Our final chapter
Joe Everett | Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Imagine you’re reading a really great book.
It’s full of excitement, drama and wit with loads of development throughout. It’s engaging and fun and lovely — a real page-turner. You fly through the book, drinking in every word and falling deep into the contents of its pages, unaware of how quickly you are progressing through the plot of the story but sublimely aware of just how good it is and how profoundly it touches the deepest recesses of your heart, mind and soul.
Then, you come to the final chapter.
You’re not sure what’s next. You’re not sure how it will end. Will it follow the general progression that the book has been leading up toward, or will there be a plot twist? Will it be a happy ending or a sad one? Will the guy and the girl end up together? Will you be satisfied with the ending? Will everything be tied up into neat little bows, or will the ending provide intrigue, drama, confusion and controversy?
Most of all, we ask, why does this wonderful book have to end?
In many ways, we can liken our college experience here at Notre Dame to a reading of this great book. It has engaged us and taught us and inspired us beyond what we could have imagined. We have flown through our college years, enchanted by the friends we’ve made, the relationships we’ve formed and even the trials we’ve endured and overcome. Every day, we add another page to this great novel.
Now, the end of the book draws near, and we must simultaneously balance our excitement for what the final chapter will hold while also coming to grips with the fact that it’ll all be over soon.
What will our final chapter be? Well, we begin writing it now. I imagine it’ll combine elements of joy, sorrow, surprise, laughter and a whole lot of reflection and analysis.
As David Copperfield says in Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
The point is that we have agency over this final chapter — we can in many ways determine how our college career will end and what kind of semester we will live out. But, the greater point for Copperfield’s quote is that our lives are often written and enriched by others — our friends and those we draw close to — our personal, everyday heroes that inspire us and keep us going.
To generalize, perhaps this realization is what we’ll most take away from our final semester — the friends we’ve made and the committed relationships we’ve each cultivated are what Notre Dame is truly about. It’s the people, not the place — and while the place certainly has a special spot in our hearts for all the memories it holds and the feelings it inspires, those same memories and feelings are contained within our friends — and friendship, in its ideal form, is close to eternal.
In this way, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the end does not symbolize an end, but rather a beginning. Here’s to our final chapter, and here’s to writing a lot more great books.