Featured Column, Features

Master of None: Reaping the Benefits of Conscious Disengagement

The same question presented itself dozens of times. Everyone asked it. Professors, roommates, and, yes, even my parents:

“What are your plans for senior year?”

I contemplated this question again as I began to write my first column for The Heights in the Chocolate Bar early one morning. Dozens of thoughts rushed through my mind as I stirred whatever remained of my Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee.

Thoughts of an upcoming Falmouth Half-Marathon rang a bell. A few Career Center dates loomed. Thinking harder, a certain LSAT prep book remained more of a paperweight. But remembering two weeks ago, I found my answer in a car ride home from Martha’s Vineyard.

Driving on 495-North from Falmouth to Worcester, my younger brother Max turned on our Volvo’s broken speakers. A familiar tune broke through the radio’s cloudy static. Usually, it takes less than 10 seconds for my brother to name the song and artist. The Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw, Kanye—you name it, Max knows it. Hearing James Taylor’s gentle voice split the empty silence, Max needed only a few guitar strokes.

“You can play the game and can act out the part / even though it wasn’t written for you / Tell me, how can you stand there with your broken heart / ashamed of playing the fool?”

Years ago, my mom played these same lyrics off her old cassette tape during our 6 a.m. drives from Shrewsbury to Martha’s Vineyard. Back then, I heard ice cream, sunshine, and the beach whenever Taylor strummed those first few guitar notes. The lyrics meant a simple time—a time when your day’s greatest problem meant sand in your sandwich.

During that long drive home, I heard a different tune. Taylor’s lyrics look the same on paper, but I can’t help but think of senior year.       

Unlike most BC students, I’ve committed myself to—well, non-commitments.

Now, before you ask why, let me assure you that I write this column with the utmost respect for all of BC’s extracurricular activities. Volunteer groups like 4Boston and Arrupe play integral roles in the Boston community and across international borders. Club sports, Campus Ministry, dance groups, and dozens of other clubs offer a chance to grow in ways many students never thought possible—I applaud this.

That said, I do not feel compelled to conform and meet the perceived status quo. After all, to paraphrase Taylor, why play the game and act the part even if it wasn’t written for you? For me, I see un-involvement as the best way to fulfill the joys I find most pleasure in.

During my first three years here, I drowned myself in activities, from The Gavel and 4Boston to ELP and Kairos. Each experience taught me something new. I grew. I laughed. I learned. But something felt missing. Something felt lost.

Why? Well, for starters, I had no time for the things I loved most. Club commitments tore me four different ways. I found no way to pencil in a run around the Res. Weeks passed without going to one of Fr. Casey’s Thursday-night masses. Worst of all, an empty seat often sat across the table from someone who needed it filled, whether in the Chocolate Bar or back home in Shrewsbury.

Why go through your time here at BC not focusing on the things that matter most to you? For me, that means family, sports, faith, and writing. If I lose sight of what I love most, I find myself lost. After all, to re-paraphrase Taylor, why play the game and act the part even if it wasn’t written for you?

A perfect senior year never happens. We plan, God laughs. But having the time and liberty to go out to watch my roommate compete at the Head of the Charles, drive home for a family dinner, or attend an October baseball game at Fenway certainly helps.

Spend your senior year focused on those who love you, not what others expect of you. Sure, clubs look fine and dandy. But if you find yourself overcommitted, take a step back. Treat your joy like a muscle. Exercise it every day. If not, you risk standing there with a broken heart, ashamed to play a fool.

For seniors, a world outside of cozy Chestnut Hill looms closer and closer each day. After May 23, your infinite amount of time suddenly turns finite. Welcome to the real world. No more trigger warnings and safe spaces. Get over it.

But today is for you.

Cherish every last second. Yes, make time for others. But, most importantly, make time for yourself.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

September 11, 2016