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Where’s the Notre Dame family?

| Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Let me tell you a secret — I never really believed in the Notre Dame family. I’m naturally a skeptic, and a cynic at heart. Growing up in South Bend didn’t have the same Notre Dame effect on me as it did on some of my peers. And here’s one of the reasons why: Once football, day-drinking and love of dorm culture are agreed upon, the family seems to stop. One disagreement — political, religious or otherwise — and the family always seemed to fracture and break.

We are in one of those times now. I don’t need to tell you that. Now it appears to have become an us versus them situation: the seniors wanting to capture every last moment at Notre Dame versus the students wary of time with anyone outside their home. It’s the freshmen making friends on the quads versus the kids convinced this semester will end in death. The conflict is real, and it’s here.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As many us versus them conflicts go, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut right answer. We cannot shame those who aren’t scared of the coronavirus’ effects on their friends and families with health conditions into staying home. It simply does not work. Yelling at people on the street will certainly not cause them to change their minds. The people you criticize will only hit back stronger, and be even less likely to see things your way if you attack them. But honest conversation will help more than shade could ever. If we are really the Notre Dame family, why are we fracturing now, when we need to work together the most?

There are some right answers — Wear a mask, practice social distancing. But to different people, this does mean different things. 

But some things are hazy — should we not be going to restaurants at all? What about if we are sitting outside? And what about our close bubble of friends off campus? Should those photos be taken so close together?

Im not here to disclose my own opinion. I have my own guidelines for myself and for my loved ones. What I do know for sure is that now is not the time to perpetuate even more fear and anxiety through omens of death and destruction. These times are already difficult enough for those of us struggling with mental health issues, and it is so easy to get lost in a doom spiral. 

I am conflicted every day. Every day I worry for my aging mother who works in a local South Bend hospital. I worry for my grandmother’s mental health —  being locked away for months on end would be terrifying. And I worry for myself and my friends. But I also want to choose joy. I want to be ecstatic to see my beautiful friends I haven’t seen since December. I want to love fully and freely. I feel for the freshmen who are forced to make and build friendships right now.

I don’t want to minimize anyone else’s fears. But I know digging into those anxieties every hour of every day is the opposite of healthy. You never know what other people are going through during this time, or truly anytime, so let’s try not to jump to conclusions. There’s no shame in going to therapy, especially now, instead of manifesting those fears into the open all the time.

This semester is not about fear or conflict. At least, it shouldn’t be. We deserve to be joyful, even in These Times. 

So be mindful about who you are spending time around, and feel free to draw lines in the sand about hanging out and going places. Don’t be afraid to be the person in your friend group to stay home. If you are going out, don’t shame those who don’t feel safe. Maybe compromise, and host small gatherings instead of blow-out parties.

Don’t force Notre Dame employees to tell you to social distance and wear a mask on campus. And let’s not attack our community members, because it simply won’t do any good. When was the last time you were attacked over something, and you decided to change the way you acted? It’s really not a positive way to enact change. All the premonitions about this semester ending in heartbreak will come true.

More than anything, I want to believe in the Notre Dame family. So let’s try for a little more empathy today. And as always, don’t forget to wear a mask.

You can contact Mariah at [email protected]

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

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About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and serves as Managing Editor of The Observer. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

Contact Mariah