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 towards being more authentic.
Colleen Doyle, CSOM ’15
Three days before I moved in for my freshman year at BC, my parents’ divorce was finalized. While many college freshmen are nervous to move away from home, I felt the exact opposite. I needed to get out, to escape the drama that occurred in my home every day and to be surrounded with a different environment. I was prepared to leave everything behind and never look back.
During my freshman year I focused on making new friends, joining different organizations, and playing a part in the college “social” scene to fill the spot in my heart I shut my family out of. By creating a new life here at BC, I was purposefully and quickly attempting to forget my old one.
Fast forward to sophomore year. I continued to search for more things to occupy the empty space I created for myself. No matter what happened, I wouldn’t let my family back in because I was afraid of being hurt again, and more prominently, of change. It was easier to distance myself and resent them for hurting me than to face what was going on and move forward from it. If I could stay busy enough to ignore and forget about everything that had happened during my senior year of high school, I would be happy.
For a while, I found those things I needed: new friends, my Arrupe group and a new boyfriend. During sophomore year, I felt like I was on top of the world. BC became my new home. I had fallen in love like never before and I never wanted to leave. However, no matter how distracted I was, or how great things were going, I still couldn’t rid myself of the bitter attitude towards my parents for adding an imperfect side to my life. I struggled to understand how two people who commit to each other and love each other could separate and hurt everyone in their path.
When junior year set in, my life was turned upside down. My boyfriend and I were studying abroad opposite semesters, half of my Arrupe group was graduated or abroad and I wasn't living with my sophomore year roommates anymore. That happy world I lived in during sophomore year didn’t exist anymore, and I found myself feeling sorry for myself and continually wishing things were different.
If my boyfriend wasn’t halfway across the world right now, I would be fine. If I didn’t have to dread going home for the holidays, I would be happier. If I was still living on the second floor of Walsh, none of this would be happening. These thoughts consumed me and angered me constantly. I had no control over it, I hated it, and I couldn’t wait to fly away to Spain for the spring semester.
Abroad was another fresh start for me. I traveled Europe, lived with the most amazing host mom and enjoyed every carefree moment I had. But even still, while I knew I was having the experience of a lifetime, the thoughts of wishing things were different haunted me. Shortly after returning to the United States I was thrown through another emotional loop. My relationship ended and I instantly found myself feeling sorry for myself and, yet again, wishing things were different.
During this moment of weakness at home, I didn’t have my BC family by my side. I had the ones that had loved me and supported me all along, the ones that I willingly pushed away. I slowly began to open up, and it was my family who picked me up and gave me a new perspective by making me realize that attempting to change what has already happened is a useless battle. That dwelling on something you wish could be different was a step in the wrong direction.
It was at this point in my life that I decided to take a step forward instead of backward, like I had been doing throughout the past three years of my life. I needed to stop re-reading the old chapters in my life and start writing new ones. The only way I could do this was to let go of the things I have no control over in my life. I can’t change the fact that my parents live in separate cities. I can’t go back in time and fix a relationship with problems created by a year of long distance. I can’t make people keep the promises they broke. But I can stop hoping that the book of my past will end differently. After three years of living resentfully, I have learned that this attitude won’t make it easier or make you happier. Letting go and forgiving, while definitely the harder option, is also the better one: it will make you stronger.
So while I’ll never go back to normal Thanksgiving dinners, I will return to people who love me and will always be there for me, even after distancing myself for so long. Love, to me, is the meaning of life. And the strongest kind of love can be found within a family, no matter what shape or form, or how dysfunctional it might be.
There will be more challenges in the coming years, but I have learned, that the only way to stop looking back and wishing for things to be different is to let go, step forward and await whatever life has in store for me. I’m a big believer in living every day to its fullest, and I have realized that it is incredibly hard to do this with built up resentment. Letting go of this has been one of the most liberating feelings, and now every morning I wake up excited for what the world will bring me during that day.