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Authentic Eagles: Reed Piercey on Tradeoffs

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.

Reed Piercey, MCAS '19

Like most seniors, I’ve spent quite some time reflecting on the highs and lows of my Boston College career. There’s nothing like the thought of graduation to force you to be a little more introspective.

When our time as undergraduates is over, we’ll never find ourselves in this kind of environment again—a tiny area packed with people roughly the same age, all tirelessly pursuing knowledge, growth, and advancement, all ready to challenge themselves and lift each other up. Even if you have mixed feelings about the institution, as I do, that’s pretty special.

So I was surprised to find myself focusing more on what I hadn’t done than on what I had. My feelings about my time in college contain equal measures of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given and doubt about the opportunities I didn’t pursue.

Every choice I have made as a student here has had an equal, but opposite, reaction. As the conversation about mental health becomes more normalized at BC, more and more students are accepting the crucial idea that we must all prioritize our commitments if we intend to honor them.

That means giving up the things that we can’t, or won’t, fully dedicate ourselves to. Those choices are extremely hard to make. And in a lot of cases, they produce regret.

A few things come to mind. The first, and arguably my greatest source of regret, is my academics. Although I have no right to complain about my grades, I’ve been haunted for several years now by the nagging idea that I’ve only done the bare minimum to maintain a decent transcript. It’s frustrating to know that if I’d only had the discipline to study harder, be more proactive, and stay on top of all my work, I could have reached my full academic potential.

Instead, I took part in most of my courses as nothing more than an observer—going to class, taking notes, and (usually) turning in papers with barely any time to spare, but neglecting longer assigned readings, office hours, and any real attempt to form relationships with my professors.

Most professors eventually learned my name, but I never took the time to get to know them on a truly personal level. The faculty and staff who know me well are never the ones who taught me in the classroom. I never know who to ask for recommendation letters.

Luckily, the activities that I prioritized instead of schoolwork became my greatest sources of growth and learning. UGBC is a perfect example.

Since my first year, I’ve dedicated more and more time to student government. It allowed me to learn about the intricacies and frustrations of working with the administration. It gave me a path to kickstart the Lean On Me program. And it has given me the huge privilege of working with a ton of other projects and advocacy initiatives as president this year.

Throughout my four years in the organization, I’ve been humbled and challenged in ways that no classroom could provide. I’ve been pushed to grow in response to both administrative inaction and my own mistakes. It has shaped me into a more mature and self-aware person, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

That being said, UGBC forced me to make another series of tradeoffs. After last year’s election, I had to permanently step aside from leadership of Writers’ Circle, a club I started during my first year at BC. Before the election, I had already stepped back from my involvement with Writers’ Circle due to a lack of time and declining personal motivation to write. However, once I realized UGBC would dominate my senior year, I had to abdicate completely. That decision created a lot of guilt.

I did my best to gather and motivate dedicated people to form a community around Writers’ Circle once we became an official club, only to abandon that community a year later when I realized I had taken on too much for my own good. I don’t necessarily regret my involvement in creating it, but I do regret the way I handled my departure.

My commitments to student government, service, and other activities have had social consequences as well. I’ve been lucky to form quite a few casual friendships during my time here—many with wonderful people whom I deeply enjoy knowing—but I never developed the larger “friend group” that many other BC students seem to have.

I’m extremely close with my roommates, but the handful of other people that I would consider good friends come from very different circles. As a result, I hardly ever hang out with anyone outside of my room unless I formally schedule time to do so, and that usually means getting lunch or dinner with someone. Aside from that, I spend a significant amount of time alone.

Being able to greet people around campus sometimes gives me the illusory feeling of having lots of friends. But if I’m being honest, I haven’t taken the time to develop the vast majority of those acquaintances into true friendships. I often find myself altering my walking route around campus or finding deserted study spots to avoid socializing.

Solitude has become a huge part of my life, and I’m not sure anymore if it’s my natural preference or if it’s a habit acquired through the constant pressure of having work to do. Either way, I acutely feel the gap between the people I superficially “know” and the people who really understand me on a deeper level.

The final tradeoff is that I’ve developed a persistently degrading attitude in the way that I view myself. The feeling of constantly having tasks to accomplish and never having enough time to do them has left me with a recurring feeling of disappointment. It’s as if the unfulfilled potential of my academic career has extended into every area of my life.

No matter what I do, I’m convinced that it doesn’t represent my best effort. When I do cross things off my to-do list, it’s usually motivated by guilt for having left other tasks unfinished. I feel as though I’m constantly imagining an alternate version of myself, a “better” Reed, who manages to juggle everything and allocates his time perfectly to get everything done. Regardless of whether my resume looks good from the outside, I’ve always imagined it to be hollow. It makes me feel totally undeserving of my position.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I have a long way to go towards self-acceptance. I can’t always seem to forgive myself for the tradeoffs I’ve had to make, or the grades and commitments I’ve sacrificed to fulfill the responsibilities I value more. I go back and forth between confidence in myself and a deep conviction that I’m unqualified and undisciplined. There’s probably a simpler explanation for all this: it’s really hard to balance all the demands of the overinvolved college experience we all feel pressured to have, and everyone struggles with that in their own way.

I’m getting closer to accepting what I think is the truth. I’ve had to make tough choices, just like everyone else. I’ve had to prioritize the aspects of college that mattered most to me. It makes sense that some of those choices leave me with regret. And I always remind myself that less fortunate students have had to make much harder decisions. The fact that I was able to choose at all is a privilege in itself.

In the end, I’m grateful for my time at BC. Despite some regrets, I’m happy with who I’ve become. I’ll miss the people who helped me along the way.

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