Exactly one year ago — at this very moment, in a place far away from the recliner into which I’m currently sinking — I trudged gingerly down a graveled hill, panting and faded from the day. Shaded under wild and mangy canopies of Spanish eucalyptus branches, I continued ahead, step by step, on my 122 km trek to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
At this particular point in the journey, I found myself separated from the 25 Irish students (and one fellow Domer — Hey Kait!) in my travel group. I relished in knowing the distance that separated me from every landmark I had ever known. The dingy red couch I slept on for years in Louisville. The parking lot of the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store at the corner of Route 23 and Ironwood in South Bend. Green mile markers dotting the north-south highway route from my home to my other home.
All of these scenes remained intact without me, I knew, and I could place myself back within them for an instant with a deep breath and a blink.
Looking back now, I realize that this contemplative play was made possible only by my seclusion at the time, and as a proudly professed introvert, that was cool with me. I have no shame in admitting the fact that being with others, more often than not, drains me of energy; yet, I do sometimes wonder how my tendencies to retreat and re-charge have kept me from more fully accessing the complexities of the people around me. What had I missed in the miles I trekked alone?
As life would have it, I ended up starting a new journey as Scholastic’s Editor-in-Chief less than a week after returning back from my long walk. I immediately dove in and set to work, expending many hours of electronic effort in corresponding with the outgoing staff and in assembling a new one. Over the course of the past year, I have worked alongside human beings — namely all of our staff members and contributors, as well as the veritable sage Mr. Bob Franken, whose guidance as our faculty advisor has provided me with much comfort and confidence — who have inspired me to truly enjoy an energy that springs forth from creative collaboration.
My eyes scan the covers of this staff’s nine issues taped to the wall in our office in the basement of South dining hall. We have investigated transitions of the papacy, developments occurring in Notre Dame’s residential communities and efforts made by a growing group on campus to communicate the importance of realizing Notre Dame’s diversity, among other topics. I now cannot help but notice that the heart of each story lies within the people whose choices drive change. Their faces and minds and mouths making words: without such realities we, at Scholastic and everywhere, would have nothing.
I first realized this sort of universal beauty in knowing others in an ironically special circumstance. Sitting on a blue-backed chair in the university president’s office, I watched as Father Jenkins leaned back, closed his eyes and paused to breathe into his right hand before answering a question about the challenges of his role as president (in this issue’s cover story, you can find his response, along with a wider look at the experiences of Fathers Hesburgh, Malloy and Jenkins).
The crease of a brow. The tapping of a foot. The folding of hands. I have come to realize that all leaders, all those who devote themselves to doing something new for others, are really, at the end of the day, people. We all are. Knowing this lesson might have tired me a year ago, but now, having made it here to the point of moving on, I am thrilled to proclaim that, even at four in the morning, I am wide awake.
Keep on keepin’ on,