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Authentic Eagles: On Home

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our  truths 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 and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.

Lauren Leckenby, A&S '14

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

For better or for worse, Boston College is approximately eight hours from my home in small town Herndon, Virginia.  While most of my friends went to state schools less than two hours away, my independent, eighteen-year-old self sought out Boston to start this exhilarating new chapter in my life.

The trials and tribulations that I faced throughout my first two years at BC revolved around my decision to quit my varsity sport’s team, standard drama with roommates and friends, as well as my seemingly never-ending quest to choose a major.  No matter the issue or its severity, the support I felt from home was unwavering.  My mom and I spoke especially often, and with her guidance I built up the courage to make many tough decisions that have shaped the rest of my college years.  Between the many phone calls and the breaks at home coming with just the right amount of frequency, my family and I stayed close despite the distance.

Unfortunately, this openness that had been established between my parents and I was shaken on the last day of my sophomore year.  In an effort to protect my focus during final exams, my parents chose not to tell me that my mom was diagnosed with a fatal heart arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia until finals were over.  For three weeks she had been going through invasive testing and had been put on emergency medications.  With one fluttering, irregular heart rhythm, her life had been changed forever.

I returned home shell-shocked, distraught and prepared to aid my family in any way that I could.  I initially decided to research the details of this diagnosis, but more information regarding the potential complications and outcomes was enough for me to keep my computer out of sight.  In turn, I attempted to put my energy into taking care of whatever my mom, or the rest of my family, needed.  Since my mom was no longer permitted to drive, I was most useful driving her to and from the constant doctor’s appointments or on any errands while my dad was at work.  My brothers, my dad, even my neighbors, and I launched into crisis mode to pick up any slack and provide support wherever we could.

The world truly seemed to be at a halt during those hot summer days.  Each day came with the same uncertainty spreading panic through all who love my mom.  However, she was the one who managed to keep her chin up despite the looming fear and imminent dangers of this heart condition.  Even after strapping on a defibrillator underneath her clothes for the first time, my mom showed strength and dignity that inspired the rest of my family to follow suit.

After an initial failed surgery, my mom’s rare case piqued the interest of the Director of Electrophysiology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Within weeks, my parents were off with heavy hopes to Philadelphia for a gruelling week of risky surgery.  Humbly, our hopes and prayers were answered thanks to the doctor’s expertise and sincere care for the bravest woman that I know.  After a repeat of the surgery to ensure her continued safety, she now lives with only a tight medication and monitored exercise regimen.  I am forever admirable of my mom’s courage and thank God each day for her steady presence in my life.

However, despite my family’s positivity and my mom’s tireless strength, the loss of my mom’s health seemed to rock my emotional foundation.  I found it much more difficult to handle the uncertainty and I felt isolated in a haze of utter fear and outright anger.  I obviously feared for my mom’s life, but I angered over the polar opposite summers that my peers were experiencing; focussed on life’s minutia, oblivious to its fragility.

Even though my mom’s health was just returned to her, I had struggled to process these incomprehensible feelings throughout the summer’s whirlwind.  I was convinced that returning to BC would pull me out of this lonely funk.  And I certainly arrived by storm.  I was loving the off-campus lifestyle, landed a spot on a dance team on campus and turned 21.  On the surface, life was slam-dunk.  Oh, how wrong I was.  While I was rocking it to the onlooker, I was also acutely aware of how well everyone else’s lives seemed to be going.  Between the “best summer internship ever” stories and the constant abroad picture uploads, I literally could not care less.  It all just seemed so menial.

Part of me knew that I was in no shape to lead Kairos that fall, but I was not ready to back out of the commitment I had made before I became a cynical isolationist.  Our weekly reflections became a beautiful safe space for me to actually admit these feelings that I so commonly denied.

It honestly took me a long time to see that by blaming others for their happiness, I only was victimizing myself.  I was so blessed that my mom could be cured; inexplicable real loss happens so often around us.  For some reason, I had been blinded to the fact that my friends and mentors were not just a sum of their achievements on paper or Facebook or that their lives may not be just as perfect as they seemed.  But by sitting with a classmate in Hillside or stopping to talk to a fellow Geraldite for more than 30 seconds in the Quad, I came to see just how caring and real my peers are.

While running back to school to escape the multiple months of anxiety at home, I found that it was not going to leave me emotionally despite where I was physically.  Accepting the love that my parents have for me as well as recognizing the home I have also built at Boston College allowed me to see how closed off I was being.  By shutting out the world and blaming others for continuing to live their lives, I had only hurt myself.  Despite my mom’s struggle, she never once asked, “Why me?”  Instead, she sought positivity and strength without comparing her health to that of her friends.  This is the lesson that my mom continues to teach me: Happiness is a choice.  To me, authenticity is owning my success, owning my struggle and choosing my own outlook on it all.