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Authentic Eagles: Matt Nacier On Resilience

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.

Matt Nacier, A&S ’14

When I give my “philosophy and economics” scripted response to the typical “What’s your major?” question, I generally get one of two responses. The first would make you think that they never heard me say philosophy when they reply, “Tell me more about econ, someone I know was an econ major,” or I get the concerning, “Philosophy huh, so you're going to spend the rest of your days doing thought experiments to come to an answer to the meaning of life?” Why can’t they say, “Oh wow, who’s your favorite philosopher?” It’s never a good feeling when someone questions your future ability to contribute to society because of a decision you made one of your first two years of college, but I digress. However, I did spend a long time thinking about the meaning of life October 13th, 2012 and every day thereafter.

I’ll never forget the chilling phone call that evening. The Notre Dame Stanford game was on in the background and my visiting cousin was finishing some soon-to-be-due-assignment in my room on the sixth floor of Vanderslice. I really didn’t believe the words at the time. On the other end of my phone, an officer callously informed me dad had passed away.

The following morning, I arrived at the airport to rush back to Dallas.  You only realize how many people you have to interact with at an airport until all you absolutely want is to be in your own little bubble.  I’m naturally an introverted person, but this time was much worse. The ticket clerks, TSA agents, flight attendants, and other random people along the way were just too much for my self pity. I thought the only place I would find a little peace was in seat F, brushed up against an airplane window.  Still, I was trapped in an airport suffocated by the presence of other people.

In the midst of my personal selfishness, it struck me that I was closing out other people’s stories.  I wasn’t caring for their experiences and struggles.  Was I to go around and befriend every stranger in the airport, chatting about personal stories and helping each other overcome their deepest issues?  Not likely.  But I wasn’t doing the small things that mattered.  I wasn’t living as a man or woman for others.  I wasn’t doing the simple things or finding joy in appreciating other people.  This is not to say that I was not incredibly sad, but rather I was acting as if the world had ended for everyone.  In a way this is like life, an airport–a place with so many different people travelling different directions for different purposes. I can sometimes go swiftly along without understanding, knowing or being aware of what others around me are doing until I get out of my bubble. Airports are a flurry of emotions: people traveling for work, to see the newest member of their family, celebrate a wedding, rushing to have the last conversation with a passing loved one, to reconnect a neglected relationship, some with a one-way ticket to start a new life, or something else. Everyone there accepting the changes that have resulted in their destination and working to enjoy, or at least embrace, the journey.

To some degree, I have had to accept the changes life brings, but acceptance can only take me so far. As I mentioned, it's about enjoying the journey.  At the airport, I wasn’t even embracing life.  My father was all about enjoying the journey, and because of that, he had a great one.  His goal-oriented nature of life having come to the US and worked his way from a full-time student while being a part-time NYC taxi driver to having been one of Cannon’s chief engineers with an MBA really taught me something.  I experience the privileges it has given me everyday, and I can’t imagine that work was ever easy.  However, what I found to be the most impressive was that my father did it all with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.  He never simply accepted circumstance; he was truly resilient.

There is something passive about acceptance that has never sat well with me.  An acknowledgement of a misfortune is one thing, but being able to prevail and move towards where you want to be takes resilience.  The word implies that things have to be going south in order to be resilient.  To be fair, life isn’t all sunshine and roses; how boring it would be if it was?  My time at BC hasn’t always been the best.  I don't’ think I’m unique in any regards for having seriously looked over a transfer application.  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made some mistakes that have left me bummed or damaged relationships for a lack of foresight. Yet life requires springing back up and keeping on towards where you want to be.  I had to overcome challenges when I was younger in difficult music pieces, athletic injuries, rejections, and school test.  At the time, I thought those things were a big deal.  Life called to be resilient.  When I decide not to transfer, I had to be sure I was running to something and not away from something that I wasn’t fixing in myself.  Again, life called for me to be resilient.  In the middle of my junior year, life called to be resilient because of my father’s passing.

How was I to be resilient when the rug is pulled out from underneath me, wind swept from my sails, storms on my parade?  I was more lost than ever before.  I found that the source of resilience does come from myself but loved ones around me.  I’ll forever be grateful to my friends that came to funeral services in Texas and especially New York.  These loved ones, in addition to my family, are the source and the reason for my ability to bounce back and be pushed further.  When I was down, it was smallest of gestures like smiles, hugs, and short walks that had the biggest impacts. The only reason I am where I am today is thanks to all my friends and family who have helped me bounce back up.   Their support reminded me life is about caring for other people; thus I kept on and was resilient for my mother and sister.

Before now, even as philosophy major, I had no absolute idea as to what the meaning of life is.  Maybe to the readers' disappointment, I have not sat naked on the most comfortable rock with a pensive expression contemplating the meaning of life.  Truthfully, I’m still young with a lot more to learn, but sitting uncomfortably in an airplane window seat with my limited life experiences, I have come to believe a large part of life calls us to be resilient.  From this, I have come to believe life is like a slow stroll across a long bridge connecting the journey between birth and death. We’ve engineered this bridge with the love and help of family and friends. Oftentimes in our lives, like this bridge, to the common eye everything seems sturdy and strong, bathing in the sun on a clear day. However, this same sturdy bridge is constantly swaying so gently in the wind that sometimes its movements go unnoticed. The beauty of this collective engineering is when after the storm passes, having seen your bridge bend and twist, it continues to stand strong. Life, in some way, is about being that bridge that can bend and not break, be still but not rigid. The source of my resilience comes from the help of the loved ones who have helped me overcome loss and find joy walking across my bridge.