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We said hello goodbye

| Friday, February 5, 2021

Dear Notre Dame,

I feel as if I am writing too many letters these days, but maybe that is because I’m getting older. What am I saying? I’m entering my eighth and final semester of college, but it feels as if I have been here an eternity. It’s funny. I tell all my friends that the second I set foot on campus after a period of staying away, I feel as if I have been here all my life. Don’t get me wrong. It is difficult being one of the you-could-count-the-total-number-of-Jewish-students-at-Notre-Dame-on-both-hands, one of the students who is dramatically below the median income level. I don’t want to lie to you either. There were times during my first year when I entertained transferring schools, times when I would go to the Grotto for the certain comfort that silence and reflection bring. But ever since my older sister’s Welcome Weekend when I was a high school senior, I felt that you were different in a way.

The last time I wrote to you was the end of freshman year, and I feel that it is appropriate to write you as the prologue to my epilogue of my time at Notre Dame. Or a final chapter, if you will. I’ve planned on writing you again ever since I wrote that letter, writing a sentence here and there so that the final product would be a mosaic of myself across four years. My apologies for taking so long to reply, but that is life I suppose. The truth is this letter started writing itself at the end of last semester as I sat on the plane on the way home. Really, it has been writing itself for four years as I became acquainted to the shapes, sights and scents of this school. It found its way to paper on occasion, but most of the time you put yourself to canvas in ways that are hard to describe. 

I feel conflicted at this point in time. I feel as if I must hold my head up high to catch the detail of every last building I enter, that I must hold my gaze for just a second longer than I normally would to memorize the exact shape of every memory and moment that I make this final semester. Hesburgh becomes the Library of Alexandria, and DeBart is the eighth wonder of the world. Every step I take, every blade of grass I fracture, has a clock attached to it, and I can hear the ticking in the deep recesses of my mind. 

And yet, I don’t want to treat this semester as any different than the ones before. And I don’t want to romanticize the end and draw it out either. But I know I’m not the only one who feels that graduation is a bittersweet thing. There it is, that word. I know you will stay with me even as I receive my diploma and turn the tassel on my cap, and that I must look forward to new horizons that will bring their own trials and beauty. But I feel caught between two worlds, and it is difficult to let you go although I know it is, in fact, you that beckons me to push out into an ocean unknown.

Goodbyes are impossible, and I hate them because there are no perfect words. There is no way to encompass the weight of that moment and hold it perfectly between your lips, and believe me I’ve tried. So this time, I won’t try. Instead, I will live my goodbye in the way the light falls into the side room of a secret study space that I won’t name, in the reflection of the dome in the puddle of water right outside LaFun. I’ll live it in the wind tunnel that picks up in front of South Dining Hall, the way that the sun filters through the leaves of McGlinn fields, the cracks in the sidewalk leading up to Geddes. I’ll live it in the perfection of those unexplainable moments, because life is a summation of the indescribable.

I suspect I will write you again before the curtains close and scene is called. But until then I will let the music compose itself and sit back to listen to your symphony. 

Sincerely,

Gabriel Niforatos

Gabriel Niforatos is a senior majoring in political science with minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and Theology. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at [email protected] or @g_niforatos on Twitter.

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

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