What would you fight for?
I started off my Winter Break losing brain cells. I watched a combined total of 20 hours of New York City influencer vlogs for the first few days of break and found myself both fascinated and disgusted by their lifestyles: wake up, take a ginger shot, Uber to an overpriced coffee shop on the Lower East Side, drink a matcha (the kind with the swirly foam), Uber home, Doordash a Sweetgreen salad, watch Netflix, get ready for a glitzy influencer event, drink espresso martinis aplenty, take Instagram photos, Uber to your finance boyfriend’s apartment, repeat.
By the end of my 20-hour binge I felt absolutely gutted and queasy. Something about watching beautiful, rich white girls live glamorous yet shallow lives left me feeling unsettled, so I logged off of YouTube and began browsing the documentaries on Netflix (because, before I was the girl who loved New York City influencer vlogs, I was the girl who loved documentaries). I selected the title “Heroin(e)” a 2017 film about the overdose epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia.
In the short 40-minute documentary, I saw buff, tattooed men lying helplessly on the floor of apartments; I saw a 20-year-old girl passed out in the middle of Sheetz; I saw women walking up and down the streets late at night in the hopes of getting picked up by men. And I realized, those 20 hours I spent watching the top 1% live their lives of luxury and high-class, I gained more in 40 minutes watching the forgotten people, the people we don’t see in the movies or in media, the people who really actually matter.
The morning after I watched the documentary, my dad and I dropped my mother off at Union Station. Within five minutes, I saw a boy asleep on the cold tile floor by the entrance; I saw an elderly woman stick her hand in a trash can like it was a pantry; I saw a gaunt man dragging his feet, staring hauntingly at something far away that I couldn’t see. And in that moment, I realized that the documentary wasn’t a shock at all — I’ve seen this kind of struggle my whole life. It existed in my school, in my family, in my community, in my country. But it took 20 hours straight of watching privileged pretty girls frolic around New York City, cocktails in hand, for me to realize just how cruel and unfair this reality is.
Even at Notre Dame, we exist in a bubble, too busy complaining about the unsafe parts of South Bend to actually take a moment and wonder what we can do about it. We study hard so that we can live in cool cities in luxury apartments with doormen and hot friends and wealth and romance, but too often we don’t take the time to really ask ourselves if that’s all even worth it, if there’s something beyond those material joys.
Of course, I love cool coffee shops and wellness shots and boyfriends — dear God, I love boyfriends, they seem so fun — but we don’t come to Notre Dame, Indiana to get those things.
I didn’t come to Notre Dame, Indiana to be like those New York City socialites; I came to Notre Dame, Indiana to be like Jan Rader, the Huntington Fire Chief who dedicates her life to fighting the opioid crisis and spends her days injecting patients with Narcan. I came here to be like Leo Gnawa who self-publishes books about his experience while homeless in DC and advocates for homeless lives. I came here to be like Nyla Fox, my friend from high school who is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met. I came here to be like my parents or my nana or the lady at the Coinstar who sparked up a conversation with me while I dumped the contents of my piggy bank into the machine. I came here to be me, to find my fight and learn how to fight well.
If we really mean what we say when we talk about Notre Dame and “Catholic values” and “What would you fight for?” then we would realize there’s more to life than the next Instagram photo dump or night out at the bar. There’s more to life than football and Dyson AirWraps and LinkedIn connections.
Now, if you asked some of the boys in Keenan what I’d fight for, they might say I fight for free pizza in Za Land. If you asked some of my friends the lifestyle I idolize, they might say a lifestyle where I can dance the night away every night and afford funky sneakers made out of recycled plastic bottles.
But, I hope, someday, when I’ve grown and explored a little more, my purpose will become more clear and my desires will become greater than myself. And I’m sure I’ll find my fight somewhere between ginger shots and saving the world.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.