Living in post-graduation limbo
I am officially at a confusing age.
Awkward does not quite do justice to the peculiar situation in which we Domers who began our studies in the first half of the 1990s find ourselves.
With ages ranging from 23 to 28, we are not yet old enough to go back to South Bend and feel any great amount of nostalgia for the place; or even to impress people who currently attend our alma mater with stories of how things have changed. We are not long departed and thus it would be overly dramatic for us to wax poetic about our days in "the Bend."
Also, we cannot yet have moments as occurred in 1993 when I told my assembled family that I would be living in Keenan Hall, only to hear both my uncle (ND '59) and father (ND '66) refer to that 1950s bomb shelter of a residence hall as "one of the new dorms."
I do get a certain satisfaction out of telling students that my freshman year roommate planned to move from Keenan Hall to Cavanaugh Hall for his sophomore year and then watch as visions of expensive Swedish operations involving very private areas race through their thoughts. But otherwise, I just don't fit the standard image of "alumnus."
However, as I prepare to trek up to the first football game of the century, I realize that I can't really go up and fit in seamlessly. Even if I had my ID still, I don't look anything like the 22-year-old pictured on it. The headshot near the beginning of this column is actually of a 21-year-old assistant news editor, not of a slightly balding, 25-year-old writer and book editor. (Note: I will update this for later columns, it is my fault that they have had to run that photo. I haven't posed in a while.)
The last game that I went up for, crowds at Coaches, the `Backer and Fat Shirley's appeared to be made up of people who look more and more like my 16-year-old baby sister. Sitting in my seats in the southeast corner of the stadium seemed miles away from the undulating field of shirt-color that is the student section.
I have visited some off-campus parties since graduation and been asked what classes I'm in only to be forced into the somewhat laborious explanation about "visiting friends." Add to that the fact that nearly all of the people who I knew have graduated in the ensuing two years, and I feel as though I do not really belong with the students.
Caught in the limbo that exists in being too old to party with the undergraduates and too young to claim any sort of historical alumni status, we can turn to the only thing that really binds all of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's alumni(ae) together: football.
At what other school are you able to travel thousands of miles from home territory and still be greeted in the parking lot by vast numbers of tailgaters all offering you free food and drink simply because of your status as a student or alum of Notre Dame or Saint Mary's? What other school can have people frommany different generations sitting in a bar cheering and screaming for its teamnearly every Saturday in the fall?
Notre Dame football has an enormous pull on anyone who has experienced it. While I was exploring this continent immediately following my graduation in 1998, I saw the home opener against Michigan on television in Anchorage, Alaska, where I had resolved to experience the Arctic winter. That game stirred within me a homesickness to see the campus again and dragged me out of my planned hibernation. A former colleague and I traveled to South Bend last year to tailgate and on the off chance that we might find tickets and get into a game. We did and it was great fun.
But, that same weekend, I stayed over and walked around the silent, somewhat unwelcoming campus. I had no reason for being there. But the previous Friday and Saturday felt like I was part of the family.
On that weekend trip, I noticed that I don't quite fit with the students from the 1980s and earlier either. Their lifestyles are on my distant horizon.
But come this Saturday I will be standing, perhaps at Coaches, perhaps in LaFortune Student Center, perhaps in the parking lot as a tailgater, perhaps in the stadium itself. I will be standing there with those people to whom I cannot yet relate on the one hand and with those to whom I can no longer relate on the other.
But, through this weekend's game we become one family that can meet on one issue, pride and support for our school.
Matt Loughran is a 1998 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and currently works as an editorial production assistant for a publishing house in Maryland.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, September 1, 2000