else who may share a characteristic with us. For example, and take it from me, I know every white person is not the same as every other white person. Nor is every liberal or Catholic the same either. Nor should they be! Our excessive need to use labels again forms the stereotypes on campus; we see people as a name under a certain header instead of that header under their name as a part of who they are.

Possibly this is not just an issue at Notre Dame; in fact, I would probably take a good guess and say it is not, but I can only speak for this campus. I know on some — well, most — occasions I tend to invoke sarcasm and humor to make my point, but I think this is a serious issue worth consideration by Notre Dame students. The obsessive need to fit in has become such a key component of campus life that we are not only veering off in the search for who we are but we are depriving others around us. Perhaps the ever so prevalent topics of the lack of diversity or the loss of identity at Notre Dame have to do with … each one of us? Perhaps.

Kevin Kimberly is a senior majoring in psychology and political science. He is eligible to run for president in 2024 and welcomes campaign slogans and ideas at kkimberl@nd.edu

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