With our lives at BC revolving so closely around our activities, it’s hard to think about identity apart from involvement, especially when our long-term commitments come to an end.
At Boston College, it can feel like who we are is defined by what we do. Involvement becomes identity—interest becomes individuality.
There’s the funny kid in Fleabag, cracking jokes in the O’Connell House. There’s the quarterback on the football team, practicing plays in Alumni. There’s the 4Boston volunteer, catching the T at Reservoir. And then there’s the arts columnist for The Heights (me!), editing stories in Mac 113 on any given Wednesday or Sunday.
Before we end up as any of these things, though, we arrive at BC with clean slates—eager to embark on a journey of self-discovery, to find ourselves by finding our passions, to spend the next four years of our lives creating a definition that we can be proud of. Who we were and what we did in high school doesn’t quite matter anymore. We’re free to reinvent ourselves. We can do whatever we want. We can be whomever we want.
As freshmen, we use the Student Involvement Fair, listservs, and information sessions like we would use a dictionary or thesaurus, paging through everything that BC has to offer until something comes up appearing to fit us—something that we think would work well within the context of our new lives.
Eventually, we become so invested in what we’re doing that it pervades every aspect of our being. It determines how we think, and what we think about. It determines how we spend our time and energy, and whom we spend it with. It determines how people perceive us, regardless of whether we intended it to.
By junior and senior year, our commitments often precede our character. We recognize each other in terms of majors, clubs, and jobs, sometimes before thinking about the person behind the leadership, volunteer, or research position. We depend on these definitions to understand our peers, but also to relate who we are to them.
For as long as I’ve been at BC, I’ve been the “English major-newspaper” girl. That’s the definition I chose for myself, and that’s how people seem to know me. Students I’ve never met have come up to me and told me they’ve enjoyed reading my work. Professors I’ve only had once have talked to me about features I’ve written on the first day of class. Friends from home who I haven’t seen in years have commented on the articles I’ve posted on Facebook. What I’ve done at BC has defined who I am—just as I wanted it to.
This is the last time my column, The Finer Things, will appear on the Arts & Review front page, the last time I’ll be considered a member of this publication’s editorial board, and the last time I’ll be able to use the definition I spent years at BC refining to describe myself in the present tense. The Heights isn’t who I am anymore, but it will always be a huge part of who I was.
It’s going to be a strange last semester at BC, not having the organization that impacted my entire collegiate career play as integral a role in my life as it did in the past. I’ll be spending my time differently, thinking about things differently, and, inevitably, defining myself differently. I’ll have to find a new way to connect with people around me, one that is completely separate from what I do on campus.
Being able to discover who you are by doing what you love is one of the greatest things about college—but it can also be one of the scariest. When a commitment ends, it feels a little like losing a part of yourself. It feels like being undefined all over again. With our lives at BC revolving so closely around our activities, it’s hard to think about yourself as an individual, as someone apart from the funny kid on Fleabag, the quarterback on the football team, the 4Boston volunteer, or the arts columnist on The Heights. It’s hard to think about identity independent from involvement—but if being involved at BC has given me anything, it’d be the strength to try.
And that strength, undoubtedly, is a finer thing.
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Photo Illustration