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What my Notre Dame degree will mean to me

| Thursday, April 19, 2018

The possibilities are endless with a Notre Dame degree. That’s what I was told on my recruiting visit for track, what I heard at orientation, what alumni and professors ingrained in me over my four years here. However, it won’t be the technical skills I learned or even much of the academic work that ended up changing my life for the better and setting me up for the “real world” — whatever that scary term really means.

That beautiful, cherished piece of paper that will be my Notre Dame degree will fail to mention the first time I met the love of my life, when we explored Duck Island at midnight together during Frosh-O. It will fail to mention the bunny I was determined to adopt and hide from multiple rectors during freshman year — only to be yelled at thoroughly later.

My degree won’t have room to describe what wonderful, selfless roommates and friends I’d have. How one of my best friends stayed awake with me several nights during sophomore and junior years while I struggled — shaking, panicked, depressed — with a rare nervous system condition I didn’t know I would have to fight. My degree won’t explain how my family and friends saved me from its ugly, hellish depths and helped me finish school, the doctors who found a diagnosis no one else could and how my track coach would have unwavering faith in me to keep me on the team and let me compete again.

My degree won’t include all that I learned outside the classroom; about God, life, love, music. How I converted to Catholicism during my junior year. How I cried like a baby during my baptism and first communion at Easter Vigil in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, surrounded by my family and friends. My degree won’t highlight the bouts of mental illness I observed and experienced, and how I’ve seen people hold each other together in their darkest moments. It will exclude how much I learned about the music industry, singing, recording — and most importantly, how to be comfortable publicly acknowledging your dreams.

It won’t mention how the huge aspirations I had for my track career were not accomplished, but instead were trumped by greater feats. How my nervous system finally healed for my senior year, only for my season to prematurely end in injury — but how I realized the teammates and coaches who were a part of my journey were the real victory all along. I may not have run a personal best, but they helped me become my personal best.

And sadly, my degree will only have a place for my name. The names that became the most important to me on this campus won’t be included. The friends that made me a better friend, the professors that made me a better student, the love that taught me to how to be a better person. The biggest lessons I learned and the most powerful characteristics and skills I developed were not from the curriculum but the people.

I will frame my degree. It will hang proudly in my future office, house, wherever I deem fit. It will have my name on it, the fact that I studied business and journalism, and it will glow with the name of the university I hold so dear. There will be a lot that my degree won’t have written on it, but it doesn’t have to. I’ll pass it by, glance at it over the years and I’ll know exactly what my Notre Dame degree means to me.

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

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About Alex Daugherty

I am a senior student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Marketing and minoring in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. I originally hail from Seattle, my favorite smell is coffee, and there are few things I love more than putting together a sentence.

Contact Alex