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 toward being more authentic individuals.
Maddie Webster, MCAS ‘17
One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies is when Harry finally tells Sally he loves her at the New Year’s Eve party. Initially, she flips out at him because she’s still mad about events from earlier in the film (if you haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally by now, you’re a lost cause), but he eventually wins her over with the famous line, “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” As he finishes his line, “Auld Lang Syne” starts playing in the background, and they share a tear-jerking kiss. In a typical Harry move, he breaks up the romantic moment with his incessant questioning of the meaning of the song:
Harry: What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, “Should old acquaintance be forgot”? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?
Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends.
Anyway, this essay is about old friends—or at least I had planned for it to be.
I have been a member of the Gavel family for four years now, and I always envisioned capping off my college and Gavel careers by publishing a moving, authentic essay. When I sat down to hammer out my Authentic Eagles piece, I knew I wanted to publish something inspired by the meaning of “Auld Lang Syne”: as Sally noted, it’s a song about old friends, memories, times gone by, and not letting any of it be forgotten. Since I’ve been feeling so bummed about leaving college—the campus, my friends, my professors, Late Night, etc.—it seemed appropriate to write on the one theme that felt really relevant to me right now, and maybe I could even work in a reference to When Harry Met Sally. Check!
And then things got weird. In sitting down to write this sweet essay about friendships and times gone by, I started to think about what I was saying. There’s no doubt I’ve had a wonderful college experience filled with countless happy times and adventures. In fact, as I type this essay, I’m seeing notifications pop up on my phone about my upcoming Mod wedding with all of my best friends. They are all fabulous people who take care of me and listen to me, even when I’m tired of hearing myself talk. So, I endeavored to write an essay expressing how I anticipated being a lesser person next year without them—that I’m the person I am now only because I have them supporting me.
But something about writing an essay about all of that actually felt inauthentic to me. Now more than ever, we see college through rose-colored glasses. Everyone wants to graduate thinking his or her time at BC was close to perfect. I sure do; I think about it nearly all the time these days. Yesterday, I sat on my bed for three or so hours thinking about how I’m thankful to have had such a terrific four years here. Considering I had a final exam the next day that I hadn’t started studying for yet, I’d say that was about as counterproductive a move as possible. But that’s not the only reason it was counterproductive.
I do think I would be better off acknowledging that there were innumerable times during the last four years when I had awful, saddening thoughts about how average my college years were compared to what I thought they would be. While growing up, I heard my mom repeatedly refer to her college days as the best years of her life. I pictured college as some sort of ethereal experience. Looking back now, I probably set myself up to fail by setting the bar so ridiculously high before I got here.
For every action-packed night out with the roommates, there was an afternoon of staring at the wall wondering if other people were outside having fun without me. There were also the hours spent scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed looking at everyone’s photos from day trips and tailgates that I hadn’t been invited to. Worst of all, there were times when I doubted the authenticity of many of the friendships I had planned to write this essay about. I hate to admit all of this, especially so close to graduation, but I would be lying to myself if I refused to face it.
If I have learned anything from the “reflection culture” we have here at BC, it’s that every single person here has had the same thoughts, but even knowing that doesn’t ease my mind right now. The most difficult realization I’m confronting is that I’ve just spent what was supposed to be the best four years of my life consumed by the fear that I was not having a college experience worthy of that title.
As a dedicated history major, I spend a lot of my time thinking and writing about the past. Not only the past of historical actors, but my own past as well. My inner historian comes into conflict a lot with my sentimental nature. I suppose on one hand, someone interested in the past is likely to be more sentimental than others who could care less about the events of yesteryear. And, yet, it’s absolutely essential to historians to separate facts from fiction. I owe it to my chosen field of study to woman up and admit to myself that even though I’m feeling extra nostalgic and wanting to think of my time at BC as perfect, it was far from it.
As great as being a big ball of nostalgia can be, I do find myself lamenting the passing of a flawless college experience that never really existed. Despite the pessimistic nature of my musing, I am thankful I have spent some time coming to terms with these contradictory accounts of my years here. Instead of seeing college as this uniquely magical time, it helps to think of it as one more leg of the total journey. I feel less petrified of the future and less convinced that the best years of my life are coming to an end.
Trying to remember college as it really was instead of projecting a beautified version of reality upon it also helps me remember all of the sincerely wonderful moments that made me nostalgic in the first place. So, for my last week here, I am committing myself to being mentally present as much as possible with my best friends without constantly mourning the times gone by.