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Say hi

| Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The brain is funny in what it chooses to retain. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll likely confirm that my memory is nothing to write home about. I’m frequently forgetting key pieces of stories or frantically running from class to class in desperation after forgetting an assignment or meeting. But as I walked around campus this past weekend, greeting old friends and meeting new faces, I couldn’t ignore the intense nostalgia I was experiencing. More than just general feelings of nerves and excitement that are typically associated with Welcome Weekend, vivid memories came rushing back as I started to recall my own Keenan Karaoke, Mod Quad Luau and Day of Community.

I remember standing by the tree between Siegfried and PDub wiping a single tear as my parents hugged me goodbye. I remember waiting anxiously outside of my advisor’s office because “I just had to change my schedule that day or else I wouldn’t be able to graduate on time.” I remember returning to my dorm room after Domerfest, just relieved I had survived the very event that had given me so much anxiety from the moment I decided to go to Notre Dame.

The thing I’m learning about memories made throughout such a major milestone in one’s life is that they’re typically not constricted to a singular weekend. While Welcome Weekend stands out as a defining point in my transition from high school to college — and, essentially, the early stages of my transition into adulthood — that power of recollection extends throughout my freshman year.

With each memory that comes rushing back — the first class I walked into, first football game, first dance — so too does the guilt that is a side effect of regret. Don’t get me wrong, I have some incredible memories — the first time I saw my name published in The Observer, the first time I realized I had a “go-to” person in college — and I’m so grateful for those and what they’ve led to in the two years since. But I can’t help but shake the opportunities I missed because I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of embarrassment. I find myself thinking about the number of people I met throughout freshman year who I now pretend not to know, simply because they probably don’t remember me.

Just the other day, I was complaining about how someone I know never says hi to me and always acts like they don’t know me. My much wiser friend asked me if I say hi to the person to which I sheepishly responded, “Well, no.” I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone on this campus who thinks the same of me simply because I was too scared to say hi.

This isn’t a promise that I’ll never shy away from saying hi or introducing myself. I know myself too well, and I know my social tendencies. That said, this is a commitment to fight against the fear that’s keeping me from experiencing the full potential of those relationships in college. Every time I feel the urge to look down at my phone or turn my back, I’ll remind myself of the friendships I’ve made over the past two years that likely wouldn’t have been possible if not for one of us making the extra effort.

Having officially surpassed the halfway point of my time in college — and even more so of my time on campus — I’m realizing how much more precious the time I have left is. College is not the peak of existence, but when in the right place at the right time, it has the potential to be a special experience, one filled with independence, discovery and growth. I’m excited to discover what my next step after Notre Dame is, but I can’t deny that I’ll miss these days.

If I could go back and meet myself two years ago, I’d tell myself the same advice someone gave me four years earlier as I took my first steps into high school — say hi and call people by their names.

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