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The clock hit 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and I jumped out of my seat. By 2:52, I was OUT of Debart 201, speed-walking past the Duncan Student Center with my red hair flying and gray Birks stomping into the pavement. 

At 2:58, I swiped myself into Flaherty Hall, raced up three flights of stairs and ran into my room, where I promptly climbed up my bed’s wobbly wooden ladder and threw on my fuzzy pink blanket. At 3:01, my head hit the navy blue pillow and I fell sound asleep. 

The past two weeks were an utter whirlwind. There was study abroad week and the first football game. There was the career fair and Flaherty’s SYR. I felt that I was in a constant state of motion, always chasing the next item on my endless agenda. 

After being tossed around like Dorothy on her way to Oz, I needed a minute to PAUSE and recharge. A little “me time” if you will. 

But it ended all too quickly when my phone alarm began its annoying beep sequence at 4:01, jolting me back to reality and signalling that my relaxation was over. It was time to get back on the grind. 

I answered emails, wrote an application, read the news, scrolled through my Instagram feed and started studying for my first intermediate microecon midterm, which would begin less than 18 hours later. 

Before I knew it, it was almost 10 p.m. and I felt that I still had a ways to go with studying. Anticipating the long night ahead, I took what any rational person would…a break. 

But not just any break, a productive one. I opened the LinkedIn app on my phone and started scrolling through internship postings. I came across my submitted applications and decided to read through the cover letters to ensure I hadn’t submitted any errors. 

Because my love language is words of affirmation (help…I need attention…), I sent one of the letters to a friend. He responded that it was everything it should be, an encapsulation of my personality and my qualifications. That it was great and I shouldn’t change anything about it. Needless to say, I was affirmed. 

And relieved. As I explained earlier, the previous two weeks had been a constant push towards the next big thing. But having someone tell me that I had done something right, that I had proven myself to be deserving of an opportunity I wanted, showed me that I should just take a minute to appreciate how far I’ve come over the past years.

Two years ago, I was stressed about college applications. I wasn’t sure I would get into ND in the first place. But now here I am, studying for midterms, applying for summers abroad and consulting friends I met just last year. 

I contemplated this for a while (I’m a master at procrastination in case you couldn’t tell) and decided to welcome my friend into my musing.

“Do you ever just feel like ‘wow my life is more than I ever thought I wanted it to be?’” I typed. 

After a few seconds, he responded: 

“Hahah yes like an existential crisis that’s not a crisis but an awakening.”

And WOW. That hit me. 

For the past two years, I’ve been moving at light-speed towards the future. Constantly looking forwards and backwards but never taking a moment to just be. It’s like I’m in an eternal tug-of-war between the big thing that just happened and the big thing I want to do next. 

I got into college and it was great, but then I had to decide my major, and then I had to successfully finish freshman year, and then I had to figure out how to spend my first summer, and THEN I got back to campus. It’s only been a month and now it’s already time to figure out what I’m doing next summer. 

It’s exhausting.

I could have viewed my situation with an existential crisis, a panicky moment of ponderance where I should fit into this big world and what I need to do next in order to get there.

Instead, I decided to see it as an existential awakening. A recognition of where I am and where I’ve come from. An understanding that I am exactly where I should be in this moment and that the next big (or small) thing will come as it may. 

Excited to incorporate this new term into my vocabulary, I grabbed a notecard and wrote “Existential Awakening” in the prettiest fashion I could, then tacked it to the pinboard over my desk. 

When the clock hit 11, I returned to my practice econ exam, proud of every tiny moment that led me to be studying for my first exam of sophomore year at Notre Dame instead of stressed out about the work ahead. 

As I write this now, I can see the blue notecard from the corner of my eye, reminding me to remain this way. To exist awake.

Images: 1 (from author), 2, 3 (from author)

Ashton Weber

Notre Dame '22

Hi! My name is Ashton and I am a sophomore at Notre Dame. I'm majoring in Economics and Film, Television, and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy (yeah... I know it's a lot of words). I am passionate about human rights (especially women's rights), mental health awareness, and self-care, so I will be writing a lot about those topics. My favorite color is pink, I have a slight obsession with kale (and cake), and I'm an avid yogi, so expect those things to seep into my work too. Thank you for reading! AND GO IRISH!!
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