The Beginning of the End

Author: Mary Kate Healey

Senior year seems like a string of “lasts.” I have already had my last move in, last football game, last dorm dance, last Carroll Christmas, last class registration, and last first day of school. I went pumpkin-picking with my dorm for the last time and I got in trouble with hall staff for keeping my rotting (yet festive) pumpkins for too long for the last time. This past weekend, I had a particularly difficult last - my last dance showcase.

Like any other Irish-Catholic child of the 1990s, I grew up watching Michael Flatley’s theatrical masterpieces on VHS. In the summer of 2001, I was exposed to the live version of this dance form on a family vacation to Bush Gardens, and was enrolled in classes soon after. I spent almost a decade covered in sock glue and sequins, careful to cross my feet and point my toes. My dance school was very small and not as competitive as others, (I urge you to watch the documentary Jig to see what I mean) which although created a cozy and welcoming environment ultimately couldn’t sustain itself any longer. My personal competitive career faced its own roadblocks as I grew older and awkwardly struggled to dance elegantly through growth spurts, so by the end of eighth grade, I retired up my wig for what I thought was forever.

A week into my first year at Notre Dame, I attended the Activities Fair, one of the more stressful rights of passage we have to offer new students. (We have over 400 student clubs, so checking out that many booths can be a little overwhelming.) Through the hustle and bustle, I saw a green poster board advertising for the ND/SMC Irish Dance Team, and I sheepishly approached. I talked to the girls behind the booth for a minute, and they gave me a flyer for auditions. A week later, I found myself at an audition, surrounded by strangers and incredibly nervous about making a fool of myself. After a day of learning and performing steps, they graciously granted me a spot on the team.

Fast forward a few years: I’m standing on the Washington Hall stage as the curtain closes and the lights fade. I truly realize for the first time that this is it - it’s over. I will never again dance on this stage. I can only hope I made the most of it, took a lot of pictures, and will appreciate this opportunity for all it is worth. If I learned anything from my younger self, though, it is that I am not done dancing forever. I know I will dance again, somehow, and I am dedicated to making sure of it. I thought this door was closed years ago, but I had the courage to open it. That, and a little luck (of the Irish) to be at a school with a team.

For all you high school seniors out there saddened by your string of lasts, remember that what comes next will be your string of firsts. You will have your first move in, your first football game, your first dorm dance, your first Carroll Christmas, your first class registration, and your first day at a new school. Take risks. Enjoy the present. Look forward to what your future holds.

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