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The Notre Dame bubble

| Friday, November 18, 2016

When trying to describe this campus, we often make reference to the “Notre Dame bubble.”

This “bubble” is often talked about as a negative, associating it with a sort of conformity to a like mindset that comes from shutting the outside world out.

But it really isn’t always a bad thing.

As college students, there seems to be this pressure put on us to grow up quickly. Study hard, get an internship, get a job — all in the matter of a few years. The stresses that come with it? Just part of that daily grind you have to get through if you want to get somewhere. Because by the time you’re 22, you better be ready to take on the real world, where it only becomes harder.

And then, sometimes life likes to throw a little bit more at you.

For me, that’s been the struggles of my family: the physical health of my grandpa, who passed away just over a month ago; the mental health of my youngest brother; the anxiety of my parents, as they’ve had to deal with the brunt of both. And with everything going on in my life while it’s been happening, I never really got the chance to stop and cope with it all.

But it did all lead me to really appreciate the “Notre Dame bubble.”

Because in times when things are tough, I’ve always known I could turn to my family for some stability. But when they’re the ones that are going through tough times, and they turn to you to be that very source for them? When they need you to be one of the few people in your family capable of giving the support rather than taking it? Well, it becomes a little more complicated.

And that’s the time I’ve leaned on my “Notre Dame bubble,” or maybe I should say “bubbles.” I’ve really counted on the long-lasting friendships I’ve built with my classmates, through The Observer, through Mock Trial, through Morrissey and other ways I spend my time here when I’m not struggling to keep up with the grind of school and life.

Because those groups have given me the greatest gift I can ask for right now: a few moments of reprieve during the days when things get difficult; the stability and foundation that’ve seemed lost at times over these last few weeks; the opportunity to simply be around people I can comfortably call family when I can’t be with the one I might want to be with at home.

Who cares if it means cutting ourselves off from the outside world for a while and pushing problems to the back of our minds for a little bit? Isn’t that what we all need sometimes?

Maybe this “bubble” isn’t such a bad thing after all. Or maybe it just took rethinking the way I thought about it. Because thinking of it this way has given me an appreciation for the simpler parts of life. I take greater joy than I ever have in just being around those people, even if it’s just a few minutes of enjoying their company and nothing else.

And that lesson — and the people who’ve helped me learn it — is one thing I can hold on to when it’s all said and done.

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

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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