Leaving a legacy
Greg Hadley | Friday, May 13, 2016
When I was little, I knew where I was going to college: Notre Dame.
And this Sunday, sure enough, I’m going to graduate from this University.
It’s strange to realize my life has unfolded almost exactly as eight-year-old me envisioned, minus playing center field for the Baltimore Orioles. And I’m not just talking about Notre Dame.
Really, most of my life to this point has seemed preordained. I knew where I would go to middle school, high school, college. I played the same sports and read the same books my family members did, went on vacations to the same spots with the same people.
When you’re the ninth of 10 children, there’s not much you can do that your siblings haven’t already done. When you’re the sixth kid in your family to attend Notre Dame, there’s not much that’s going to surprise you.
To some people, that might sound sad. Some people might think my family crushed my individuality.
To me, there’s a more complicated truth at work.
I always knew I wanted to go to Notre Dame. But for a long time, I never considered why. It was just the way things were supposed to be. I was a Hadley, and therefore I belonged in South Bend.
But now, finally, I know why I’ve always felt a connection to this place.
At Notre Dame, we place a tremendous amount of importance on tradition. Every year, we do the same things over and over, because that’s what we’ve always done.
It’s not a perfect system — sometimes tradition stifles us from growing — but all the traditions we have build upon each other towards something greater: a legacy.
That legacy is what ties the Notre Dame community together. That legacy is more than football games or dorm masses. That legacy is the impact Notre Dame has upon the world. That legacy leaves an indelible mark.
When I was little, I sensed that many of my siblings had this mark. I idolized my older brothers and sisters, and so naturally, I wanted that mark too.
What I didn’t know was that how I carried that mark was up to me. Notre Dame’s legacy is not a static thing. Each new class of students builds upon it. Within each class, each student takes part in it in a different way. And though many of my siblings and I share in this legacy, we each experienced it in far different ways.
At the end of my sophomore year, I realized I suffer from dysthymia, a persistent low-level form of depression. It had gotten worse ever since I came to college, and I think the reason for that was because part of me expected my Notre Dame experience to be the same as my siblings and was disappointed when it wasn’t.
That part of me was eight years old and saw everything in binary terms. He didn’t realize it was OK to be different from his siblings, to become his own person. To be different was to not belong.
I don’t think that way anymore. Each one of my siblings has varied interests, passions and ideas, and we each have chosen different paths in life. But at the center of it all is a bond, one in which Notre Dame plays an integral part.
My life was never preordained, of course. But I have taken part in a legacy. It’s left a mark I’ll always carry with me, and I’ve added to it and made it my own. It’s a legacy I took up, and it’s a legacy I leave behind.
Greg Hadley is graduating with a degree in political science and a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. If you wish to send job offers or fruit snacks his way, email Greg at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.