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Expectation vs. reality

| Monday, September 13, 2021

Will I do important research for a bio lab? Teach English to children in Uganda? Become an Imagineer for a Disney theme park? 

Growing up in South Bend, and surrounded by ND students as a kid, it’s safe to say I had pretty high expectations for my freshman year at Notre Dame. These incredible people and their experiences were ones I looked up to immensely as a kid, yet could never seem to reach.

As we all know, COVID-19 was the lead actor in the lovely movie that was the 2020-2021 school year. I quickly became comfortable with lowering my expectations for basically everything. After losing a regular prom, graduation and start to college, I was just accepting the cards that life dealt me, and trying to get through classes without burning out. But I still put pressure on myself to live up to these expectations that had been around since I could remember. That’s not to say that things didn’t go downhill from there.

I dropped my environmental sciences major after failing the chemistry final. I basically spent most weekends freshman year watching “Gilmore Girls” under the excuse of COVID-19 (definitely not because of my introverted personality). And why couldn’t people still tell me apart from my twin sister? I had enough of that for the past eighteen years, and thought it would be different at college. 

But why is this my only picture of what last year was like? For some reason, it’s easy to focus on the negative, instead of all the blessings I received from this past year. I worked for Notre Dame Vision this past summer with an incredibly caring, faith-driven group of people. I was finally able to live on campus, eat in the dining hall and just sit in my friends’ rooms to talk about our struggles and life experiences, but also about the superiority of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” over all other movies. The little experiences of baking cookies for a friend’s birthday or praying in the Geddes chapel with others became momentous and took on a greater level of meaning after a year of isolating experiences. I found comfort in an amazing English and design double major that inspires and challenges me constantly, and have finally accepted that being a twin is a pretty cool thing. This semester, singing in the choir at Milkshake Mass, playing in the orchestra inside DPAC instead of a tent and cheering on the Irish in the stadium became more than traditions, but moments of tangible community and hope that I had finally opened myself up to. 

Maybe I still have no idea what I am doing. Am I ever going to become that inspiring writer or teacher or graphic designer? Sometimes I can’t even get out of my lofted bed without falling and I still burn microwave popcorn consistently in PE’s 8B e-lounge (I’m so sorry pyros). If you saw me eat trail mix for breakfast on more than one occasion — no you didn’t. Were Taylor Swift’s “folklore” and “evermore” albums plus a ton of Kodiak Cakes waffles made in my dorm room the major things that got me through last year’s rollercoaster? One might say we will never know. 

But one thing I do know is that maybe I did rescue Pete and Chasten Buttigieg’s dog when it ran away in my neighborhood. And maybe I will never stop bragging that Tyler Buchner was in my Moreau class, even though I’m 100% sure we never spoke. It’s fine. I learned a lot about myself this past year and realized hope is something I am ready to accept back into my life. Even though I might never become an Imagineer for Disney, who is to say I can’t dream about it?

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

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