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Because I knew you

| Monday, October 3, 2016

“Do the [Notre Dame] students ever appreciate what they have, while they have it?” Dr. Tom Dooley’s words to Fr. Theodore Hesburgh haven’t always resonated with me during my time at Notre Dame. The Orgo II final exam, the polar vortex of 2014, what seemed to be the end of Feve as we knew it last spring — all were times of yearning for better days. My inability to remain in the present during such times of struggle is not what gets me, but rather I am brought to self-reflection by my blatant lack of appreciation for that which fueled my perseverance: my friends and family.

The recent death of a friend — neither an acquaintance nor a “bestie” by any stretch of the imagination, but a person whose frequent kind words and short, yet meaningful exchanges have had a profound impact on me — has forced me into introspection. Why is it that I can never fully be grateful for what I have until it is gone? That I don’t truly grasp the fall until it is winter? That I am not conscious of my chicken popper bowl until all that’s left is a heap of mashed potatoes? Why did I never tell my friend how much he meant to me while I still had the chance?

You see, time is fleeting. Many of the people and places that currently charge my life with meaning, and even those that seem to do the opposite, have paths that may never again intersect with mine. Rather than allowing these important aspects of my being to be dragged with me as I trudge through the mud in my day-to-day life, I have realized that I must celebrate them as though they could vanish tomorrow. Celebrate my old friends, who would put a halt on their own lives in order to take care of mine during times of crisis. Celebrate my new friends, who have carved for me a special place in their complex social network and busy lives. Celebrate the beauty of our campus, but especially the people with whom you are lucky enough to enjoy such beauty.

If there is one thing Notre Dame has taught me during the past three years, it’s that it is the people — not the crisp autumn leaves, the Golden Dome, nor the football — who I have been fortunate enough to meet that have made Our Lady’s university such a special place. The people who will make late-night quarter dog runs with me, those who would drop everything to save me when I’ve found myself passed out on the quad, and those who will take study breaks with me to swim in the lake, they all have reminded me how lucky I am to be here. But when would I post a glowing picture of my friends, thanking them for changing me for the better, rather than a perfectly cropped and filtered Dome pic? In fact, have I ever told them how much better off I am for knowing them? Have I told them that I sometimes stop to think how different my life would be without them, and that I’m worried for an impending future without them by my side? That I can’t call my parents without raving about them?

Someone once told me that she’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies, that she’d rather have four friends with whom she could tackle all Notre Dame has to offer rather than 100 acquaintances with whom she could never quite experience everything. Well, my time at Notre Dame has bestowed me with 100 quarters. One hundred friends with whom I could survive another polar vortex or learn to truly appreciate the fall. Dr. Dooley’s words mean more to me now than I ever could have imagined in the past. Although I will never be able to let my friend know just how special he was to me, I still am lucky enough to be able to appreciate my friends at Notre Dame before we part our ways. In the wise words of Glinda and Elphaba, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Glen McClain


Oct. 3

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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