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Thank you, 2016

| Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It’s been a really bad year.

At times, 2016 has been incredible, but all things considered, it’s just been bad.

Never in my 21 and a half years has a period of time been so filled with such joyous highs and crushing lows. There has been lots to be happy about: graduation, an enriching summer internship, a move to Ireland. But many of these happy moments were marked with challenges that limited their joy. Graduation meant saying goodbye to a place and so many people I love. Moving to Ireland meant going 4,500 miles and an 8-hour time difference away from the girl I love. And then there’s the one big thing that overshadows it all: my dad’s death in June.

Now, as we near the end of what has been at times the best and overall the worst year of my life, I can only think of one thing to do with my last column of the year: give thanks.

Each year, Chicago Sun-Times cartoonist Jack Higgins draws a Christmas cartoon of Santa making his list, complete with hundreds of names. The Christmas cartoon is a way to thank the people who made the year what it was (Higgins is a family friend, so my family has appeared in the cartoon a few times). I’ve always liked the idea, and while I can’t draw, I do have a few column inches to thank the people who made a bad year bearable.

First, a thank you to my family. There are never enough thank you’s, nor will there ever be. So I’ll keep saying it and trying to show my gratitude to all of you. Mom, you’re the reason everything didn’t completely fall apart this year. Ned, your pursuit of your dreams constantly inspires me. Dan, I don’t know where I’d be without your kindness, good humor and unflagging enthusiasm.

Dad, this will always be the year that we lost you, but it also the year that you showed me exactly what grace and dignity look like. Thank you for that, and for giving my brothers and me all of your love and everything you had.

To my entire extended family, thank you for always being there in the biggest and smallest of ways. I don’t have enough space to name all of you, but you know who you are and I hope you know my love for you knows no bounds. Specifically, Anna and Matt, thank you for your beautiful example of love, and for reminding me that joy exists in even the most difficult times. And Megan and Robert, thank you for once again bringing more joy into our family. I can’t wait to meet baby Connor.

Caroline, I love you more than I can express in mere words, and I am so thankful that across oceans and continents, we can still share and grow in that love.

To my Notre Dame family, I miss you all, but cherish our memories, friendship and future. Patrick, Tom, Tommy, Connor, Collin, Joe, Tyler, Leanne, Katie and Michelle — Notre Dame wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thanks for sharing it all with me.

To the Observer family, thank you for making seemingly endless hours of work some of my most fun, treasured times at Notre Dame. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Rachel, who’s been bugging me about giving her a shout-out in my column since I started writing it.

To everyone at O’Connell House, Notre Dame’s home in Dublin and my current home, thank you for truly becoming my family. I was thrilled to return to Ireland in August, and I remain so excited to wake up each day in Dublin. To all of the fall semester students and all the other new friends I’ve met here, thank you for making the past few months so fun.

To my travel buddies, and very best of friends, Kevin, Marisa and Nora, thanks for exploring the world with me, and for all the laughs and games of hearts.

To all my friends on the Southside of Chicago, thank you for your loyal and loving friendship, especially as I’ve been almost everywhere but home in the past few years.

To the AMST clique and my fellow Thesis Geniuses, thanks for making a major feel like a family and making me always look forward to classes. Thank you, too, to Jason and all my other deeply devoted professors, who always challenge me to work harder and think clearer.

To all of my friends at the Tampa Bay Times, thank you for teaching me so much about journalism, and for showing me how to quickly form a bond with a group of people and a new place.

And to everyone in Alumni Hall, especially Fr. George and Fr. Bill, thank you for making the Center of the Universe a perfect home for four unforgettable years.

I worried that writing this column would be selfish; that it would waste space and ink with a personal message. But if anyone besides my mom is still reading, I hope you came to the same conclusion that I did. This column isn’t selfish because everyone has people like this who are always there for them and who, for better or worse, made 2016 what it was. So before the year is out, thank them. Tell them you love them. Then look forward to a much better 2017.

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

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Contact Jack