This summer, I spent two precious weeks with my entire family. All six kids and both parents went to our beach house in Redington Shores, Florida, a delightfully quiet and simple place that we find to be the perfect balance between home and vacation.
We spent those days swimming in the warm Gulf of Mexico, playing mini-golf, watching baseball, filming a hilarious family video, and simply sitting on the beach. As the final day slipped away, I couldn’t think of any other word to describe the trip than golden. Nothing among our usual family vacation norms had changed much, but this year I began to appreciate that time more, since it’s becoming harder to get.
As far as summer family-time typically goes for college students, I know I was particularly lucky. Many of my Notre Dame friends only spent a few days with their families, if any. As we get older and dig our heels deeper into the world of internships and job searches, the reality of a life outside of home and beyond college inches closer.
To be honest, the thought makes my stomach churn. To be sure, I’m excited to embark on the adventures of senior year, career exploration, and the hope of landing a wonderful first job … but it’s a leap. The fact that my older brother has already gone through this transition has changed the rhythm of my family as well. For a long time, we wondered whether he would be able to join us for family vacation. So when he did, we treasured it all the more. Part of me wonders what next year’s vacation plans will look like … and the next.
That sentiment—a renewed sense of bonding and appreciation for my family—made the departure from that vacation a tad nostalgic. Leaving behind such a fun time together was difficult. Move-in days on campus assumed their usual, odd, limbo-like atmosphere, and I wondered at how different senior year felt already.
Nevertheless, by the end of the first week of classes, I found myself snapped into the sprightly rhythm of classes, meeting with friends, reading, scheduling appointments, planning papers, going out on a weekend, writing this article … The exhilarating whirlwind called college has swept me up again, and I love it.
Knowing that I am where I need to be, I can look back on that golden family vacation with fondness—but without nostalgically wishing for it to return. It was a challenge to move on from that precious time, and it is unclear what next year will look like, but here and now I can find new moments to love, learn from, and later remember with fondness.
I find that perspective very helpful as I enter my last year of college. I look upon the past three years with amazement (seniors, our first “GOOOOO IRISH, BEEEEEAT OWLS” seems like yesterday), and the upcoming year is charged with hope, excitement, stress, and uncertainty. But I am here, in the present, and that’s where I want my focus to be.
My goal for this year is simple: to live every moment well. Of course, I’m eager to make the ultimate senior bucket list and create spectacular memories. But at the same time, not every minute of my senior year will feature a party or a road trip or a football game. Those will be their own golden moments, but it would be a shame to spend my senior year drifting from one to another, just waiting for the next big thing to happen. That perspective would most likely lead to nostalgia (“If only that moment could return…”). Instead, here and now, I can find something precious in each moment by filling it with dedication, care, and love. Each reading assignment, each paper, and each interview—as well as each time spent with friends—can become a significant moment in which I try to give my best self to others.
It’s a tall order, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll do it perfectly throughout the year. In fact, it’s virtually impossible. Nevertheless, having the goal and working toward it every day will help me embrace this year in its entirety—and later look back upon it as a great effort of love.
As I build up this mindset in my life, I have confidence that this will be the greatest year yet. And as life goes on, times change, and surprises come, my attempt to live each moment well will help me remember the past with gratitude, live the present with fortitude, and look to the future with hope.
Sophia Buono is a senior majoring the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Education, Schooling, and Society. She is very much aware that her phrase “golden moment” is particularly punny in the context of Notre Dame. Reach out to her at email@example.com.