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Winter blues

It’s that time of year in South Bend where campus freezes over and the permacloud chronically deprives us of sunlight. It’s all about perspective, really, because when the snow on the ground is still white, my morning coffee tastes just bitter enough, and my Spotify shuffles to the right track by The Velvet Underground and I’d waken up on time to put on four or more layers of clothes, I can almost romanticize the cold. Sometimes, at night, when it’s dark, I can even tell myself that South Quad is actually Narnia. But the truth is, most of the time, any 15-minute walk can seem like the last trek of your life when the wind is blowing in your face at infinite miles per hour and you’ve forgotten what your fingers are meant to feel like.

My first winter in the Midwest was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Its foreign shock permeated my mood, my motivation and my social battery. One night, I vividly dreamt of looking up at the sky and seeing the sun. It took weeks for me to meekly adapt to the weather, and I don’t know if it will ever get better. What I do know is that this time around, I’m prioritizing my efforts to minimize the season’s effects on my disposition. 

On the flight back to school, I read a copy of “The Little Prince” that I had found on sale at a used bookstore. Settling into my seat with a glass of complimentary wine and a children’s book got me a few glances from my neighbor, but I hoped that my Notre Dame sweatshirt would portray me as an academic nonetheless. Revisiting old favorites is a bizarre feeling. Most of these books are written by adults and the lessons they hope to convey, while they flew over my head in kindergarten, now offer a warm solace. 

“What makes the desert beautiful,” the little prince says in the book, “is that it hides a well somewhere.”

The seasonal blues are real, but there are perks to be found and coping traditions to be established. What I also found is that any story told in retrospect, whether it’s the time a friend slipped on the stairs of LaFun or when you walked back from formal with your heels sinking into the snow with every step, gains something of a flair when the setting is South Bend winter. If optimism fails, maybe the hilarity of our Snap memories could be the well in our desert. 

Cramping together in a tiny futon with the heater blasting, the kettle turned on for the pending cups of hot chocolate. Waking up to the tree by your window dressed in a gorgeous, fluffy white. Gearing up in pink gloves and a massive checkered scarf to class. The most fervent piece of advice I would give to any first-year encountering this kind of winter for the first time would be to find moments in your day to engage and revitalize. And to layer. 

“If you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three. But if you come at just any time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart — there must be rites.”

Our four seasons are a force of nature, quite literally the way the Earth shows us the passing of time as she sheds her leaves and offers us flowers. If succumbing to the beauty of Mother Nature still isn’t enough to come to peace with Notre Dame’s extraordinary winter, let the Fox in “The Little Prince” remind us that there indeed must be rites. Just like night and day complement each other in necessity.

Personally, my favorite season is summer — but how stunning the Golden Dome can be when it gleams through a layer of fresh snow. The appeal of blue skies and lazy tanning afternoons is that it is all fleeting. Just like the fox awaits his four o’clock, there’s always summer coming back around. I’ll be keeping that sensation in the pocket of my puffer jacket to reach into this winter. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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What makes an icon

There are a few words in my lexicon that have snuck their way into my lingo much to my woeful resignation. They say the way a person speaks tells you everything you need to know about them — I like to think that I can play at some meek facade of depth and intellect when needed, with lengthy words I credit to SAT prep and the odd Latin saying that I picked up from movies. But the merciless grip of the stampede that is social media introduces at least a dozen outlandish pieces of vocabulary each month.

It starts with a commitment to irony. In mockery of the way the English language is slowly deteriorating, I’ll begin to use words like slay or dubs to hyper-exaggerate a situation. I swear, the innuendo here is that my use of the word comes with the precedent that I am joking. Until I’m not. 

One of the most humbling moments I’ve had in my college career occurred when I was visiting a professor for office hours. He very eloquently provided a helpful explanation for my questions, and between my mental scramble to make sense of what he was saying while jotting down every economic theory he had referenced, I had a eureka moment where the problem I had spent the entire day grappling with suddenly made sense. My excitement got the best of me. “Oh,” I blurted out. “Based.” 

The incredulous look he gave me is permanently engraved in my memory. Just like these words have a way of etching themselves into my daily dialogue, until one day you find yourself speaking to your highly-achieved, beyond-respectable professor the way you did last night with your friends while planning your Friday evening. To my professor, based is but a common English word usually used with some sort of subject or predicate. Movies are based on books. A company is based in Chicago. But by some arbitrary, collective judgment made by pop culture and the internet, another word that started off as an ironic joke is now one I unironcically use by habit.

Another word became a topic of debate for my friends and I at dinner the other day — iconic. The word is beat to death and reminds you of that girl on the Internet who rambles on about overhyped Manhattan restaurants that serve you subpar food for insulting prices. You’ll roll your eyes every time you hear it. Nonetheless, as we all reluctantly agreed, we can’t stop using it. 

What concerns and humors me is the fact that while we have decidedly significant beacons of generations past to refer to as iconic, our very own generation seems to offer very few moments of substance in comparison. This is in no way a belittlement of the strides we’ve made in redefining world views. I would sound like a broken record talking about how impressed I am of our generation’s conviction and resilience — that’s not what this is about. During our conversation, my friends and I reflected on the defining cultural moments that we could most easily recall from the last few years. While we cite The Beatles’ genius messages of anti-war in their music or the grace and elegance of Audrey Hepburn as iconic, the tokens of “Gen Z culture” are decisively more offbeat.

Perhaps I could argue that we actually live in quite riveting times. Scroll through any one of the seemingly endless variety of media platforms or eavesdrop on the next table’s breakfast chats at the diner, and it becomes all too apparent how fascinated our society is with topics that have arguably zero stake in our daily lives: Britney Spears, freed at last; Lady Gaga’s meat dress; the reception of Bennifer 2.0; the Oprah/Harry/Megan interview. We are, reluctantly or willingly, in the merciless grip of pop culture and the endless spawning of out-of-touch celebrity moments or reality TV shows that surely cost us a handful of brain cells as we sit through each episode. 

It’s the irony and hilarity of the idea of our children one day looking back at Lady Gaga’s said meat dress and calling it iconic, or whatever word would have popped up by then to replace it. Or maybe the romanticized, impressionable view we have of preceding times will translate directly to the next generations and they’ll start idolizing the pop culture moments we now find so ridiculous. If you asked me, though, nothing beats waking up in the morning to a New York Times headline debunking whether Lea Michele can or cannot read — I wouldn’t change that for the world. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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On snow and purpose

I have very little idea of what purpose means, but today I’m writing about it anyway. This is how I make sense of things. I’ve addressed it in this column before: purpose, meaning, being 21 and utterly confused. My dedication to seeming continually lost is less of an artistic choice, and more of a direct representation of what takes up the majority of my brainspace lately. Most weeks, when I see my editor’s deadline approaching on my planner, I crack open my journal and scan through my most recent scribbles and streams of consciousness until I find something that might be just substantial enough to lengthen into a readable column. But the whole precedent of my writing, in my head at least, is that it will never be read or given hardly any weight. Yet as these things go, from time to time, an odd column of mine will be discovered by a family member and sent to an aunt in New York, a cousin in Seoul. On a recent phone call with one such family member, I was offered the heartening redundancy of well-meaning assurance: You’re meant to be figuring things out right now. Then, the question: So what do you want to do? 

The question reminded me of weeks of profusely typing out drafts of college applications, changing my mind about the prompts every hour. The snow that fell out my bedroom window that night I found out that I wasn’t accepted to my top choice school. Much like the snow that drifted through campus this morning as I walked to my favorite class, for a major I hadn’t even considered two years ago. The question reminded me of sitting cross-legged in front of the television in my grandmother’s living room after kindergarten, watching a documentary about female firefighters and convincing myself that was my calling. It reminded me of the rush I felt when I put on my name tag at MUN conferences, taking myself a bit too seriously, chairing committees and editing resolution clauses. My years of drilling the Spanish subjunctive conjugation coming to fruition on a trip to Madrid when the Spanish cashier at the boutique told me that my accent sounded Madrileno. Shaking hands with the news anchor I met on a field trip and imagining it being my name on the screen, as I announced breaking headlines. 

What do you want to do?

If I had superpowers, I swear I would do it all. The apprehension comes from the sense of impending conclusions. This be-all, end-all feeling that I need to make a decision, and that I’m doing it on some sweeping deadline. Because here on campus, you blink and the semester is nearly over. Halloween has passed and the silver Christmas tree is set up in your dorm room, and the only remaining exams are finals. Every month or so, a career panel will come into your accounting or management class and urge you to arm yourself with the skills you will need to be, in a few years, exactly where they are now. Graduation is nearly just as far away as Welcome Weekend was. And still you have no concrete perception of who you’d like to be. The scariest part of all this is admitting it. Going into a meeting with an advisor, right after the pre-law student and right before the one fervently set on being an investment banker, uncertainty becomes the biggest possible vulnerability. 

On the harder days, I’m half convinced that I’m at the wrong place, chasing all the wrong dreams. A while ago, I saw a clip of a Kendall Jenner interview, where she talks about keeping a childhood photograph of herself taped to her mirror. The idea is that in any moment of doubt or self deprecation, she reminds herself it’s that little girl that she is talking about. Looking through pictures of myself when I was a child never comes without a hint of sentimentality. In dramatic circumstances, maybe I’d describe it as heartache, because it feels easy to consider it a loss. A loss of youthful carelessness and looking ahead to becoming someone, to formation. But really, it is more of a numbing, anesthetic feeling, knowing that you know all the things that the little girl could only wonder about. 

We listen to music penned by celebrated composers like Mozart or Brahms and marvel at their genius. Their symphonies are reinterpreted and performed to death by world-famous orchestras, braved by the most renowned conductors. We read the great novels by Tolstoy or Melville and scour criticisms and analyses, the decades of writers who followed, trying to crack their inspiration open. We’re told to follow, to be influenced, galvanized. How convenient it must have been for them, we think, to know exactly what they were placed on Earth for. To have melodies and words flowing out of their fingertips. To have such infatuating, permeating purpose. 

Sensory memory is a funny thing. Stepping out into the snowy front courtyard of McGlinn this morning, for the briefest, most dizzying moment, I was transported back to the day after I received my early admission result — my winter coat zipped up to my chin, heading to brunch and coping with my redirection. The air smelled the same. All of high school, I thought an acceptance to that one particular university would be my purpose, that the unkempt knots would untie and leave me with pretty strings to lace up into some form of resolution, a plan. But that particular winter would pass, and the snow would melt away. I’d enroll in another university, and wear a new winter coat. Now it feels impossible to imagine my days if I hadn’t ended up going to school here. Around two and a half years later, I look up at the snow-covered dome and wrap my scarf around my hair, inhaling in the winter ambience, exhaling all my misplaced, past ideas of purpose. If there is one thing I can wager to say about purpose, it’s that purpose is transient. Its evanescence is what makes it so perplexing, yet it camouflages itself into something that seems deceptively definite. So meekly, I challenge the idea that we’re meant to be good at one thing, to chase one singular aspiration. It’s not really about the lack of potential, but the overwhelming assortment of opportunities. I could be wildly incorrect, but for what it’s worth, this concept makes me feel a little better. 

It translates into the new series of unrequited loves that college brings. Scrolling through LinkedIn job postings feels unsettlingly similar to when we would huddle together with the Common App open. We’ll pour out all our hopes, wear our hearts on our sleeve. I’ll set out on a path, or more likely several different ones, until another redirection points me on the way to something I hadn’t considered, something that ends up being better than I could have ever imagined. In a couple of years, I’ll step out into the snow and think of the white scenery of this very morning, and then still, the one from December of 2020. And I’ll thank my lucky stars that I didn’t let a silly thing like purpose trip me up. 

Maybe a lack of purpose isn’t that scary a thing at all. The pressure and distress we feel is all but self-imposed at the end of the day. At the end of my day, my roommate makes me a mocha with just the right amount of espresso, just the right amount of chocolate. A package arrives at my door with the perfume I’ve been waiting for. Inspired by the Kendall interview, just as much as I am by her street style paparazzi shots and enviable array of shoes, I tape up a baby photo to my desk. About six months old, my appearance in the photo strikes me as safe and protected. The headband-clad girl smiles as if she really could do anything. She and I will be figuring things out for a while, but the snow will always melt into spring, and even then, it will always come back. Fluttering, the purest of white, an indescribable sense of warmth in its freezing touch.

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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Twenty-something

Is it pink? Is it something I can wear? What is it? 

Frantically racking my prepubescent brain for what my eleventh birthday gift could be, I curl up next to my mother. She is just as adamant in her commitment to keeping it a secret. 

Happy twenty-first birthday. I’m so proud of you. 

Her voice on the other end of the phone feels like home as I head down to my dorm’s front door, greeted by her delivery order of baby pink cupcakes and mini tequila shooters. 

Ten years ago, my eleventh birthday gift was not pink, not something I could wear, but my first phone. I was ecstatic, downloading every obscure and unavailing app imaginable, staying up well past my bedtime to text my friends for the sheer enjoyment of the sound of the Blackberry’s keyboard. 

A decade is meant to be a comprehensible measure of time. We’re always referencing decades to categorize music, trends in fashion, books, major news headlines. Yet somewhere between the euphoric excitement of unwrapping that phone, now a relic, and the mortifyingly off-tune singing of my friends’ recent performance of “Happy Birthday” at South Dining Hall, time became unquantifiable. A decade snuck by, and any attempt at computing an intelligible perception of the years leaves me disoriented. 

The first time I wished time would slow down, I must have been seventeen. Going into my final year of high school, the once-distant idea of graduation began to manifest itself in concrete reminders of the end of our time in familiarity — emails about caps and gowns, sign-ups for the alumni network, writing university acceptances on to the celebratory post-its on the wall by the counselors’ offices. The nights I spent wide awake, suddenly alarmingly aware of the way I could physically feel time moving. The easy April afternoons when we basked in our last few picnics, social-distancing appropriate and decisively nostalgic. 

In my vivid recollection of one such afternoon, we’re in the park, dozing off on the grass after a day of online classes and Zoom breakout sessions, with an assortment of snacks and drinks we emptied out from our respective pantries. One of our friends brings up an IDER song she says she just can’t stop listening to lately. She reaches for the speaker, and the band’s voices fill up our little nook under the tree, enwrapping the rustling leaves and chatter of sunbathers.

They keep telling me:

“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, baby – don’t worry, don’t stress, do your best.” 

What if that doesn’t save me?

We sit in silence as we take the lyrics in. In the next few months, we would each be moving away, further from each other than we could have ever fathomed. The picnics would eventually turn into pre-scheduled FaceTime calls and sporadic, elaborately-planned visits. This song feels special, emblematic. It gives this afternoon a tinge of melancholy, and even while I lay my head in my friend’s lap with my book facedown on my chest, it already feels like a memory.

How did you do it? How did it turn out alright?

I swear it’s always easier back then, or is it just hindsight?

In cities that are oceans away, we are still alongside each other throughout all our biggest doubts and uncertainties. IDER captures it perfectly — when the blind faith with which I pursue my aspirations falters for the odd, brief moment, I am bewildered at how my twenties could unfold, how it could possibly “turn out alright.”

We’ve all heard it before: “College is the best four years of your life.” “Someday these will be the good old days.”

Personally, it is my fervent hope that the former isn’t true. While I owe indelible memories and undeniable growth to my adolescent years and my time so far at Notre Dame, I look to my post-graduate life in anticipation of grander times that will, conceivably, prevail over my years spent sleeping in a lofted bed and eating a rotation of dining hall foods. 

With an unsettlingly minimal approximation of what my future may look like, I will eagerly dispute the idea that these will be the best years of our lives, at least by certain metrics. I hope to be on a constant upward slope. I hope to be celebrating my sixty-first birthday one day, look back on the past year, and say, “Sixty was the best year of my life.” 

Revisiting the song last week, its first lines evoked a relatability in a newfound light. 

I’m in my twenties, so I panic in every way

I’m so scared of the future, I keep missing today. 

What a succinct and consolatory expression to articulate my seemingly perpetual learning curve of blunder and diffidence. How familiar we all are with what IDER means, the direct segue we mentally forge between navigating our twenties and the panic that finds us, in the smallest waves and the most daunting collisions. 

The night I turn twenty-one, I watch the digital clock strike midnight in the library. I’m sitting under the fluorescent lighting for what feels like the millionth hour, a perk of having a birthday in the eye of the hurricane known as midterms week. This is twenty-one. I feel older, I guess, I tell my friend wryly when she nudges me across the desk, asking for a birthday speech. 

Twenty-one feels like that wooden desk at the library’s window seat, etched with years’ worth of students’ doodles and puzzlingly profound quotes — a little fraught, a little weary. Twenty-one feels like an outdated travel book, with incoherent maps to destinations that nobody is even sure exists. It feels like the big break, the move to the city I so adore, dropping bags and boxes on the floors of the apartment I have not yet seen, breakfast in the cafe I have not yet discovered. 

At sixty, I may very well look back at my present day with humorous dismay. And yet I can be certain that the eleven-year-old girl with her brand new Blackberry would have envisioned her twenties in the most impressive, most romantic shade of pink.

Through the ambivalence and hesitation we encountered in the song, that day in the park, we clutched on to the one defining lyric that we so earnestly try to believe and live by — you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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Underlined passages

On the R train from Union Square to Prince Street, I sit across from a girl who seems to radiate the very signification of “cool”. Her red curls fall into place like puzzle pieces, a beguiling smile in her eyes underneath her mask. A seemingly careless outfit, yet its nonchalance manifests itself through all the right pieces: perfectly tattered boots, a vintage-looking leather bag, the rings on her fingers that surely were collected from a plethora of farmers’ markets and local jewelers. But it’s her shirt that catches my eye — a purple long-sleeve with graphics promoting a band I have never heard of. 

The screech of the subway lets out dozens of commuters, invariably busy, impatient. Dozens of others rush in to take their seats. We live our lives in shared fragments, coexisting in each other’s perception for fleeting moments. The moments pass, and we return to being inconsequential strangers. 

On my phone, I scroll through the band’s discography and add a couple of songs to my playlist. A local band from the city, with a great sound and a small, loyal clan of listeners. In the next weeks, I tirelessly have their music playing on repeat. At some point, my love for this band becomes my own genuine prerogative, but until then, I look at the album cover and think about the stranger on the subway, the transient timeframe in which I established my admiration for her first impression. I think about the irony of the way I subconsciously emulate the distinct authenticity I saw in this girl, and how this must be the same unspoken irony of our constant pursuit of individuality, and simultaneously, conformity. 

The human longing for belonging is evident in our everyday compliance to conventionality. Yet while we are so willing to allow others’ dispositions to color our own, we are preoccupied with the desire to be different, to be individual. 

Walter Benjamin illustrates this best in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In his essay, he discusses the notion that a work of art “has always been reproducible”. From a strip of negative film can surface countless copies of the same photograph. The authenticity of an entity is found in “the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning […] to the history which it has experienced”. The grandeur of the photograph is the moment you were living when the subject was captured, an exotic landscape oceans away or a memorable dinner party that took place years ago. As you look through the viewfinder and press the shutter, you immortalize it as a piece of your personal records. A prerequisite of authenticity, Benjamin writes, is the existence of the original. His idea is that authenticity is permanence — reproducibility is volatility. 

I am perpetually emulating the essence of the things I see around me. Fragments of our image, when taken in on their own, rather than in whole, are mirrored in everyone else in our lives. The pieces of my identity — in the things I say, the things I feel or the things I write — are just as easily found in other people. In fact, I’ve come to terms with the idea that very little of me is thoroughly distinctive or individual. But while the negative I receive from the film lab may reproduce hundreds of copies of the same photograph, the solid metal of the camera and the grip of my fingers around it as I take a portrait of my friends is, as Benjamin puts it, my authenticity, my permanence.  

In an attempt to be a better writer, I underline the notably romantic, jarring or poetic passages I come across while I read. When I revisit a book, I flip through the pages to find these underlines, scrutinizing the diction, the wording, the techniques that the author implores. My ventures to absorb beautiful writing in hopes to translate another writer’s brilliance into my own is often my only goal in reading, even more than grasping the plot or message of the book. I fall in love with the way strangers laugh, the way the woman in the store intonates her sentences, the gentle mannerisms of the barista taking my order. I emulate all the things I admire, in conviction that the sum of these parts will someday formulate a concrete authenticity of my own. 

At Notre Dame, we are always waiting for the next opportunity to impress someone. We look to others and silently measure our dedication, our passion, our sense of direction in comparison to theirs. Being a member of such an explicit community, coming together for the mutually agreed intention of pursuing quality education, the influence our time here will have on us transcends the academic skills we learn in the classroom. Our proximity to equally motivated, bright young adults exposes us to a whole multitude of people within whom we will find specks and slivers to mirror. 

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element,” Benjamin writes in his essay. “Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” My presence in time and space is this: I sit in the corner seat of a cafe and I try to remember all the artwork, places and individuals that have charmed me in my life, the way my imitation of these entities have refined my own identity into someone who I slowly grow more comfortable with every day. 

Shouting hello to a friend on the sidewalk on the way to class. A phone call from a family member back home. Sometimes, our reflection in others’ mirrors comes in brief instances. In the warmth and love we feel in our mundane routines, we emulate these feelings. And in this, we find permanence. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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The things that don’t spark joy

We’ve all seen Marie Kondo and her organization wizardry on Netflix, preaching her secret key to not being a hot mess: if the object doesn’t “spark joy,” throw it away. I am a hot (arguable) mess, and I hold onto things that spark sadness, frustration, nostalgia and humiliation. 

For years, I’ve obsessively preserved souvenirs from defining moments and memories, not in the form of postcards and magnets but random trinkets that I would declare as “sentimental” according to my arbitrary, melodramatic discretion. 

Up to this point, I view my decisively uneventful timeline in a series of peaks and valleys, and the valleys somehow seem so much more monumental than the peaks — and so, sorry, Marie, but I’ll be holding on to the things that remind me of all my existential crises and crying sessions to Frank Ocean. 

If, hypothetically, all of my possessions were to be in one place, and that one place was to catch on fire, I would want all of the below objects to be salvaged. Not just the things that spark joy. 

The orange dreamcatcher my middle school friend made for me when I was moving away. We haven’t been in touch for years, and I’m sure she has no idea that it’s dangled from the window in every single bedroom I’ve slept in since. 

The one pair of wired headphones I keep in my backpack even when I have fully charged AirPods. The same headphones that drowned out Seoul subway announcements and New York City traffic.

My diary from my junior year of high school, pages filled with what in retrospect read like an extensive nervous breakdown. This was my most unapologetic, uninhibited version and she was someone I would love to find again.  

The battered, pink golf glove I still have in my stand bag from when I took lessons with matching pink kiddie clubs. 

The copy of “The Sun Also Rises” that I like to bring on flights, recommended to me years ago by a boy who I no longer speak to. The underlines and folded page corners still remain from when I first read it, scouring for insightful comments I could make to impress him. 

My grandmother’s gold ring that I haven’t taken off my right ring finger in years, somehow enwrapping my skin perfectly like lock and key. 

The hotel keycards from my favorite high school trips: Paris, The Hague, Singapore. Remembering the stifled laughter behind those doors and how we snuck out the fire escape and had to prop up a water bottle to keep it open for when we’d return at dawn. 

The recording microphone I have from the one week I was convinced that I was meant to be a songwriter. Quick abandonment came after realizing that my limited vocal range and knowledge of five guitar chords equated to a blatant lack of talent. 

The empty Kodak film canister that I turned into a keychain, dangling from my car keys, now a hollowed shell that reminds me of the best summer I ever had and the photos that were developed to tell the tale.

All my nametags and placards from past Model UN conferences, back when my favorite hobby was dressing up in heels and debating world issues with little to no idea what I was really talking about. 

The sweatshirt from my dream university that I kept even after the pure devastation of that rejection email because it is as much a token of my teenage ambitions and efforts as it is of my redirection.

The classic, comfort teddy bear that I’ve had since I was five, with its green Harrods ribbon still miraculously intact.

The plane ticket from Frankfurt to Seoul the morning after I graduated. I sat in my window seat and watched as my city turned into a tiny speck, distorted by the clouds, and I waited until the cabin crew was gone to let myself sob. 

In her consulting program, Marie shares that “to put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.” I choose to keep my past a part of my present, in convoluted disarray of the objects I arguably have no use for anymore. These are the tactile reminders of my past twenty years, and I love nothing more than shuffling through them whenever I’m home on break. My cabinets may be overflowing, but there is plenty of room for decades more of clutter to come. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying finance with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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For the plot

Not too long ago, I came across an online video about “doing it for the plot.” It was a casual, 15-second clip about how the irrational decisions and impulsive choices we make, despite how bad the short-term consequences may seem, should be seen as contributions to the “plot” of our lives, as opportunities for adaptation and growth. The idea is that we’re in the director’s seat, writing out our own script at all times.

This perspective resonated with me, as it gave me refreshing solace for all the questionable judgments that have constructed my own plotline. I feel that I’m at a crossroads in my life where I often find myself questioning whether I’m too old to get caught up in juvenile melodrama, all the while feeling terrifyingly unprepared for adult responsibilities. It’s comforting to think that if there ever was a time for me to commit to the plot, it would be now. 

In consistency with this analogy, we see the beauty of flawed judgment calls in some of TV’s most beloved protagonists and how their respective plots unfold. As a young woman encountering her early 20’s, I turn to categorically “chick-flick” characters for guidance and affirmation. From Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls” to Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City” or Jessica Day in “New Girl”, there have been countless occasions on which I would roll my eyes at the women on screen and their recklessness, their insecurities or their theatrics. But these traits are exactly what keeps me coming back to these comfort shows. 

It’s the fact that while we are quick to label these realistically flawed characters as “annoying” or “overdramatic” for their decisions or reactions, protagonists are meant to blunder and mess up. I doubt I would have the same devotion to Rory if I didn’t relate to her career crises or her fixation on academic achievement, or to Carrie if I didn’t see a bit of myself in the impracticality of her financial or romantic priorities. How dull and unrealistic would these shows be if all these girls did was read self-help books and immediately find productive purpose in their lives? 

It may seem frivolous to take this perspective to validate every misguided turn we take. An impulsive haircut or an overly emotional text message could fill us with regret or even embarrassment that surely could have been prevented by a second of further thought. But as of right now, these “wrong” decisions seem to be some of the most significant factors that help me figure out what would have been the “right” thing to do, and what it is that I really need at this point in my plot. It’s an over-simplistic, perhaps even imprudent mindset to treat our day to day lives as a growing plotline, but there’s a liberating sense in the idea that when every episode in each season comes to a conclusion, we are left with a new beginning and a series of lessons behind us. 

Doing it for the plot doesn’t have to mean blind commitment to irrational decisions. Often it is just as simple as splurging on online shopping and having to work an extra shift the next week, going on a bad date and getting to recap it with your girlfriends or underperforming on an exam and realizing that you might have chosen the wrong major. 

Call it youthful indiscretion, call it material for the memoir I’ll be writing once I gain world fame, call it Gen-Z’s response to the millennials’ overworn “YOLO” trademark. Call it what you want, but we’re doing it all for the plot. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying Finance with a minor in Journalism. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos, and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80’s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

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

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Viewpoint

A gap in time

My parents are sitting in the living room with the 9 p.m. news on, my mom sipping on a cup of tea. College move-in is only a week away and my bags are all over the house, haphazardly overflowing with clothes, bedsheets and books. “I think I want to take a year off,” I tell them. The glow of the TV reflects off the glass coffee table and the reporter rambles on about the economy, the weather, maybe a corrupt politician. Alright, they tell me, okay. 

Coping with the outbreak of COVID-19 was turbulent for the whole world. It accentuated the sobering acknowledgement of how fortunate some of us were to have access to the resources and communities to keep us in health and safety. At the brunt of things, it was still impossible not to hyper-fixate on its personal, objectively smaller inconveniences. But my peers and I had never dealt with a global crisis with such permeating immediacy, and I think it is worth noting the validity of the adversities we experienced, the frustration and discomposure that came with our measurably changed lives. 

I was a senior in the class of 2020, completing my fourth year living in Germany. The ending to that chapter was meant to be poetic memories of a senior trip to Greece, a prom with an open bar, a ceremonial post-exam disposal of IB textbooks. All the emblematic rewards we had been promised for years were canceled and replaced with masks and online classes.

After a socially-distanced graduation ceremony, my family moved to Seoul. And I was experiencing an ugly burnout. I was burnt out from the last years of schooling across three continents, five cities and eight schools. I was burnt out from COVID-19 diminishing my goodbyes and clouding the next year with uncertainties. 

I spent the summer completing forms,  joining group chats and getting to know other incoming Notre Dame first years. I watched YouTube videos of game days, packed my winter clothes and planned which clubs I wanted to join. I was pushing through my subconscious fatigue and trying to ignore how unprepared I was for this transition. 

My whole childhood and adolescence consisted of being the new girl every two to four years, in a new city that spoke a new language each time. In retrospect, I’m beyond grateful for my experiences and background, but I also wish I could go back and tell myself at high school graduation that it was okay to feel overwhelmed. I’d been in a never ending process of constant adjustment and adaptation, and the idea of packing up yet again for an international move on my own, amidst a global pandemic, slowly began to suffocate me. 

It took the entire summer for me to email my advisor, only days before move-in, that I would defer my enrollment by a year. The University was understanding and supportive of my decision to take a breather amidst the unknowns. Today, I have full confidence that taking my gap year was the best decision I’ve ever made. 

My year in Seoul was the first time I was able to spend months exploring the city and Korea, connecting with my family’s background and history. I frequented art and history museums and fell in love with my culture and discovered corners of Seoul to escape the craze of pandemic restrictions. I took coding classes and learned basic Python programming. I picked up tutoring and saved up by helping students prep for their SATs and IB exams. I got a trainer and learned how to actually use the big, intimidating gym equipment. I got my driver’s license. Then I drove myself to the beach and learned how to surf. I read books, in English and Korean, fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry. I got really into film photography and began a modest vintage camera collection. 

Four seasons came and went and the leaders of the world figured out how to get the pandemic just a little bit under control. August came back around again, and I was ready to head off to college. I think that I wrapped up my gap year as a completely different person than when I was at high school graduation. If the pandemic had never happened, I wonder if I ever would have considered taking this break. But I’m glad I did. A full year to detach myself from identifying with any one school or institution pushed me to consider myself just as I was. Not a student at some school or a part of a larger community. I found myself, a nineteen year old in her parents’ home city, feeling more grounded than ever. 

Three continents, five cities and eight schools later, I know I have roots in every place I’ve been. And now, in Notre Dame. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying Finance with a minor in Journalism. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80’s playlists at slim6@nd.edu