Catherine Owers | Friday, May 13, 2016
The best things in my life have been unplanned. They haven’t all been accidents, but rather decisions where I didn’t realize the ramifications until well after I had made the choice — or didn’t make the choice at all.
This is somewhat of a startling realization for a woman who considers herself to be a master planner: I have a practice of endlessly overanalyzing small decisions; yet somehow, my nascent tendency to go with my gut manifests itself on only the biggest life decisions.
When choosing colleges, I committed to Notre Dame without visiting any other university or, to be honest, seriously considering any other college. My visits to campus weren’t perfect experiences; they were characterized by delayed flights and several feet of snow and attending my sister’s biology classes — not the most engaging for the girl who very much knew she had to be an English major. But the sense of community I felt hanging out in Walsh, studying in the library and eating in South Dining Hall appealed to me a very fundamental level. So Notre Dame it was, with little debate.
Five years later, I can’t imagine not knowing the uniquely phenomenal group of people I’ve met here at Notre Dame. And the two most meaningful experiences of my time at Notre Dame — working for The Observer and studying abroad — have also been unplanned.
I didn’t attend my first Observer news department meeting because my four-year plan for college involved a deep commitment to the student newspaper on the way to a journalism career full of Pulitzer prizes. I attended my first Observer news department meeting because of a vague freshman interest in writing, coupled with some very strong encouragement from my sister’s roommate, Tori Roeck, who also wrote news. So I rushed Delta News and let “what would Tori Roeck do?” govern more than a few of my decisions as associate news editor.
These past four years of writing about issues concerning our campus community has been extremely fulfilling work. Being part of the Delta News team has made me a better writer and made me acutely aware of the vague AP style guidelines for papal encyclicals. More importantly, being part of the Delta News team has given me invaluable friendships and made me a better person.
I didn’t have firm plans to study abroad at the beginning of my Notre Dame career, but I thought it sounded like an interesting experience. So I applied only for the Dublin program, only for the spring semester, and I thought if I wasn’t selected for this program and semester, I wouldn’t be missing out on much. Of course, I know now that I would have had a fantastic experience at any program, any semester.
But I did study in Dublin last spring, and now I can’t imagine not riding the 39A, getting rained on for three hours at Easter Mass in Rome or negotiating with Italian taxi drivers — all with some of the very best people in the world. Studying abroad wasn’t always easy, but it forced me to develop more than a little self-confidence and gave me an enormous amount of self-awareness.
When I look back on my senior year at Notre Dame, the times that I’ll look back on most fondly aren’t the traditional “lasts,” like our last football game or last day of class. While those were fun, the unplanned times are the ones I’m holding on to — the spontaneous, late-night life talks and spur-of-the-moment decisions to stop studying and watch the sun set.
Looking to the future, I’ve got several maps and a lot of ambiguity at hand. And while this uncertainty does terrify me, I’ve come to realize the best experiences are the ones that are unplanned.
Catherine Owers is graduating with a degree in English and theology. After graduation, she’ll continue to work her way through the canon of classic detective fiction, while eagerly awaiting Tana French’s next novel. Please send reading recommendations and thoughts on correct AP Style for “Laudato Si’” to email@example.com.