Friday, September 2, 2011


The infamous Jump down, Mama! statue

Wow, I never thought I would say this, but I really miss Notre Dame right now.

This morning I was talking to someone about my interest in the pro-life movement. "The dignity of the human person is the foundation of my personal philosophy," I told her. "I evaluate everything in terms of whether it affirms or denigrates that standard."

She said she was impressed by how thorough my rationale was, so I explained, "I studied philosophy at university. And I've read a lot of Alice von Hildebrand and John Paul II." That's when the trouble started.

All summer long I've lived in a happy daze of freedom from school. I never liked homework and I generally did as little of it as possible throughout high school and college. I never liked tests either - can you say stress? - and I only liked writing papers on those extremely rare occasions that I did them ahead of schedule (I think that happened twice during my entire undergraduate career. Not surprisingly those were two of the only papers that earned a perfect grade). So ever since graduating from college, I've spent plenty of time thinking gleefully to myself, "No more homework ever again! No more tests! No more going to class!" I also make a point of regularly informing my little siblings that I'm done with all of these things forever, which usually leads them to groan with envy and anguish over the fact that they're still trapped in the constricting world of full-time school. What a nice big sister I am!

Anyway, along with this attitude of joy over being done with formal education forever (I hope) came a feeling of deep relief that my time attending Notre Dame was over. I never liked late nights at parties or bars either - in fact, I generally found those situations to be even more stressful than taking tests - but as an undergraduate, the peer pressure to attend those kinds of events was constant, insidious, and unrelenting. As I am very very susceptible to peer pressure, I spent four years being abjectly miserable on most Friday and Saturday nights for the sake of looking cool and making my friends happy. Part of me wants to say "If only I had done it differently!" but who am I kidding? If I were back at college now, I would do the same thing again. It was what I had to do to finally figure out that I never wanted to do it again. I firmly believe that God will let you do the same stupid thing over and over until you finally learn your lesson, and my lesson took me four years to learn, but I wouldn't trade that experience even if I could.

I hope you are getting the idea from all this that I was deeply relieved to be done with college. When you are a real grown-up, I reasoned, you can go to bed at 11 pm on a Saturday and no one will care or judge you, and you won't feel like a loser when you hear other people down the hallway and outside the window loudly going to parties (because real grown-ups have jobs and kids and don't go out til all hours. Or if they do, they don't do it right outside your window). I found this realization to be incredibly freeing and I pitied the people who were still in college and still had to deal with the pervasive peer pressure. When underclassmen friends posted statuses over the past few weeks that said things like, "Moving back to campus!" I still felt nothing but relief that I was not among them. What a stressful, intimidating experience move-in weekend always was! As though corralling the family and fitting everything I'd ever owned into a room the size of a shoebox weren't enough, there was the terrifying prospect of convincing the other dorm residents that I am actually a pleasant and acceptable person, despite the small children howling in the background because they had fallen off my bunk bed (true story). I shudder just thinking about it. Oh I was never a fan of moving to campus, never ever ever. Not even for a single second. Not once.

So my conversation this morning was a splashing shock to my system as I realized just how much I really did like about my undergraduate days. How could I have forgotten the wonderful, dearly beloved CEC? Why, I wouldn't even know who Alice von Hildebrand was if I hadn't started attending its events! Then I found out that its fall lecture series this year is on Victorian Catholic Writers (swoon) and the first speaker is the legendary Ian Ker, author of only the greatest biography of Newman ever written, intellectual giant and total genius??? I practically started crying with jealousy that I couldn't be there. I began looking around on the Notre Dame website to find out more about this lecture series, and next thing you know I was remembering what I really did love about college: the intellectual life, the lectures, the discussions after movie nights, and most of all the conversations about interesting things that never seemed to end (and in some cases still haven't). Because as much as I hate homework and tests and going to class, I love learning. I adore it, especially when Oxford and England and the Victorian Era and the Catholic Church are involved. Notre Dame is where I learned about the Oxford movement, about the British Catholic Revival and the Southern Catholic Renaissance, about the privilege of being a woman and the I-Thou moment. I read (and adored) Confucius and Dante and Faust and Tolstoy. I also read and hated Nietzsche, Heidegger, and even good old Kierkegaard because he was so dang boring (a classic example of homework I hated). But for a curious girl who likes to think and learn, just not in school, Notre Dame had so much to offer.

I began remembering other things I loved too. Remember the movies at the DPAC? Some were weird and sketchy, true, but many were hilarious or profound, and a few became new favorites. If I were an undergrad again, I would go to more movies at the DPAC, because I never went to nearly enough. The plays, too, were generally superb. I loved the Notre Dame opera performance every spring, and PEMCO productions never disappointed either. Oh how I loved those shows. One PEMCO production was worth a dozen awful nights at crowded dorm parties, I would say. Then there were all those conferences, but I don't need to talk about those, because I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever talked to me knows how much I adore conferences, and I think I did a pretty good job of attending the good ones. And most of all there was the availability of the sacraments. I really loved Law School Mass and always will, and I'm grateful that I attended it so often senior year.

So here it is. I miss college. I miss Alex and Vanessa and the handful of other friends who read this blog. I miss the CEC lectures, the discussions, the conversations. I miss the ways I had of learning for which I never received a speck of course credit. And ok, I'll be entirely honest here, even though I hated it at the time, I'm even grateful for some of the homework I did (although I don't miss it, oh no!) because I surely loved some of those books. I still can't believe I'm saying this. Who knew I would ever miss anything about college? In spite of my protests, I do love Notre Dame and the good old CEC and the intellectual formation I received there. It will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. Although I will never, as long as I live, for even a single second, miss taking tests.
Oh, and that last picture? Lord help me if I didn't just make it my desktop background.


  1. And me. You miss me!

  2. Thanks for the shout out. Wish you were here too, Tess.