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.
Dan Klemmer, A&S ’14
It was 5:51 on a Monday, February 24th to be exact, and I was sitting in my Capstone class. I stared down at a March Madness bracket filled with different things that people value in their life. They were all pitted against each other. We started with 48, however only three traits could “win.” I hate these types of activities because they really stretch me, make me commit, and limit my flexibility.
Coming into college I was most worried about how I was going to meet my friends. I asked myself a flurry of questions, like where do people meet friends? How did I make my friends from home? How do I find the friends of goodness and not just pleasure or utility? (See: Aristotle (it was unavoidable that I would mention him)). And most intimidatingly, how was I going to assert myself into this talent-saturated campus? I bounced around for a little bit, floating through friend groups trying to navigate the social realm of Boston College. I’m a big time over-thinker so I tried to see myself in different groups, like the Three Little Bears almost. But instead of being a parable this was my life, and I felt lost and like I needed to get on top of the whole friendship thing.
After not making the lacrosse team freshman year, my expected sports-centric fraternity was no longer and I had to reassess. I had always prided myself on being a funny guy, confident in myself, holding my own in the classroom and knowing where I stood with other people. But at BC I started to lose my identity and become more insecure than I had ever been. A lot of that was rooted in not having a group of guys around me, until I noticed the group of guys around me. I began spending time with the guys in my dorm on Newton Campus. It was midway through freshman year, but they still kept their doors open to me and I tried to take advantage of that. I realized this was a group that I didn’t have to perform around or be someone who I thought they expected me to be. It was reassuring to feel that comfortableness and the authenticity they exuded. In addition to rooming with these same guys for the past three years, I have made friends through a slew of different social and extracurricular engagements on campus.
The other day I sat at our Rubenstein kitchen table with my roommate discussing the interesting and unpredictable ways relationships grow over time and how it happened for our group of friends. We rehashed how they’ve grown through overly intense pick-up basketball games; Hawaiian shirts; crowded dinners fitting too many guys around too small a table; Flip videos; through dragging our beds into our Vanderslice common room for a sleepover (only to devolve into a Lord of the Flies-esque wrestling match); Common Ground Karaoke; through blasting Tag Team’s timeless ballad “Whoop There It Is” while unnecessarily sporting Superfan shirts; and through sorrowfully crying together and embracing each other last Marathon Monday not knowing the safety of our two friends running.
What I’ve learned throughout the process of growing with friends, and recognizing those friends of goodness, is that I wanted to call someone a friend who valued my presence in their life. I wanted to feel a sense of self-worth, and I knew that sense of appreciation was an important feeling to be reciprocated. I was looking for friends that could be conversation partners, advice givers, that I could grab beers with, who could accompany me to the gym or intramural sports, go on adventures with, challenge me, and push my boundaries. Yes, these all seem like quasi-idealistic characteristics, and very rarely will someone be able to check all those boxes, but I felt to not search for those traits was to do myself a disservice, and thankfully I’ve found a boatload throughout my journey.
Needless to say, when the pushing came to shoving, “friendship” was one of the three words that survived in my bracket. Although these stories may appear as happenstance, or serendipitous events, they are far from it. Like friendship itself, for me, these relationships have been cultivated and sculpted through shared experiences: highs, lows, and a lot of unavoidably mundane in-betweens.
Over this past winter break I was ultra-inspired by the talents of my good friends and I wanted to start this gathering called the Friendship Series. Short of the long of it, every two or three Thursdays we get thirty or so girls and guys together and we have our peers present, share, and perform a talent or passion of theirs. The topics have been wide ranging. They’ve included discussion about disconnection in our ever-connected world, a reading of a “This I Believe…” statement, and a personal narrative among many other wonderful performances. The Friendship Series is a time where we can create a space to have formative discussions with our good friends as well as appreciate the impressive talents that are all around us.
These friendships, for me, connect most directly to the Jesuit ideal, the Magis. My buds and I joke about the Magis a lot, and I think it’s because we all recognize the importance of it. The Magis is “the more” in life, and for me the more is most palpable when I feel a sense of community and interconnectedness with those around me.
As my time at Boston College comes to an end, friends have been on my mind. Who will be there for me going forward? When will we see each other next? How will I find a community wherever I am headed next year? Although I have had spent some serious time sorting these questions out, what I do know is that every week at the start of our Capstone class we journal about a slew of things, primarily about what we are grateful for; and no matter the week, the highs or the lows, I always put friends first.