Where you end up
Rachel O'Grady | Friday, May 18, 2018
It’s not true that you won’t regret things in college.
You will regret not studying harder for one more test, or not taking one more class, or not joining one more club or even not going out one more night. I would bet that over the course of your four years, you will most definitely regret all of those things.
But life presents you with so many, often hard, choices. Ultimately, you will pick one thing over another, and those choices might lead to feelings of regret.
But if you can square these choices with all of the things you gained in exchange — the late nights in the office, or staying on campus instead of going abroad, or meeting a whole new group of friends — you’ll be able to do things that you couldn’t imagine. And you’ll be a better person because of it.
Of the infinite number of paths I could have taken to get to graduation this Sunday, I certainly chose one with some regrets — though, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, perhaps too few to mention — but I would not have done it any other way. Each choice had its reason, and I have to believe there’s meaning behind where I ended up.
I’ve slept through my fair share of classes. Working until 3 in the morning multiple nights a week will do that to you.
But I wouldn’t trade all of the insanely late nights spent in The Observer offices for a couple of extra early-morning classes. It was in that poorly-lit basement newsroom on Wednesday nights that I made some of my best friends and found out what real dedication looked like.
Without the Insider nights, I would have never pestered Katie, Greg, Margaret, Zach and Catherine to come hang out in my double in Ryan Hall, affectionately known as Club 206 by those who came to huddle on my broken futon to watch March Madness games or the movie of the week. When we packed everything up to go home at the end of my sophomore year, they still came over and played board games with me on a bare mattress in a de-lofted bed.
It was late nights in the office sending down the paper that led to later nights in the office trying to study for finals, but ultimately watching “Legally Blonde” for a study break.
And none of those memories — staying up too late to perfect an edition of The Observer, or singing Whitney Houston on top of desks, or taking an unnecessary office poll — are worth losing to always wake up for your 9:30 a.m. class.
I knew I didn’t want to study abroad. I loved going here so much — the dorm life, the professors, the classes, my friends — and it made no sense in my mind to ever leave.
That was, of course, until almost all of my friends left for their various adventures in foreign countries. Even now, it makes me a bit sad to think about what I missed out on.
But if I had gone abroad, I would’ve missed meeting some of my closest friends.
When you’re the leftover juniors, you’re forced to at least be friendly to everyone you meet. So when Olivia invited me over to meet this “great girl, Mary, you’ll love her!” I had to say yes. That led to meeting Brody and Steven and Dan and Bobbie and so many others who I will painfully miss next year. Without them, I would have never been exposed to the merits of Greek over Latin, or learned what to do if you’re stranded in Kentucky, or hiked up dunes in the winter on a sprained ankle, or how many pull ups is an acceptable amount.
I missed almost every single Tuesday night trivia first semester of my senior year. The dumb, small tradition of going to Danny Boy’s on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. was something I often had to forgo in favor of a class I took with Fr. Scully from 7-9 p.m., and I was initially upset. Class over hanging out with my group of friends? It didn’t even sound like something I would do.
But if I hadn’t, I would have never gone to Washington, D.C. or read David Brooks. I would have never met friends who cared about the true meaning of happiness enough to get drinks once a week to discuss it.
That group of people from class — known as “Slug Club” — will all indubitably make a lasting impact on society as we know it. They’re the kind of people that you go to Notre Dame to meet; their caring personalities and cunning minds are unique amongst their peers.
While they will go on to change the world throughout the rest of their lives, I have certainly been changed by having them in my life.
I didn’t take a typical route to get here. I did the Gateway program, which meant I went to Holy Cross freshman year and transferred my sophomore year.
It was certainly a difficult, but ultimately incredibly worthwhile, path to take. I have no regrets about it now, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel major pangs of regret during that first year.
My parents were adamant and consistent with their advice: It’s not about where you start, but about where you end up. No one ever told me I needed to end up at Notre Dame, or that I even should go to Notre Dame. I didn’t need the Notre Dame onesie, or the Grotto trips before football games as a kid, or the tour, or the brochure or the alumni pushing me to do it. No one had to tell me. I wanted to graduate from Notre Dame. I just knew.
On Sunday, I’ll do just that.
That’s one hell of a place to end up.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.