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Hey, pitcher. I’m ready for the curveballs

| Friday, May 21, 2021

I’m not a sports person.

This year, I based my March Madness bracket on the teams’ colors and predicted that Garbanzo College (what I thought Gonzaga University was called) would win. If you’d ask me to explain football, I’d say it’s a bunch of guys running behind a ball. But then again, that’s how most sports go.

I’m not a sports person, but I know this: Every batter fears a pitcher’s curveball. Though slower than a fastball, its spin and drop confuse the eye. A curveball’s optical illusion tricks our evolutionary trait of darting out of harm’s way, which is why most of them end up with a strike.

They’re unpredictable and inevitable. A batter can try to prepare, but they tend to come out of the blue. In this way, they’re the perfect metaphor for my life and my time at Notre Dame.

In 2017, I broke both my ankles while riding a stationary bike — don’t ask me how, but it’s possible — and I had to relearn how to walk, barely making it to my high school graduation without crutches. Throughout these past four years, I’ve broken five fingers and my big toe, sprained my ankle multiple times and gotten whiplash after a night of sleeping on my friend’s futon — also something possible. By now, I know St. Liam’s X-ray person by name (shoutout to Shannon), and I never imagined I would hold the record for most broken bones, but that’s life: You never know what cards you’re dealt.

The curveballs I’ve been pitched don’t all pertain to my bones, and, thankfully, aren’t always nearly as painful. Many have even led to the best decisions in my life and the memories I’ll cherish the most.

For starters, I never planned to end up in South Bend, Indiana. Ever since I was a 10-year-old, my dream was to study international relations at Georgetown and later land a job in the United Nations. Now look at me, about to graduate from Notre Dame absolutely convinced that journalism is the only career for me. 

I never wanted to become a journalist. I only ended up in JED because a friend asked me to accompany him to the information session back in freshman year. I begrudgingly went because there was going to be free food, but I ended up applying to the program because professors Rich Jones and Victoria St. Martin convinced me to — thank you, thank you, thank you for changing my life forever.

I never looked to work at The Observer — I had already filled up my schedule with other clubs and extracurriculars. Now, I’ve had the honor and privilege of being part of the paper for the past three years. My time at The Observer taught me more about resiliency and passion than any class could’ve ever. Every day, I had the immense pleasure of working with some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met. Despite the leggings article that haunts me ‘til this day, the occasional angry email and the many long nights, I wouldn’t change a single second. In fact, I would give it all for the chance to go back in time and relive it once more — talk about hitting a home run.

While those have been some of the best things that’ve happened to me, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. In the midst of it all, I went through multiple identity crises; I got my heart broken; I made a bunch of mistakes; I dealt with seasonal affective disorder; I felt more homesick than I ever imagined I could and, yes, broke one too many bones. 

But even when I shattered and felt like I was falling into an abyss, I was able to pick up the broken pieces and put them back together — not because I have some superhuman strength, but because I had the support of so many friends, family members, mentors, bosses and professors.

When I felt like my world was crumbling down, they motivated me to keep going. When I needed a good cry, they were there with endless pints of Cherry Garcia ice cream. When I pined for Venezuela, they showed me that home is more than just four walls. When I thought I could never hit a curveball, they inspired me to batter up.

Never in a million years could I have predicted how my time at Notre Dame would eventually wind up. Never could I have imagined the incredible opportunities and friendships that have come my way. Never could I have foretold how much I’d look forward to life’s craziness and unpredictability.

Throughout these past four years, I’ve been dealt with more curveballs than any MLB player, and, yes, I can safely say I’ve hit more than one home run. How’s that for someone who’s not a sports person?

As I finish running through the bases of the place I’ve been so blessed to call home, I can only say this: Pitcher, bring it on. I’m ready to play ball.

Maria Luisa Paul is graduating with degrees in political science and economics and a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. After leaving Notre Dame, she will be interning at the Washington Post’s General Assignment desk. You can always send her tips and coffee place recommendations 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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