Senior Moments: A Year at ND

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By Rachel Hamilton ’12
Hannah Storm Journalism Intern

When I was a kid, I was really into The Muppets. I mean, really into The Muppets.

If I wanted to be academic about it, I could say that it was something about artifice and puppets in the real world. But, in actuality, they are just cool and colorful and they sing, which I like. When I was in high school, my mother gave me a copy of a book titled. It’s Not Easy Being Green, and Other Things to Consider, which is, effectively, a collection of the thoughts of Jim Henson and his colleagues and family members on his work. It is a great book. Every time I read it, something else sticks out to me.

Recently, though, I could not stop thinking about a particular passage spoken by Jocelyn Stevenson about the Muppet community after Jim Henson died. It goes something like this:

“We were like dandelion seeds clinging to the stem and to each other, and in May, the wind began to blow. There is no stem anymore. We are all floating on the breeze, and it’s scary and exhilarating and there is nothing we can do about it. But gradually we’ll all drift to the ground and plant ourselves and no matter what we grow into, it’ll be influenced by Jim. We’re Jim’s seeds.”

The past month has been exactly that: scary and exhilarating. Spring came early. When my friends and I returned to campus from our spring break trip to Orlando, we were greeted by strangely Floridian weather in Indiana. March felt eerily like May, and we didn’t want it to be May yet. The week after break, we were sent to the Graduation Fair, where we were given our caps and gowns and tassels. Mine is still sitting in its plastic packaging on a chair in my bedroom. I am prolonging removing it from that bag for as long as I can.

Then everything else started: receptions, induction ceremonies, end of year surveys, signing of contracts, announcements of commencement speakers, closing Masses, thesis deadlines, and “last times.” In late March, I even attended an engagement party for two of my good friends who will be married in August. 

However, despite all of these exciting activities preparing us to exit into the big, bad “real world,” I would say that the senior class at Notre Dame is a perfect parallel to those dandelion seeds clinging to the stem. Instead of the stem being Jim Henson, though, it is the University.

Slowly, commitments are being made to future plans. My closest friends at Notre Dame are twelve girls I met in my dorm freshman year. More than anyone else, they have shaped my college experience. While many of them are still exploring options, it looks like we will be spanning the entire country (and potentially Canada) in the next year.

Although we are all proud of each other as acceptances are heard and contracts are signed, there is a tiny moment of realization with each celebration that Washington, D.C., is far from Birmingham, which is far from Tucson, where I will be, teaching middle school English with Notre Dame’s own Alliance for Catholic Education.

I don’t know too much about wildflowers, but I do know that seeds are pretty tough and, when you think about it, pretty impressive. Everything a new dandelion needs to grow is packed into that tiny little speck, unlikely as it may seem. While the past four years have felt like an experience in themselves, I am starting to understand that they are really more of a preparation.

When I interview alumni, I am always astonished by how many of them cite the values they learned at Notre Dame as the genesis of their success. Their advice is almost universally to continue to carry out the mission of the University in whatever field.

Because of my commitment to A.C.E., graduation on May 20 will not mark the end of my Notre Dame experience. It will, however, mark the end of my undergraduate career and the beginning of something quite different. Despite the reassuring words of Jocelyn Stevenson and the many alums I have interviewed, I intend to continue clinging to the stem for the next few weeks.

When the graduation-day wind blows, I feel more and more assured that my classmates and I will be ready to land somewhere new, prepared by years of great instruction, faith, and friendship.