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A sigh and a powerful realization

Michael Fliotsos | Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This column found its origin at 9 p.m. on a rainy Wednesday night last week on the sojourn from Jordan Hall of Science to Duncan Hall – a journey that is already long enough as it is, let alone in the pouring rain with soaked socks. Facing the impending doom of two yet-to-be-completed lab reports, a pre-lab for organic chemistry and a mountain of Arabic homework left over from what should have been a more productive fall break, I was walking back from my beloved home-away-from-home after fruitlessly trying to edit uneven proton NMR graphs using software available only on the computers in Jordan. To put it in context for the non-science majors out there, you know it’s bad when the graduate teaching assistant at office hours who specializes in reading these very graphs tells you she has no idea why “your graph is completely messed up.” I was frustrated, tired, wet and done with everything school-related.
It was just one of those days.
As I walked from Jordan listening to my twangy country music playlist to unwind, I thought to myself, “Why bother with all this?” Why did I bother coming to Notre Dame in the first place? I mean, I could have gone to a school that was both cheaper and far less academically rigorous. I would presumably be under substantially less stress than I am now, with easier classes and competing against students that aren’t nearly as gifted as the students here. I could also probably get into my state medical school well enough and do it far more cost-effectively.” The question again pulsed in my mind: “Why, Michael?”
As I got onto South Quad, a new song came up on the playlist – “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. Seeing as how my mind was otherwise preoccupied – and that it’s one of my favorite songs, so I didn’t pay close attention to the lyrics – I continued my walk without a thought. As I started walking along the sidewalk closest to God Quad, I passed the clearing where the Golden Dome is completely visible and, like I normally do, I stole a glance to my right.
This time, however, I stopped dead in my tracks, turned so I was facing the Dome, looked up through the drizzling rain and, to the sultry crooning of Miranda Lambert, inhaled deeply and sighed an unusual sigh.
It is difficult to describe what that sigh sounded like, but I can definitely tell you how it felt.
It was the release of all the frustrations encountered throughout the day, week and semester. It was the resolution of all my uncertainties and doubts, all my insecurities and fears both big and small. Above all, it was the answer to the question I kept asking myself.
“Why bother, Michael? I’ll tell you why – you belong here, and being here will help you accomplish even your wildest dreams.”
Granted, the above realization in quotation marks is far more eloquent than the mish-mosh of thoughts swirling through my head at the time, but that’s the best way I can describe the overwhelming flood of reassurance and the dissipation of self-doubt that occurred to me last Wednesday night for a reason I can’t exactly explain.
As is evident by now, that night wasn’t exactly what I expected to be inspiration for an “I-heart-Notre-Dame” column, but oddly enough, that’s what it turned in to. As I walked away from that priceless view of Our Lady on the Dome, I listened to Ms. Lambert’s words with new meaning. This place – the people, the classes, the extracurricular activities and, above all, the problems – is the house that is continually building me and challenging me to be the best I can be and to never settle for second-best. It is the place I know I can call home more truthfully than anywhere else except for my actual home. It is, as clichéd as it sounds, where I belong – and where I know I belong.
As students at Notre Dame, we all have to deal with unique challenges and struggles that are as varied and multi-faceted as we are. Everyone has an “I’m-over-my-head” moment when they ask some variation of the question, “Why?” While I am not claiming to have the answer to the personal issues you may be facing, I can tell you what helped me. Thinking long and hard about the point of it all on a 15-minute-long trek through the rain on a Wednesday night under the gleaming gold of Our Lady is what helped this writer. Perhaps your method of reflection involves less wetness, a lot less organic chemistry and more of something else. Whatever that something may be, looking at the grand scheme of things every once in a while can put even the most seemingly insurmountable of days in sweet, sweet perspective.

Michael is a Science-Business
sophomore currently residing in Duncan Hall. He can be reached via email at
[email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.