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My Notre Dame story

| Friday, May 16, 2014

I’ve written a lot of words on these pages in the past four years. I’ve told many stories, most of which belonged to other people. I now have 800 words left, with which I’m going to tell you just one more story, because my Fundamentals of Journalism professor drilled into our heads that stories matter. And, besides, my time here has been nothing if not a good story.

For me, Notre Dame began as a story that other people told. It was a story of a football-crazed university in some state that I knew next to nothing about. A story of alumni who were in love with their alma mater. A story of autumns infused by school spirit, winters illuminated by Christmas lights and springs framed by tulips and long-anticipated sunshine.

When I arrived at Notre Dame as a student, I created my own story here.

It’s a story of hugging my freshman-year roommate the day before move-in. Of walking to Domerfest with a guy who I never saw again. Of building an igloo in the Ryan Hall courtyard on our first snow day. Of tailgates and football games in sub-freezing temperatures. Of more trips to the Grotto than I could possibly count.

It’s a story of a Center for Social Concerns seminar in New York City. Of shipping up to Boston. Of climbing sand dunes in Michigan. Of a trip to Chicago to run a race, but mostly, to see an old friend. Of teaching at a summer program in Utah. Of camping in Yellowstone National Park and learning that the state of Wyoming does, in fact, exist. Of a pilgrimage to Montreal.

It’s a story of moving 4,000 miles away to Toledo, Spain, for four months and being pushed far out of my comfort zone. A story of cobblestone streets. Of bonding with my traveling companions over the ridiculousness of washing our hair in an airport sink. Of an almost daily journey to La Italiana for chocolate gelato with the girl who would later become my roommate and one of my closest friends.

It’s a story of being rejected by an employer — three separate times. Of learning that I cannot accomplish everything at once. That sometimes, things fall apart. That the story doesn’t always end how you want it to and you have to keep going in spite of it.

It’s a story of weekly lunches with Michelle, who always got me through it — whatever “it” was that particular week. Of camping out in Main Street Coffee House with Shannon and E. Of lingering in the chapel after dorm Mass with Marissa. Of meeting up with Kaitlyn in New York during breaks. Of people who somehow managed to love me anyway.

It’s a story of 4 a.m. nights in the Observer office. Of almost burning down South Dining Hall while trying to make Easy Mac that one time (sorry, everyone). Of my coworker covering for me when that happened (thanks, Matt). Of coming to care about each one of the quirky people in that office far more than I could have predicted.

It’s a story of building my own identity around telling other people’s stories. Of meeting incredible human beings who, for some reason, let me help them to convey their experiences. Of trying to touch others through my words. Of coming to understand that the majority of the time, those words impact me most of all.

It’s a story of almost running the Holy Half. Twice. Of not actually accomplishing it. Of coming to terms with the fact that there are many things that I’m good at, but running 13.1 miles at a time is not one of them. Of eventually being able to laugh about it. Of learning that what matters is finding, in every experience, a way to grow, to improve and to change.

It’s a story of sitting on Denise’s couch on one of our last study days, watching “The Vow” when we were supposed to be preparing for finals. Of feeling absolutely no shame about it. Of lying on another friend’s floor and giggling like a 13-year-old about some guy or another because some days, life just needs a little comic relief.

It’s a story of learning that people will open their doors to you if and when you are willing to knock. Of realizing that people who help you to tear down your walls are worth keeping around. That the most unexpected people will worm their way into your heart and that you should let them. That all relationships are risks, but that those risks are worth taking.

It’s a story of all the little moments that could not possibly fit into this column and of all the adventures that have yet to come, the ones that Notre Dame has made possible. Most of all, though, it’s a story of thankfulness for each decision, each familial sacrifice and each twist of fate that will enable me to walk across the stage Sunday as a more confident, compassionate and open-minded person than the one who first arrived on campus four years ago.

It’s a story of gratitude, because I have been blessed. Over and over again.

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

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About Marisa Iati

Assistant Managing Editor. American Studies major. Ice cream addict.

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