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Used to be lonely

| Friday, May 21, 2021

The summer after I graduated high school, people asked me if I was nervous about starting college. I wasn’t really, but only because I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. What was there to think about? I had no idea what it would actually be like day-to-day, so I couldn’t visualize myself being there, being nervous. 

But I will admit, there were two things I was worried about:

  1. Classes. In the parking lot of a grocery store in my hometown, I ran into a rather old Notre Dame alumni. His advice was this: “They’ll try to weed you out the first semester with very hard classes and assignments, so stay strong and persevere.” A very fun thing to look forward to.
  2. Finding friends.

In the end, those two things really are 80% of the college experience.

The worst part of Welcome Weekend, besides the intense heat and the walk from the Stepan Center to Stanford Hall after saying goodbye to my parents, was being alone with nothing to do. Socializing and meeting new people and trying to find where I fit in took all my energy, but when I was alone with nothing to do, I had time to worry, time to think about the unknown that was now staring me in the face, time to fear.

So, on that very first weekend, I went to the basement of South Dining Hall. Down there, a few seniors were escaping the heat. They had that energy among themselves that I envied — they were friends, comfortable with one another. In the only conversation I ever had with him, then Editor-in-Chief Ben Padanilam gave me the email address of then Scene Editor Adam Ramos.

I used to be lonely.

It didn’t happen right away. In some cases, it took just about my entire college career. But the people I met in my dorm and the ones who lived across the quad became the people I was comfortable with, the people I would eat dinner with at 5:50 p.m., North Dining Hall, every night.

The people who inhabited the South Dining Hall basement with me became my friends too, the ones who would see the passionate side of me, the side that cared about music, Notre Dame and everything else.

The lads I explored London with became my friends as well, the ones I would run across Amsterdam with in an effort to get into a sold out show at the city’s best venue.

And the people of Scene and the scene head-banged, rocked and reveled alongside me in basements, backyards and most recently, Howard Park.

These friends: Some are here — they’ll graduate with me. Some are gone — they are already off on bigger and better adventures. Some are weird, but I like them that way. Some are one trick ponies, but I’ve always had a soft spot for repetition.

There’s a lot that can be said about Notre Dame. I’ve already said my fair share. It is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, noble and flawed. But you don’t get to hate Notre Dame unless you love it. That’s the way I see it.

The weirdest part about writing for The Observer is realizing that people actually read the things you write. Most of my time here, I’ve told myself that no one cares to read the articles I put out into the world, the ones on niche albums or obscure movies

Over the past year and semester in particular, I started to put my voice into my writing, indulging whatever whim or obsession came in the moment and doing my best to stir the pot. And people actually read it — I like to believe they read the earlier stuff too. 

This first thank you is to everyone who ever read something I’ve written for The Observer. I don’t do it for you — I do it for me — but it’s nice to know that when you see my name, for some reason, you click.

Every other thank you goes to the people who got me here (my parents) and the people who’ve been with me: 

Professors — especially the ones who read my articles.

Stanford Hall staff — especially JMac, the best rector this campus has ever seen. 

The people I met once and then never saw again — especially those SYR dates and backyard party drinkers. 

And more than anything, all my friends — you know who you are.

Ryan Israel, senior, is expected to graduate from the University of Notre Dame du Lac with a degree in sociology and film, television and theater. He will migrate to some great city and conquer the world — whether or not someone gives him a job. Compliments, job offers and funny tweets can be sent to [email protected]. Insults, rejection letters and TikToks can be sent to hell.

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

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

Contact Ryan