As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working towards being more authentic.
Elizabeth LeRoux, A&S ’15
My family experienced a great loss of a son and a little brother when I was seven years old – something that has come to define me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Losing my brother, Michael, at only four days old was a traumatic and trying experience. But, it was met a year and a half later with the arrival of my brother, Alex.
Now, if you can imagine a family losing a child and having another all in the span of eighteen months, you can understand the dramatic emotional shift that occurred in my household. Eight-year-old Elizabeth was ecstatic to see the new baby boy come home, because the last time my mom had a baby, that didn’t happen. What I learned upon Alex’s arrival was my new duty and responsibility to him and to my family—contribute as much as possible to the care of my brother, and keep all focus away from myself. My brother’s early childhood was filled with medical complications, because of his premature birth, and I knew that for the sake of the family all focus and effort had to be put on him.
Although, eventually, Alex became the adorably thriving middle schooler he is today, it really did take a village to raise this child. All of my joy after the age of eight was derived completely from Alex and his accomplishments. I was able to act as a second mom to him – and I had never felt so happy and fulfilled in my life. However, I never stopped pretending as though I didn’t need to be cared for. I persistently made the conscious decision to refuse to admit that sometimes I needed someone to listen to me, to guide me. We had suffered as a family, and I felt the unrelenting need to be strong. To be honest, I got used to it. I became comfortable in my role as a pillar of strength for my family and for myself. It wasn’t until I arrived at Boston College that the pillar crumbled.
My arrival at BC, possibly like many of yours, was a lesson in harsh reality. Although the first week of school I felt like I had never been so busy in my life, my schedule quickly died down, and I was left feeling isolated. I felt like I was stuck in a deep pit, attempting to claw my way out. My fingernails were clogged with dirt, and I was exhausted and defeated. What I didn’t realize was that there were people who could lower a rope to me, but because I had been silent for so long I didn’t know how to use my voice.
What I came to realize was that I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable, and stop trying to hold the world on my shoulders. The most difficult thing I did freshman year was admitting that I was not being honest with myself, and that I was plagued with constantly feeling the need to make myself a martyr by sacrificing my needs for others.
Cura Personalis—care of the whole person. You might hear this phrase on campus, and it’s something that has come to mean a lot to me. People really do care at this institution, and just because they will care for you as a whole person, does not mean you need to go to them as a whole person. I was in pieces, and that is okay. It took me a long time to understand what it means to allow someone else to care for you. Trust me, it isn’t easy. Exposing your full, authentic self to someone in your most vulnerable state is understatedly noble, and is something we don’t talk about often.
I’m not going to tell you that the path to letting your guard down, being vulnerable and admitting that you feel weak is a simple path towards understanding how to let yourself be cared for. Each individual is going to walk their own path, and they will let people in at different stages in their life. When I finally was able to admit that I needed someone, it was liberating and allowed me to grow significantly.
To those who put their entire selves into caring for others, thank you. To those who find the courage to admit they need care, this is a great triumph that you should be proud of. There is no shame in admitting weakness, vulnerability, and pain. Because when you do, someone will be there to lower the rope and make you whole again.