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Brotherly advice

Douglas Farmer | Saturday, August 20, 2011

I, like many of you nervous freshmen, was not the first in my family to attend Notre Dame. My oldest brother claimed that prize in 1996. Then two more followed him before my turn came.

After 15 years, my parents marvel how each of their four sons has “shown” them a “different Notre Dame.” Odd as it may sound, they’re right. The oldest of us majored in political science and loved dorm life. The second rarely came home, yet rarely seemed to be at school. The third was an engineer to his nerdy core. And me, I pretend to go to class between shifts in this office and stints at Kildare’s, er, O’Rourke’s.

Different experiences indeed.

I never really grasped how true that is until I was deep into my freshman year, sporting the lowest GPA of the bunch and not bothered by it a wit.

You will spend four years at a different Notre Dame than your parents or siblings did, and a different Notre Dame than your roommate or future spouse will.

No matter how many Chicagoland natives you meet named Katherine, Kathleen or Megan, no matter how many tall, skinny, pale guys awkwardly say hello, no matter how many times you eat the same meal and drink the same cheap beer as everyone else, your time here will be different than anyone else’s.

So, to quote my oldest brother, “Don’t forget to transition from being happy to be at Notre Dame to making the most of your time there.”

Because it really will be your time.

Thus, most pieces of sage advice I could dispense now would be irrelevant. They pertain to my experience, not yours. Instead of trying to correct my own errors through you, I’d rather simply save you some time. So, once more, drawing from what my brothers told me three years ago:

“Find out when quarter dogs are at La Fortune … They are a good late-night snack.” — Midnight on weeknights.

“Go find the hidden pictures in the murals at the Main Building so you can show visitors when they come. And they will come.” — You’re looking in the tassels of the painted rugs. You should find a bowling pin, a belly dancer and Kermit the Frog. In the grain of one of the wooden entry doors, spot the cowardly lion.

“Share Mom’s cookies … I’d imagine they’re a good way to break the ice with girls.” — Even though he married his high school sweetheart, he knew what he was talking about.

And, mine: “Relax.” It’s a stressful weekend, but nothing will happen in the next 24 hours, the next week, or even the next semester, that a night with your new friends and a relaxed drink, alcoholic or non, won’t fix.

From there, make these four years yours.