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What I think I’ve learned

| Sunday, January 26, 2014

I can’t tell you I know advice upperclassmen gave me when I came to Notre Dame. Judging from the section I’ve come to know, it was probably well-intentioned, carefully thought out and, at a minimum, R-rated. I probably would’ve been well served by listening, but in truth, much of college is something you can only learn by experiencing. In short, their advice went over my head like a Playtex commercial at the Vatican. But if I were giving advice to freshmen now, here’s what I’d say.

Find something bigger than yourself, and I don’t mean go jersey chasing after linemen. Find something the result of which is not entirely within your control. Work for it any way. It could be a charity, a campaign or any of 100 causes on campus. I think it’s good to go after something without pause, knowing full well you may fail. It’s good to be exposed a little.

Ditch your homework one night and find an adventure. If you can’t find one, create one. Don’t make a habit of the homework ditching.

Don’t be really stupid. But once in a while, do something crazy. Crash a class, a final or a wedding. Don’t get caught. Stay up late talking to your friends, strangers at LaFortune or your RA. There are literally thousands of incredible people here. Listen to your friend tell you how he’s decided to become a rapper at 3 a.m. Learn when to sleep, and when staying up late is worth it. Hint: it’s usually worth staying up.

Get in some trouble. I’m not saying get arrested, ResLife’d or whatever poorly chosen verb the kids are using these days. Don’t screw up your future, but also make sure you don’t regret what you didn’t do in the past. That previous sentence was originally “don’t regret the past.” Then I realized that probably went out the door for most people around Domerfest.

Pay attention to emails you get early on at Notre Dame. There’s truly an endless amount of opportunities here. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Go see what people around campus are doing. See the Humor Artists, Halftime and Harmonia. Go to a play and the Keenan Revue. Go to flag football games and start some questionable cheers. Don’t go to the bun run.

Call your family. Enjoy them while you’re home. You’ll start seeing them less and less. Have dinner with them. Ask your little sibling annoying questions about his or her high school love life. Walk away when they turn the question back on you. Go for a walk with your mom. Watch a movie at home. Don’t pick “Love Actually.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie and my conviction in grand romantic gestures has never been higher. But I could’ve done with a tad less nudity in a movie I’m watching with my mom and two sisters. Save Love Actually for your section RomCom night. And don’t pretend like your dorm doesn’t have one too, guys.

Make sure you appreciate how great your friends are. Be thankful for them and don’t be afraid to make a couple more.

Write some stuff down. Write letters to your friends while you’re abroad. Write down great quotes, adventures and that number you just got at a party or from the Steak n’ Shake waitress. Write a bucket list. And due dates. I definitely should’ve written down due dates. One of my friends told me we should write down funny things I say. I started, but I’m still on page one.

Have a huge dorm party. Invite everyone you know. Play “Call Me Maybe.” A lot. When it comes to space, there’s always room for one more in a car, cab or dorm room. That latter one is only applicable between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight with an applicable social gathering form filled out and sufficient space left for the Holy Spirit. You’re on the honor system, but remember folks: God is watching.

So that’s really all I have. A not-so-wise man once asked, “Is it worth it? The late nights out? The mindless nights in? All the studying?” And there’s really only one way to respond to that. Is Bruce Springsteen America? Is “Stacy’s Mom” a great song? Was “Boy Meets World” a phenomenal show? Was Mr. Feeney the teacher we all wish we had? Is Everett Golson back? If you respond no to any of those, my friend will gladly inform you you’re either a dirty British loyalist or a godless communist. Or both.

A bunch of us were hanging out in my RA’s room one night at about 2:03 a.m., or, as we know it in Siegfried Hall, “Girls out, pants off o’clock.” We were discussing what made Notre Dame so great, why everyone in the room could be consistently found with a massive, foolish smile on their face. People tossed out answers about football and the Dome and “this girl I just met. Sasha. Or Sarah. I think.” But in retrospect, my RA had it right. Life is so great, he summed up, “because you’re friends with these idiots.” And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Barring a victory lap, we have four years to squeeze every ounce of excitement, opportunity and memories out of this place. No matter where you find your friends, where you go for fun or what you study, don’t dare squander a second of it. Ultimately, grab your friends, pursue your passions, go after your dreams and don’t be afraid to become one of “these idiots.” I promise it’ll be a hell of a time.

Matt Miklavic is a junior from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. “Idiot” is the nicest thing he’s been called in recent memory. He can be reached at mmiklavi@nd.edu

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

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