Chaos ensues across the Notre Dame campus. Clusters of parents carry bags and boxes filled with belongings under the summer sun, helping their children settle into their new home. Freshmen sit cautiously as they meet their roommates for the first time, attempting to maintain a confident facade through the stress and tension brought about by the new environment. And despite the cacophony of confusion and emotion, as a second year, I leisurely arrange my room and furniture, unaffected by the frenzy surrounding me.
A few hours prior, I sat in the passenger seat of our rented SUV, scrolling through my phone as my mom pulled up to Library Circle. It was the Sunday before to the start of classes, the last time we would see each other for a few months. Starting my sophomore year at Notre Dame, I was familiar with the hall I would call home, the friends that I had anxiously been waiting to see and the campus I had missed throughout the summer.
But when the car pulled past the bright-vested volunteer managing traffic, emotions fled over us that we had not anticipated. As my mom gradually brought the car to a stop, our eyes met and hers began to water. Not much was said between us, but we shared a mutual understanding that, while this goodbye was not as momentous as that of my freshman year, it was one closer to our last. Tears trickled down her cheeks and she began to speak. The words that followed made my heart sink. Through quivering lips, she uttered, “Pretty soon you won’t need me.” This moment has stuck with me since that Sunday afternoon. I didn’t quite know how to express just how far from the truth she was.
Sophomore year brings me one year closer to graduating, one year closer to entering the adult world, but I am nowhere near finishing this phase yet. It didn’t feel long ago that I was sitting anxiously in the backseat, brimming with excitement as my parents taxied me to my soccer games in middle school, racing to beat the Texas sun. I still recall rushing to the TV each morning before school to catch the early lineup of cartoons, shoveling sugary cereal into my mouth as colorful characters flashed across the screen. These glimpses of childhood still live within me, but maybe my mom was hinting at something bigger: Each day that passes is one day farther from these fond memories and one day closer to adulthood and responsibility. We have been told that this transition is one of excitement, of opportunity, a chance for a new beginning, but I am not ready to abandon the past. Sometimes this momentum is too much; A subway car roaring through tunnels with wheels screeching across the tracks. No matter how hard I try to slow down, to resist the hastening speed of maturity, my worn wheels struggle to stop.
I cannot slow the speed at which life continues. Regardless of how prepared I am, the future quickly approaches. And while I do not always feel prepared or responsible enough for the feats the journey brings, I am brought solace through one fact: I have loved ones to help me pull the breaks that I cannot pull on my own. Loved ones who allow me to relive my youthful nostalgia when I return home. Loved ones who calm me when I feel overwhelmed before exam week. Loved ones who remind me of my capacity prior to an internship interview. I have not yet been able to form a rebuttal to my mom’s words in the library lot, but I am beginning to formulate my response to her. I don’t know how much I will always need her in the future. But no matter how much education I complete, how far away I am from home, I will still be that same boy sitting in the backseat on Saturday mornings, the same boy playing in front of the combo TV set, the same boy that needs her.