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Not to be dramatic

| Tuesday, September 5, 2023

In my castle made of Scotch Tape and digital photographs of high school memories and broken Christmas lights and piles of graphic tees my mom is begging me to donate, I decide: It’s probably time to leave the country.

It’s not that I don’t love this place, where every photo is a reminder of “something we once knew” and every Gildan T-shirt graphic is literally disintegrating. It’s not that I don’t love this place, four minutes from the tennis courts where I spend my summers feeding tennis balls to preteens and giggling with my coworkers during stretches, seven minutes from the waterfront which gleams in the sunlight and occasionally reeks, 20 minutes from the ballpark where I lose my voice more often than we win (Go Nats!), and nine hours and 30 minutes from you, Notre Dame, Indiana … You with your Golden Dome on God Quad and stained glass church at Holy Cross and Michelin star meals from the Saint Mary’s dining hall (seriously, the food is unmatched).

Trust me, it’s not that I don’t love these places. In fact, I think it’s that I do love these places, that I’ve decided perhaps it’s time I do the scary thing: leave. 

Not to be dramatic, but leaving really seems to be a part of the experience, all that coming-and-going between fall and spring semester, those groups of juniors leaving and returning. And it’s scary, all that uncertainty in that revolving door where people enter and exit and change. And isn’t change just terrifying?

But my friends have told me that change doesn’t have to be so scary. Because Notre Dame boys might become Notre Dame men after a few months in Dublin or Athens or Copenhagen. And that girl you didn’t know in Notre Dame, Indiana might just become one of your bridesmaids after a semester in Toledo, Spain. And maybe aperol spritzes and gin and tonics will become your signature drinks, and you won’t be caught dead ordering another vodka cran from Newf’s (like an amateur). And maybe you won’t drink at all, and you’ll spend all your days roaming the Italian countryside or learning Chinese or making all your meals from scratch in the shared kitchen. 

Maybe you’ll become best friends with your host family’s cat or your flatmates in London. Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life (or maybe someone who’s “just okay”). Maybe sometimes you’ll dread returning to your castle made of Scotch Tape and memory, and other times you’ll ache for it.

And maybe. Maybe sometimes, you’ll miss people like crazy — your parents, your pets, your friends, your favorite professor, your boss, probably even The Huddle employees who always expect you to make a snack run well after midnight. And you’ll miss hearing your dog slurp up water from his bowl by the front door. And you’ll miss those peppermint bark Ghirardelli chocolate squares you always stole from Hannah’s stash. And you’ll miss stretching out on your friend’s carpet, staring at the ceiling, wondering if maybe this is heaven. The open window. The smell. Being in someone else’s room, but somehow it feels like home. 

So, I’m sure I’ll shed some tears on the way to Dulles International Airport to catch my flight to Rome. 

And I’ll probably do some people-watching in the terminal, observing my fellow travelers as they saunter by: the man wearing a denim vest and denim jeans and an American flag printed fanny pack (also made of denim); the blonde woman clinging to a plush pillow that says “Las Vegas” in plastic jewels (because what happened in Vegas obviously didn’t stay in Vegas); the politician in a gray suit, waiting for Group 1 to be called (I swear I saw him on CNN last night); or the mother-daughter duo wearing matching Lululemon workout sets (the mother clutching a water bottle the size of a newborn baby). 

And in the midst of my people-watching, I’ll remember that art installation in the Charlotte airport, the one with the red hibiscus flowers and the words: “Our days are made of each other.” 

And of course, I’ll think of the people who raised me, the people Scotch Taped to the walls of my childhood bedroom or the people I shared mozzarella sticks with in the Breen-Phillips basement. But I’ll also think of strangers in the airport. 

Because somehow, I swear, my days are made of men in American flag fanny packs. My days are made of all those people I’ll pass on the way to the terminal or speak to for a moment while waiting in line for TSA.

And, as I sip on my Vitamin Water Energy purchased from the Hudson News (not The Huddle), I hope I’ll look around and remember — maybe not the fanny pack guy, but maybe that kid in the bright yellow Crocs flopping down the corridor, trying to keep up with his dad. And I’ll remember my people back in South Bend, ask them how they’re doing, if they can make a trip to the Grotto for me or dedicate a legal shot of alcohol to me at their favorite South Bend establishment… Because I’m not in Indiana anymore (and I’m still not 21). 

Kate Casper (aka, Casper, Underdog or Jasmine) is from Northern Virginia, currently residing in Breen-Phillips Hall. She strives to be the best waste of your time. You can contact her 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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