Fighting for an Irish community
John Darr | Monday, November 7, 2016
I’ll admit it — what sold me on attending Notre Dame was the hugs and the hand-holding. While visiting Notre Dame three years ago as a prospective student, I attended a dorm mass at Stanford Hall and was baffled by the welcoming intimacy of Notre Dame’s spiritual community. I’ve always loved hugs, and here were dozens of free hugs offered out of the kindness of Notre Dame hearts within the span of minutes. Sure enough, no other university could offer the same full-on embrace that Notre Dame granted me during my short stay that fateful week.
Yet when I came to Notre Dame, I eventually wandered from the spiritual community that had persuaded me to attend in the first place. Notre Dame was bound by two types of religion: one that played out in the next life, and another that played in the stadium in the next weekend. As neither a Catholic nor a sports fan, I found myself precariously on the outside of the very community which had inspired me to enroll in Notre Dame. Few other students appeared to share my love of music and late night adventures through the local campus wilderness. As far as my own interests went, I could not find a support system oriented around my own needs and interests. For two years, I felt isolated, even deserted by the people I had entrusted four years of my life to.
In the spring of my junior year, I boarded a plane for Dublin, hoping that the supposedly magical experience of study abroad would radically change my viewpoint. In some ways, it did; as a hapless American in a foreign country, I was forced to bond with a group of 14 students who shared my bewilderment and homesickness. Our dependence upon each other accelerated the strengthening of our relationships. In such a way, I finally felt part of the Notre Dame community in a way that I had previously found lacking.
However, the real shift took place when I found myself walking again through the troublesome blustery South Bend winter. The seemingly-shallow relationships I had begun forming within my dorm and within my classes began to blossom when I began hosting events for students who seemed to share my own interests and values. As my junior year came to a close, I began to realize that the lack of community I had found in the Notre Dame experience was no fault but my own.
Sure, my depression and family issues had hampered my abilities to find and expand my support system, but I now own the fact that when I had desired community, it was my responsibility to help create it. Effort is the sole ingredient that can ensure the success or failure of any endeavor. When I started exerting effort and following my own passion for valuable social experience, I was able to find a support system that not only included me, but embraced me. I love my Carroll Hall community. I love my Binns County Appalachia group. I love my musical friends that came in droves to see my wacky poetry readings and my fellow Scenesters here at the Observer. Such proclamations of love may be a cliche, but they’re true, and I had to fight for them. I’m just fortunate that they were more than worth fighting for.
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.