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Authentic Eagles: Jackie Foley On Finding Your Space

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.

Jackie Foley, CSON '19

I had a horrible time adjusting to BC. We’re talking crying in my dorm room every night, acquiring an eating disorder, and going through three therapists before finding the right match. I considered transferring every day for the first year and worried I would never be happy.

I just wanted to find somewhere I could just be myself without worrying about people judging me. And I was starting to think it didn’t exist.

Cut to me, my freshman year, sitting alone in Mac. I had just been rejected from every comedy group and newspaper. I had, however, joined the New England Classic and was supposed to be meeting up with one of the editors for lunch, but I couldn’t find her. When she finally showed up, she noticed me sitting alone and asked, “Do you have any friends?”

The answer was no, no I did not.

“Join radio,” she said, “that’s where all the weird kids are.” She had purple hair, so I trusted her. That’s how I found out about WZBC, Boston College’s FM broadcast radio station.

She was right: the Z is weird. It lives in the basement of McElroy Commons, behind a big, heavy black door designed to scare away people looking for the bookstore or the yearbook office. The space itself has personality – ragged couches ripe for napping and debating, overstuffed rows of CDs and records that are only loosely alphabetical (despite our best efforts), and often a bicycle or two parked in the front entryway.

A product of the 1970s, every wall in the station is paneled in wood and covered in hundreds of colorful stickers. There are band stickers, activist stickers, and stickers that make me uncomfortable to look at. I’m convinced they move around at night.

Whenever visitors come by the Z, the first thing they say is “Wow! This is so different!” But the draw of WZBC isn’t just about the walls or our sick garage aesthetic. It’s more than that: when I visited for the first time, I felt like I could finally take a deep breath.

On a campus that’s well-manicured, trust-funded, and looks like a JCrew catalog, the Z is a haven for music-loving misfit toys.

The music at the Z isn’t like the music you’d hear anywhere else, and we are so proud of that. During the day, we play rock music, in the evenings we play specialty genres, and at night, we experiment with sound.

Our mission is to lift up the little guys– Bandcamp artists, small record labels, and local bands trying to grow their reach. We don’t do this to be pretentious assholes, or because we love to say “you’ve probably never heard of it.” We do this because it feeds our independent spirit. Often, we host our favorite bands in-studio and at our concerts. It feels like being part of one big happy, creative, broke family.

They have introduced me to my favorite bands (Blushh, Samia, T-Rextasy, Daddy Issues, Charly Bliss), favorite Boston music venues (Great Scott, O’Brien’s), and even favorite thrift stores (Urban Renewals), because someone is always looking for a friend to bring along to an art exhibit or Tuesday night show.

Being a part of ZBC showed me that it’s okay not to play along, even in an environment like BC,  where everyone seems to look, talk, and act exactly the same. The Z is unapologetically punk, queer, and DIY. When I walk into the lounge, I’m equally as likely to find two DJs arguing about post-rock as I am to drop in on a discussion about the fastest way to grow an avocado tree or experimental neuroscience.

My friends at WZBC have inspired me to chase my most authentic self. Want to move to the West Coast to work on a lavender farm? Do it. Want to learn to shear sheep to make your own yarn? Do it. Need to take some time off from school to figure some things out? Do it, we’ll be here when you get back.

I’m a lot different now than I was at the beginning of my freshman year. I cut my own bangs, I take astrology very seriously, I own crystals, and most importantly, I’ve learned to engage with the world around me more deeply. WZBC taught me not to hide the parts of me that are ugly and jagged, but rather to celebrate them as the best parts of myself.

I’ve learned that being pretty, smooth, and perfect is not as important as being interesting. After all this time, I’m warming up to the idea that I, too, am interesting, and that I have ideas worth sharing.

As my senior year draws to a close, sometimes I wonder if I missed out on the cookie-cutter “BC experience.” In order to be the General Manager at WZBC, I spent a lot of hours wrangling faulty equipment, meeting with administrators, and chasing after DJs to fulfill their responsibilities, and we’re not exactly a crew that tends to throw BC-perfect mod formals or tailgates.

Then, though, I spend a day hanging out on the station couch alongside my friends, the music, and our resident mice—and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.