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How are you really?

| Monday, December 4, 2017

“How are you doing?”

“I’m good!”

Every day I hear these words, and every day they strike me as fake and superficial. There seems to be this unspoken rule that says a Notre Dame student must act as if we have everything under control. When asked, students will say they are balancing all of their classes and extra curriculars, no problem. I may have two papers and three exams this week, but I’ll get through it. No big deal. Struggles are considered to be for the weak. But the nonchalance of how students portray themselves seems to be disguising what’s going on beneath the surface. Notre Dame students seem to be truly afraid of opening up to others.

At a school where family is so prevalent, there seems to be a lack of true connection. There is a pressure to be a part of the “Notre Dame family,” to have the life changing experiences that so many alumni come back here to reminisce. But does a family only engage in course comparisons? In commenting on dorm stereotypes? We are closing each other off to the conversations that could be helping us grow as human beings, and build closer relationships. The chance to be vulnerable is snuffed out by the talk of prestigious internships and the loud cheers of football games. Does anyone say what’s truly on their hearts?

As a first year student, my beginning semester at Notre Dame has been a roller coaster ride. I certainly have not felt part of the Notre Dame family in my first few months on campus. I’ve felt intimidated by difficult classes, stressed out by the workload and have spent quite a few lonely nights in my dorm because, hey, making friends is hard. For a long time, I wondered if I was the only one feeling these emotions, because no one seemed to talk about their similar struggles. I walked from class to class, engaging with people who seemed to have no problem at all fitting in and managing their classes, and I felt the pressure to say so as well. Eventually I realized that this was not the case, and that others were going through struggles similar to mine. But it took poking and prodding at my “family” to do so.

The problem is that students are too afraid to reveal a crack in their perfect Notre Dame facade. While there are ample opportunities to get involved, the general interactions all over campus seem to lack a vulnerability that truly brings people together. We are no longer high school seniors presenting our perfect selves on a college application. We are mature adults who can acknowledge our faults and open up to those around us.

We need to change this perspective. There is room for failure. It’s okay to struggle. While these phrases may be true, they are hard to accept on a campus that looks down on adversity. All we need to do is take the first step, going beyond the typical Notre Dame introduction and expressing our true emotions. By changing our viewpoint, maybe we can all become the family we claim to be.

Jenna Lehn
Nov. 24

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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