One night a few weeks ago, I sat on my bed, talking to my roommate until too late. We have this ritual where we turn off all of our lights but one when we are about to go to sleep, so the room is bathed in a pink glow from the lamp’s pink shade. We sat opposite each other on our beds, talking about everything and nothing, giggling uncontrollably at times. I had a sudden nostalgic thought that times like these were quickly coming to an end. Soon, we would be living in different rooms in different states. I thought about how much I loved her, and how much I loved so many people who came into my life over the past four years.
As I look back on my time at Boston College, it’s hard for me to crystallize my experience into one coherent piece. If I’m being honest, I have written and re-written drafts of this column probably four times, trying to encapsulate everything that these people and this place have taught me. The only conclusion I came up with is that there is so much that I will carry with me as I leave, and that I will continue to reflect on my time here for years to come. Still, I keep coming back to the ways I have grown in love for other people and for God, so that is what I will attempt to share with you here in my last column.
Though it sounds cliché, I have learned how to love here, in this place, on this holy ground, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have loved my friends more deeply than I ever have before, realizing that I didn’t prioritize people and relationships before college. When I was in high school, though I’m not proud to admit it, I never understood people who put relationships before things like activities or schoolwork. To me, the most important things were not people, but the ways in which I felt that I was setting myself up for the rest of my life.
Here at BC, I have learned to love people through their flaws, knowing that they love me through my flaws, too. The depth of my love for others is constantly being challenged and deepened. I can distinctly remember a time when I realized that a friend was completely aware of something flawed about me, but was choosing to love me through it. He accepted me wholeheartedly. He knew and loved me authentically and wholly. From then on, I made a conscious effort to accept people’s flaws instead of trying to change them. I have learned that though we are all flawed, we need to resist the temptation to try to change others.
The friendships I have made challenge my beliefs and move me to greater understanding of other perspectives. The conversations I have had with friends about immigration, faith, abortion, the death penalty, conflict in the Middle East, and other issues have challenged me to find ways to strengthen my beliefs and think from different perspectives than my own. In a culture where disagreement is often seen as taboo, I have had many fruitful debates about things that matter. The friendships I have made here have challenged and strengthened my faith in countless ways.
I have learned how to love more resiliently, and this resilient love has led me to reflect on the resilient love God has for us. I have learned how to love people when they are annoying, when they reject my “good” advice, and when they do things that are self-destructive. I have learned how to listen and simply be with someone who is suffering. I am always working towards loving unconditionally, and in that striving, I have thought about the love of God. God’s love is resilient and unconditional; it does not discriminate when I am annoying, or when I don’t take the good advice of someone God has placed in my life, or when I do things I know are not good for me.
About a month ago, two of my roommates told me that before coming to college, they never would have imagined themselves being good friends with a Theology major. They had imagined Theology majors as stuffy, annoying, holier-than-thou kinds of people, i.e., not the kind of people they wanted to be friends with. I, they told me, was not that, and was “actually a lot cooler” than they had thought a “super religious person” could be. They realized that their images of Theology majors and observant religious people were not accurate because I did not fit the stereotypes. They said that over the years they have really appreciated my perspective and our friendship, and that they have learned why faith matters from me.
That, I think, is one of the highest compliments I have ever received. I hope that I am able to be a witness to faith in a way that is neither stuffy, nor annoying, nor holier-than-thou, but one that reflects and magnifies the love of God in every action. This love manifests itself most prominently in my relationships with others. The people I have met at Boston College have taught me how to love, and I will forever be grateful for their love in return.