That island of misfit toys in the centerfold
Allie Tollaksen | Friday, May 15, 2015
When I started at Notre Dame, I was convinced I was going to be a doctor. If not a doctor, I told myself, then a public health specialist. If not a public health specialist, I insisted, I’d be a success story in some other noble health-related profession. This was how I got through two years of chemistry labs.
This story is not a new one. Many of my friends have similar tales of dropping their pre-health major or abandoning engineering dreams. Notre Dame students come into this University and are told we’re smart enough and disciplined enough to do anything we want. And if we can do anything we want, we think, we should do what will make us most successful, helpful or charitable.
This is all great. But what we’re not told is that pasting a collage of respectable careers on the wall and blindly throwing a dart at one is probably not the best way to discern your future.
That’s how I got to be a sophomore at a dorm gathering who, after struggling through a day of studying organic chemistry, decided the best use of her time was to engage in one-sided conversations about movies and films with uninterested classmates. Picture girl walking around a dark common room touting pop-culture advice and opinions at anyone who would listen, which was no one in particular. That was me.
Finally, a brave stranger decided to give me some advice: stop barraging unsuspecting partygoers with your interests and instead find an outlet. This stranger bestowing advice, I soon learned, was The Observer’s scene editor at the time. He suggested Scene as an outlet. (Thank you, Kevin.)
Two-and-a-half years later, The Observer ended up being not only a channel for my pop-culture opinions but a huge part of my life at Notre Dame. It was, at times, a service for my mental health, allowing me to say the things I couldn’t yell at parties. To be fair, at other times, it proved to be a tax on my mental health, when dropped stories lead to late nights and frantically-written emails.
It was also a place to meet people interested in the things I was and be inspired by students who thought about and wrote things infinitely better than I could. And The Observer was where I found not just something I could do but something I wanted to do. While there are more than a few articles I’m sure I won’t look back on proudly (I may or may not have written a defense of Justin Bieber once), my time at The Observer set me on a path I’m excited to continue exploring after graduation.
I didn’t have anything close to a typical Notre Dame experience, but being a part of Scene — that island of misfit toys in the centerfold of the newspaper — brought me closer to the University than anything else in my four years. Writing, editing and getting thrown into the chaos of a daily newspaper was an education I never anticipated as a bright-eyed, pre-health major freshman, but it’s one I’ve come to appreciate and am thrilled to put into practice.
Allie Tollaksen is graduating with a degree in psychology and a minor in poverty studies. She would like to thank her parents, her professors and everyone who wrote for Scene, even if it was just one article she talked you into signing up for. She will be spending the next year as an au pair, writer and living cliché in Paris, but can be found on Twitter at @allietollaksen and reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.