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Puzzle piece hearts

| Thursday, January 31, 2019

If your heart is open with the capacity to love all, then you will always have your heart in different places. As you age, the number of locations will grow and grow, as will the number of people you love. In college, the abundance of unique and different people is overwhelming. For example, Notre Dame attracts students from all over the country and abroad. It’s almost impossible not to meet someone from an area you are not familiar with. That being said, the friendships and bonds formed create lasting links from heart to heart, person to person and place to place. The more open you are to traveling, meeting new people and allowing your heart to accept more, the greater amount of capacity you will have to love and be loved.

The first time I experienced this feeling of separation, but also being connected, was in high school. During the summer of my junior year, I visited Notre Dame to participate in a lacrosse camp. There, I met one of my greatest friends. I was exposed to the love and community that Notre Dame and the whole South Bend community have to offer. This was the first time my heart had two homes. Through friendship and community, a part of me would always be in South Bend.

As college quickly approached, arriving once more in South Bend on Welcome Weekend, I had mixed feelings of nervousness, excitement and anticipation. The first few weeks were full of adjustments, anxiety and homesickness. Again, I felt the awareness that my heart was with my family and friends who were spread out throughout the country. Quickly, though, my heart filled the void with new friends and faces, while also staying tied to those I held dear who were not physically with me.

As my college career continued, bonds were broken, formed and strengthened. Then, during my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to study abroad. This was one of the best experiences of my life. I spent four months in Alicante, Spain. I was the sole person from Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame to be there during the fall of 2017. Since I was completely alone, I had to make new friends. I met people from all over the United States, Spain, Japan, Africa and many other countries in Europe. I came into the semester with an open mind and heart, and I truly gave myself wholeheartedly to people. When you are genuine with your feelings, people will respond and reciprocate. My heart now lies in Alicante, Spain; Kyoto, Japan; Berlin, Germany; and with all of the American students I met along the way.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that this phenomenon is both a blessing and a curse. With so many different locations that I’ve visited and the overwhelming number of people I met, the more that I am torn about where I want to be in life. It’s sad when you care about someone, or multiple people, so much and you have to be far from them. It’s also very rewarding to have places to return to that have so many familiar faces. It’s a constant struggle, but I would not want it any other way.

Learning to keep my heart open and allow people to come and go as they please has been one of the toughest life lessons I’ve learned. I still have my struggles with the separation, but the reunions always outweigh any time away from a loved one. Keep your hearts open and see where they will take you.

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

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