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Not ‘The End’

Matthew Gamber | Friday, May 20, 2011

I’ve tended to associate the reality of this whole graduation thing with a series of “lasts:” the last home football game, the last final exam, the last Finny’s (is there ever really a “last” Finny’s?) and so on. For me, each of these lasts came and went, and reality still hadn’t set in. I wasn’t starting to say goodbyes, I wasn’t thinking about moving out and I wasn’t breaking down every time someone played Vitamin C’s “Graduation.” (Just to clarify, Vitamin C still hasn’t gotten me yet, and I’m not sure it will.)

But on Monday, when I signed a lease to move into an apartment in Chicago July 1, something changed. This wasn’t a last, but a first in a long line of important real-world, grown-up decisions — and it was this “first” that alerted me to how quickly reality is approaching.

For so long, I could only see our graduation as The End — of DeBartolo, 222, The Observer, Corby’s, American Studies and Cubs trips. Graduation represented the evil villain conspiring to separate us from our closest friends and the place we’ve called home for four years.

When I signed that lease, though, I began to understand that graduation is, as corny as it sounds, also a beginning. Life after Notre Dame had always seemed so distant, so uncertain, and in some ways it still does. But as it gets closer, I’m realizing the reality that awaits us isn’t so bad either.

As I look out at my group of friends, I see more than the people with whom I’ve shared countless hilarious nights and a handful of rough mornings. I see incredibly talented 22-year-olds who are ready to change the world (seriously) as doctors, lawyers, teachers, public officials, pilots, journalists and businesspeople. The caliber of people with whom I’ve shared this unparalleled four-year adventure is unbelievable, and that’s what makes it hard to leave this place. But it’s also why I can: because I know we are ready.

To view graduation as The End was absolutely terrifying, but as a beginning, how can we not view it as a thrilling chance to pursue opportunities in new cities and different fields? The real fun is about to begin as we figure out what and who we want to be when we grow up. (And if the events of Senior Week are any indication, we are far from being “grown up.”) Notre Dame and the people who helped me get here — especially my parents, Mark and Mary Jo — have helped me take some of those steps, and for that I feel unbelievably blessed. I’ve learned how special this place is, and I know I’ll take that with me wherever I go.