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The art of observing

| Friday, May 19, 2017

I’ve always loved that this paper is called The Observer, because I think “observing” is the most valuable skill I’ll take away from my four years at Notre Dame.

This skill goes by other names: “listening,” “reporting,” “eavesdropping,” “being nosy,” “bothering people,” “refusing to mind your own business, you are rude, please go away.” I humbly accept all of these labels, though personally I prefer “demonstrating journalistic curiosity.”

There are many, many amazing things to observe at this school. There are of course the academic successes, and the sports-related things — I’ll definitely never forget standing on the field at the end of the Michigan shutout as the student section chanted in elation, or being woken up early on a Saturday by the band playing the fight song outside my window, or screaming on the sidelines during a Farley flag football game or voluntarily stepping into a boxing ring to get punched in the face.

But at risk of getting too sappy, the observations that I’ll remember most have to do with the people here, and the things they do, and the passion they show in doing them.

It’s probably fitting to start in the depths of South Dining Hall. Though I never pursued a real editor position, I have sat in the back corner of The Observer’s basement office one long night a week for almost my entire college career. I am an Observer observer, constantly witnessing the time and passion that the staff puts into the paper every day.

For example, I once overheard Editor-in-Chief Ben Padanilam offhandedly mention that he was covering the softball game and working a double shift and only got two hours of sleep the night before, and then ask for nothing but a hug from office saint Deb.

Conversations like that are a dime a dozen in that surprisingly bright little office, which begs the question: Why do these people spend hours in the basement of South Dining Hall, and more hours typing away at laptops, and more hours scrolling through South Bend crime reports or football game notes, and more hours hanging out with the same people they’re stuck doing those things with?

It’s not the salary, I assure you. You can call it insanity, I guess. But I think it’s passion, and a genuine love for the paper and the people involved with it.

That type of passion, dedication and friendship can be found everywhere on and around the Notre Dame campus. I’ve observed it in the Farley Hall chapel and the Basilica as an entire community supports its members dealing with the most terrible of losses. I’ve observed it in dorm rooms as my friends listen to each other and, even better, laugh at each other. I’ve observed it in sunlit darty backyards and strobe-lit bar dance floors. I’ve even observed it in classrooms in Debart and O’Shag and Hammes-Mowbray and the Main Building (they’ll put American Studies classes anywhere).

I’m confident that I’ll be able to keep observing those kinds of things after graduation, too, when I hear about some former classmate doing something impressive, and when I run into fellow alums living post-grad life, and when I Facetime my friends who no longer live steps away.

But I wouldn’t be able to absorb and appreciate those instances without the people at Notre Dame putting them right in front of my nose over and over again in these past four years. So to those who did so, thank you.

And to those who have more time here: Pay attention. Observe. Eavesdrop. It’s the best part.


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


About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

Contact Renee