Finding Your Own Narrative, Embracing The BC Social Aesthetic

As a Colombian and a secluded Newtonite with an aversion to sports, I never really experienced a football game day until sophomore year. I left Walsh and immediately heard the hum of voices, saw the yellow, the dads, the moms, the kids, the … cornholes? The experience felt foreign, almost cultish. But this aesthetic grew on me with time.

Senior year has been saturated with a lot of self-aware glances as we contemplate the ease with which we hangout. “Look at us, with our friends, laughing at the tailgate—so fun, so BC!” I’m still hyperaware (or lightheartedly self-conscious) of how I’ve become so relaxed in this foreign aesthetic. Gradually the experience has been endowed with an endearing sense of familiarity. It’s like the closest thing to weekend family dinners, to home. It’s something you can count on.

There’s a certain comfort, but also an eeriness, to feeling like there’s a greater force involved in this ultimate social ordering—Fr. Leahy’s watching Mean Girls and scheming. Yet my skepticism and negligence has turned into sincere appreciation of the age-old traditions, the inherited romanticism, the Mods, the familial atmosphere, and the shared sense of identity.

I think it’s important to be aware of this ideal of what our experience should look like, not in a screw-the-system-beware-of-the-hegemonic-machine sort of way, but because it’s very much present. We see it in greater school-wide rituals, but also in the inner workings of clubs and communities at Boston College.

I remember the first inklings of an aesthetic when I joined The Heights. Going to Cry Night sophomore year, listening to editors that were leaving the board talk about the friendships that had been fortified after late nights in the newsroom. I was captivated by all the jargon and references that got institutionalized with time and I think I instinctively wanted to be part of that community.

This vague sense of what college and friendship is supposed to look like manifests itself differently. Whether it be in theater, band, radio, club sports, or an Agape-Latte-Jesuit-volunteer-service-Iggy-Kairos sort of thing, we find ourselves assembling our lives with these standards in mind. This is all good and not rocket science. Yet, I find that a lot of the social anxiety and dissatisfaction that we encounter at school comes from the discrepancy between this aesthetic expectation and reality. Especially when we first get started.

For individuals who have siblings who attended BC, this familiarity with the school definitely contributes to their sense of what their experience should look like. Trying to replicate their siblings’ experiences is unattainable and would inevitably lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and create a negative disconnect.

I found it was important to let myself be moved—in doses—by some of these traditions. I realized I didn’t have to sacrifice any part of myself to share these moments with others. I countered this “BC” aesthetic with my own personal sense of what I believed friendship and socializing were supposed to be like in these years—there was an ebb and flow of both narratives. It’s like a consensual agreement to let myself be influenced, but not be entirely subject to this aesthetic.

Trying to align our reality to an aesthetic ideal is like doing something because we want a picture of the experience, not the experience itself. So, as much as it is helpful to work towards a static and somewhat streamlined goal, it’s equally important to give ourselves a chance to discover new aesthetics.

Two years ago I had meticulously planned to visit my friend MJ for Spring Break and on the eve of the trip, I realized I had an expired passport. (You need one of those to get into Canada.) I ended up calling one of my Dad’s old friends from art school, Yvonne, and spending the week in Buffalo. It was far from the image I had of what I wanted my Spring Break to look like, but it turned into an exceptional sort-of-fringe friendship. I think the less we program ourselves, the less internal tension we build up. Whether it is a desire to conform to a social aesthetic or to rebel against it, we end up shutting out the alternatives.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

Maddie Phelps

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