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For what it’s worth

Maria Smith | Thursday, May 12, 2005

When I was getting ready to come to Notre Dame, I suspected that it might not be my kind of place. Something about loving the sight of Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome didn’t quite seem to suit my personality.

However, I remembered hearing at many points in my life that if you “put a good face on things” and “have the right attitude,” things will work out. So I tried to put the best face on football games, dorm parties and a couple of SYRs and see if having the right attitude could make them work for me.

The problem with trying to live by nondescript pieces of general advice seems to be that you usually don’t understand exactly what they mean until you’ve already figured it out for yourself anyway. I suppose, to stretch an analogy, that living by clichés is a little bit like learning by Cliffs Notes – they really only help to remind you of things that you’ve already learned on your own.

Suffice it to say, trying to have a good attitude did not help me enjoy anything just because I thought I ought to enjoy it. Many of the “Domer” things that I did freshman year, and a few other things that I’ve done since, will remain emblazoned in my memory as a big fat waste of time.

I’m not saying that any of the Notre Dame traditions that failed to inspire me were a waste of time for anyone else. Everyone finds meaning in different things and different places, and sometimes I still feel like I missed out on something that would have let me enjoy Thursday night at the Boat Club. But in the meantime, I would like to thank the people who helped make my career at Notre Dame meaningful.

Thank you to everyone who understands the pain of picking up The Observer after working a seven hour shift, getting home at 3:30 a.m., yet again missing your 9:30 a.m. class and finding a typo in your headline. I am still not sure how, or even why, we all put in the time to get this newspaper out every day, but it has been an experience unlike any other.

Thank you to every professor and student who made the Program of Liberal Studies possible. I had no idea coming into college that something like PLS existed, but in retrospect it was exactly what I wanted to study. The experience of finding a thought that you’ve often had, but never quite been able to articulate, sitting in the pages of a text written 50 or 700 or 2,000 years ago is extraordinarily exhilarating, and it means a lot to me to have had a community to share that. I doubt I would ever have slogged through hundreds of pages of Plato, Aquinas or Kant without the PLS professors to guide me, or more often push me, through the texts, but I’m very glad I did.

I sense a few people out their rolling their eyes at the flaky non-Boat-Club-loving PLS major, but if I’ve somehow missed out on the joy of having pitchers of beer poured on me, at least leave me my books.

Thank you to everyone who understands what it’s like to stand on a mountainside in India peering through the clouds for a glimpse at the Himalayas, or to bicker over 20 cents on the price of a rickshaw ride. (To this day I’m not sure why we thought it was important to bicker over 20 cents on the price of a rickshaw ride, but there it is.) The world has never looked the same since that semester as it did before we left.

Thank you to everyone who helped me learn a little bit about what it means to be Catholic. This is not my faith, and it meant nothing to me before I came here, but the Catholic Church will never be meaningless for me again.

Last but not least, thank you to all my friends who put up with me when I was cranky, tired, bratty, thick-headed or forgetful and trusted that I really meant well.

Good luck and God bless to everyone in our class as we move on from Notre Dame.

Maria Smith was the Scene Editor of The Observer for two years. She hopes to spend the next two years doing service in the Peace Corps.

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