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Finding ‘the opposite of loneliness’

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

Buckle up. Things are about to get sappy.

As the final weeks of second semester come to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing author Marina Keegan for giving me the words to describe the indescribable and irreplaceable feeling that accompanies the end of my freshman year at Saint Mary’s College. In her 2012 Yale Commencement speech, delivered five days before she was killed in a tragic car accident, Keegan explored “the opposite of loneliness” that she had found during her four years of college, saying:

“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s 4 a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.”

After almost completing one year as a Belle and as a part of the Notre Dame tri-campus community, I feel confident in saying that I have found this same “opposite of loneliness” in various facets of my college life.

My roommates and I tackling the aerobic challenge of changing the sheets on my lofted bed for the first time. Hugging the strangers in the pew behind me instead of shaking for the Sign of Peace at 7 o’clock mass in LeMans Chapel. Sunday nights spent with sweet and sour chicken from Golden Dragon, and squeezing five people onto a dilapidated futon to watch the newest episode of “90 Day Fiance.” Answering the question of the day at Saint Mary’s News Department meetings. Burning the midnight oil to work production for The Observer in the basement of South Dining Hall, teaching myself how to use the InDesign program while surrounded by the funniest, most passionate cast of characters I have ever met. Sitting in a wooden booth in LaFun after a long night, basking in the warm, armpit-y aroma of Taco Bell and laughing until my sides ached. Pumping my arms up and down in synchronization with the rest of the green and gold sea cheering in the Irish student section.

These moments are so intrinsic to the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame experiences, and yet the overarching feeling of fullness — full of laughter, full of meaning, full of hope for the future — and the sense of belonging to something much bigger than oneself is a universal fulfillment that everyone hopes to find in their four years of higher education, as well as other parts of life. If, in my brief time as a college student, I have learned anything about dorm life, it’s that living together and sharing a community microwave and a block of three shower stalls can bring people together in an extraordinary fashion. I am so lucky to have found a home in McCandless Hall and in the Saint Mary’s-Notre Dame community.

So, thank you, Marina, as well as everyone who has made this past year so indefinably special that it can only be summed up as the opposite of something else. Looking ahead to sophomore year, I’ll conclude with Keegan’s hope-filled words on the future:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. … We’re in this together. … Let’s make something happen to this world.”

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

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