Hi, I’m Becca, and I am a sophomore political science major and education minor, a liturgical commissioner in Welsh Family Hall, a newspaper editor and a Writing Center tutor.
If you just skimmed over my “typical Notre Dame introduction,” I do not blame you. While it takes a lot of breath to say—or ink to print—at the end all it provides is a vague idea that I am probably around twenty years old and literate.
The people who know me best smile when I say I am a political science major, for two main reasons. The first is that I have only been studying political science for a few weeks. The word “major” implies some sort of expertise, I think, which I definitely do not have.
The second is that I have sworn, on multiple occasions, to never again say “I am” a political science major, but rather that “I am studying” political science and education, among other things.
I am amazed at the number of interactions I overhear on campus each day in which someone says, “I’m econ” and the other person responds with something like, “Oh so you’re really savvy with money,” or “I’m in Liturgical Choir”—“So you went to Catholic school all your life?” It is both comic and tragic to hear students provide a single-phrase intoduction like, “I’m pre-med” or “I’m an archie,” as if their chemistry and drawing classes tell us all we need to know about them.
Every day, we describe ourselves and others in ways that either do not reflect the truth or reflect such a small portion of it that it fails to give a fair representation of reality. In a culture that celebrates diversity, inclusion and tolerance, why can we not celebrate the complexity of the human person instead of slapping labels on ourselves and each other?
We are all weighed down by the numerous nametags around our necks. Society teaches us from a young age to identify with our class year, our sports, our extracurricular activities and now dorms and coursework.
It really is quite funny. We assign ourselves all sorts of attributes when we are introducing ourselves to others—things that we want to be, or are in the process of becoming or could be but are not.
Of course, many of us are passionate about our fields of study and our intended professions. But why do we stress about finding our niche at Notre Dame when we are not advanced enough to have a specialty? Why do we characterize people based on their randomly-assigned residence halls? Why do we need a sound-byte introduction to feel comfortable in the world?
We are the résumé generation.
We are told in middle school to seek out leadership, athletic, academic and service experiences to pad our resumés for selective high schools. Once we get there we are pushed to take as many honors and AP classes, serve in as many clubs, log as many hours and gather as many titles as we possibly can to make ourselves attractive to the best colleges and universities. In college we choose life paths that try to balance what we love with what will make us marketable, and stay busy with activities that we can mention in job interviews and personal statements.
All of these experiences, of course, can be fruitful and meaningful. We often pursue them primarily for the knowledge we can gain, the good we can do or the formation we can receive. But the question is, if something more important came up, could we not do those things and still feel secure? Even though we like all (or most of) the things that keep us busy, how hard would it be to say, “I don’t need to be an officer in any club this year; I’m learning leadership in my friend group” or “My time will be better spent visiting my grandparents than building a house in rural Kentucky”?
It is not easy, because we are the résumé generation.
Becca Self is a sophomore studying political science and education. She is on the path of becoming a high school teacher. Encourage her or share horror stories at email@example.com.