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My education (with some help from my friends)

| Thursday, April 23, 2015

Robert Frost famously stated, “I can sum up everything I’ve learned in life in three words: It goes on.”

I am no Robert Frost.

As I look back on my time at Notre Dame, I’ve learned far too much to incorporate into three words. But I tried to keep it short:

Embrace your dorm. For some it will be a thing. For others, it will be everything. Make it something.

Each major has something to offer — dabble in as many of them as you can.

Get off the futon. Go out more. Study more. Netflix can wait. Go to the Revue and concerts and culture nights and Harmonia and the Humor Artists. Go to see lectures and signature events. Go play a sport or two — it doesn’t matter if you suck. Go to the Grotto and the lakes. Go on adventures to Carroll and South Bend and to embassies and continents.

Figure out what you believe and what’s behind the people and ideas you believe in. Find that which you will fight for.

“Mr. Brightside,” “Shut Up and Dance” and “Hey Juliet” are always your jams.

The people you that go to Steak n’ Shake with after parties? The people that you somehow make $100 with despite going to the casino after sharing a fifth? The people that you wander to the Jefferson Memorial with at one in the morning? And yes, the people that leave you at an abandoned church in Detroit in the middle of the night? Those are your friends. Cherish them.

Learn to navigate the diagonal walkways, and watch out for the bikes.

Find an awesome professor and talk to them, even if they’ll never be as cool as Tom Kellenberg. Learn from them.

Ask questions.

Don’t become the overly annoying networker.

Make new friends — it doesn’t mean you have to lose the old ones.

When Lee Ann Womack told you she hopes you dance instead of sitting it out, she probably wasn’t talking about SYRs, Hip Hop Night or Feve. Try them out anyway.

Be careful of stereotyping and disparaging another group of friends, a major or the kid down the hall before you get to know them. You might be surprised.

Sleep when you’re dead, but sleep just enough that you don’t die. Try not to sleep in bathrooms, LaFun or God Quad. But hey, it happens.

Study abroad and work on a new language. I did neither, and it’s by far my biggest regret.

Pay attention to the world. See what is wrong with it. Work toward fixing it.

Nobody talks about that awesome night they had in the engineering library.

You may not have time for everything. Try to do it all anyway.

You will never be perfect. Don’t let your failures keep you down.

Buying another handle for the house at midnight can be a great idea. It rarely is at three in the morning.

Similarly, jumping into a pond at three in the morning always seems like a great idea, until the homeowners’ association hands you a fine.

Sometime things turn out better than expected.

There’s no such thing as a bad darty. Or too much sunscreen.

Keep in mind that if you give a freshman his first drink, he’ll remember that when you’re his RA two years later. And then you’ll both have another. 4Lokos4Lyfe.

DDHing is a talent. You won’t learn it overnight. But it’s a form of civil disobedience even Thoreau would approve of.

You’re never too old for chicken fingers.

Keep smart people close. Keep good people closer.

This isn’t Grenada. There are rules. But sometimes they are more like guidelines. Except in Siegfried — there are no rules in Siegfried.

You will not regret staying up with friends to talk, to philosophize, to wander or to watch “Miracle,” “The Mighty Ducks” and “Top Gun.”

Come morning, you may regret going out that night or be horrified at whatever choices you made. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

Check your Observer horoscope.

Tinder will give you stories, but they may not be the ones you were looking for.

Notre Dame is home but so is wherever you came from.

Tailgate. Figure out the cheers. Don’t drop someone doing post-touchdown push-ups. Go to an away game, even if it means having Florida State rip your heart out.

Apply to things — programs, internships, jobs — even if your advisor tells you that you don’t have a prayer. You might just get it.

You’ll wonder why parties have to end at two when you’re a freshman. You’ll be in bed by 12 as a senior.

Always be able to laugh at yourself, especially if tripping on Library Quad becomes something of a habit.

Fairytales don’t always work out, especially when their final challenge is Nick Saban in the national championship game. They’re great memories, anyway.

There are those who will always decry Notre Dame as far too uniform, with far too little diversity, and say that its students are far too stuck in the Notre Dame “bubble.” There are those who will cast Notre Dame’s detractors as whining without substance and throwing stones without ideas, insisting that the critics railing against Notre Dame’s typecasting ultimately do the same in their condemnation. I suspect each group could learn something from the other.

Notre Dame isn’t as perfect as some think, but it is not as flawed as its critics would have you believe either. It has its flaws, and at times it could use fewer PR-suggested, ineffectual statements and a little more effort to truly address its shortcomings. But this is still a special, special place.

You will become a stronger person, a smarter one and a better one for having been here. You will hopefully have become a happier one as well. You will incur a debt to this place that you may not ever repay — and I’m not only talking about the student loans. Refuse to believe these four years will be your best, but appreciate that they are incredible.

Be kind. Smile. Laugh. Do good. Go forth and use your talents, your heart and your mind. May the wind be always at your back and the sun shine warmly upon your face. And until we meet again, my friends, good luck.

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

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