Sunday, May 21, 2006

On Becoming An Alum | by Pete

As I struggle to regain my senses through a Backer-infused haze, I am coming to the terrifying realization that I am graduating this Sunday. Yes, no more 8 AM Calculus Exams, no more Blazin’ Sea Nuggets in South Dining Hall (I’d try to eat in North, but I fear I’d get lost and starve to death in a terribly ironic scenario, since the place was apparently designed by M.C. Escher). However, this also means that there are no more first nice days on the quad where people bring out couches for no real discernible reason, no riotous Sunday morning breakfasts as we try to piece together the previous night, and no more football Saturdays unless the lottery deems me and my wallet worthy.

Well, I’m going to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, so I guess now’s the time to finally start figuring out what exactly I learned in four years under the Dome (kidding). Sure, I learned a lot inside classrooms, but we all know that the real education college gives us is everything that happens outside of it. As an impending Notre Dame graduate, I might as well figure them out now, before I turn into a true alum, which means I’ll come back for football games and ask students if they still go to bars that don’t exist anymore while visiting my old dorm room, now inhabited by a visibly uncomfortable yet tolerating freshman.

It’s odd, knowing that soon I won’t be looking at the shimmer of the Dome as a sign of hope for the future, but rather a nostalgic reminder of the past. Sure, graduation brings with it some feelings of sadness, knowing that a huge part of my life is now over and I can never go back, but at Notre Dame, I don’t think it ever really ends. Just like the home I moved from to go to this place, I’ll always be welcomed back, and will always recognize this place as an essential part of my life.

A lot has changed in my four years here. I began and ended my career with a football coach wildly exceeding expectations and bringing the national spotlight onto campus. Of course, this time around, in terms of the meat behind the product, it feels like there’s a bit more ribeye and less Spam. The basketball team had a Sweet 16 appearance my freshman year, but has been NIT-picked every one since. I’ve seen three national titles, two fencing and one women’s soccer.

As cliché as it is, I also realize that as much as things change, they still will remain the same. The flower-laden ND has been usurped by metal bars and stone pillars at the University’s entrance, but driving towards that circle, under the trees and looking on the Dome will always be a perfect sight to behold. People will always complain about Indiana weather, but I’d be hard pressed to find a more content time than sitting out on the quad during the first warm day of spring. That biting wind and pedestrian campus really makes you appreciate the good weather you do get.

The important things never change. The Fight Song’s and Alma Mater’s lyrics will never change, and that lump in my throat when I sing them will never go away. And I highly doubt that Chuck Lennon will ever be anything more than just good ol’ Chuck Lennon.

Yea, I’m going to miss Notre Dame, but I’ll be back. Whenever I cheer them on Saturdays now from my couch, I’ll be back. Whenever I catch the knowing look and I see that class ring, I’ll be back. I guess it’ll feel in some ways like I never left. I know my Dad, class of ’77, still feels attached to the campus. Granted, he’s had tuition checks, including four more years starting with a freshman sister in August to continue the death grip he shares with Notre Dame.

I’ve got a lot of emotions swirling around right now, as these rambling musings can attest, but let me try to form something coherent here. Notre Dame is a special place. Sometimes that can be overlooked in rabble about Vagina Monologues, coaching vacancies, and really lame tailgaters. But no matter what, the gold on the Dome still shines, and everyone who has loved Notre Dame continues to do so. I may be leaving this place, but I know that it will never leave me. Thanks for a great four years, I’m going to miss you.