If you are ever blessed with the opportunity to spend some quality time in our office here at Fighting Irish Media, you might experience that I like to talk. A lot. To whoever will listen, which is usually not that many people.
Today, I was telling a story about the trip I took last week to Glacier, Montana. My "boss", aka NDSportsBlogger emeritus Aaron Horvath, was surprisingly listening, or at least pretending to, and told me I should write it down. In hindsight, he was probably just trying to get me to shut up.
Either way, here is my story of the day:
It actually begins at my graduation from Notre Dame a little over two months ago (insert sobbing emoji here).
I once heard the joke, "I didn't graduate Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or Cum Laude. I graduated Thank the Laude." This definitely applied to me.
I was a fine student who was involved in several activities, always had a job and internships, and studied for most of my tests in college. While I feel pretty good about my accomplishments at Notre Dame, my graduation outfit didn't consist of any ropes or sashes for any honors or societies. Nope, I stuck to the basics: cap and gown.
See here: Cap and gown (shoutout to my roommate and good friend Liz on the right)
But, this wasn't the case for a lot of my fellow classmates. Notre Dame students have a tendency to excel in many aspects of life: academics, athletics, service - you name it.
This excellence that I saw from so many of my classmates was exuded most of all by our valedictorian, Anna Kottkamp. Anna was a 4.0 environmental science major who has done research in Bolivia, an internship in Peru, was a member of the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, was very active in the South Bend community, and was an accomplished varsity rower who plans to do service after graduation before going to grad school. I've never been lucky enough to personally meet Anna but, judging by her presence on stage and her valedictorian speech, she seems like the nicest, most humble, down-to-earth person ever.
And there I was, just happy to have graduated and have a job lined up.
To be completely honest with you all, I definitely felt a little inferior to Anna after her amazing speech. I think everyone in the crowd was certainly wowed by her achievements and overall persona. I couldn't help thinking, "She is really outdoing me in life right now." Anna was, simply put, an awesome human.
So, how does this relate to my recent vacation?
Last week, I spent seven days hiking in Glacier with my dad, an avid backpacker/hiker/crazy outdoorsman. This vacation was sort of a pre-football season getaway where I could enjoy some time in the wilderness with my dad before the craziness of Notre Dame football starts picking up in August.
On our first day of hiking, my dad decided we were going to do a hike where we had to climb 2,300 feet.
I've been in these situations with my father before. He takes us on these hikes that the guidebooks call "moderately strenuous to strenuous", which is basically a less dramatic way of saying VERY HARD. The entire time, I usually have to pretend I'm not cursing him under my breath. I generally just keep quiet and try not to say something I'll regret. In his defense, though, if you want to see the best views, you have to climb a bit.
My dad fueling up mid-hike
Anyway, as I'm huffing and puffing my way up this mountain and wondering why on earth my dad couldn't have taken up less "strenuous" hobbies like golfing or fishing, I heard two people coming up the trail behind us. We paused and stepped off the trail to let the two faster hikers go by. But, these people weren't just hiking; they were running. Yes, they were RUNNING up this mountain that I was just trying to survive walking up.
As they got closer, I saw one woman was wearing a "Notre Dame Rowing" shirt. I immediately looked at her face to see if I knew this fellow Domer passing me on the trail. Sure enough, I did.
The woman running up the mountain was none other than Anna Kottkamp. She was, yet again, surpassing me in life.
"Out of all people to run past me on this mountain, it had to be our class valedictorian," was my first thought.
"She did college better than me and now she's climbing this mountain better than me," was my next thought.
(Anna, by the way, gave us a big smile and graciously thanked us as we let her pass - proving, again, what a nice person she is.)
So, I'm not sure what the moral of this story is or why I even felt compelled to share. If I was a pessimist, I'd probably say that this experience shows that no matter what I do in life, someone will always do it better.
Thankfully, I'm not that negative.
In all honesty, I thought it was pretty awesome that someone who I initially thought was living such a different life than I was, ended up on this same mountain to accomplish this same goal, even though she was doing it a lot quicker.
At the end of the day, Anna was not just our valedictorian. She was a classmate of mine. And how cool is it that I ran into a classmate on this specific trail in this specific national park? Of all the places we could've been on this one summer day, we chose the same one.
And I thought that was pretty cool.
Notre Dame truly is everywhere and while Anna passed me too fast for me to ask for a picture, leaving me no proof that this actually happened, hopefully you take my word for it.
When you're on top of a mountain, it's always comforting to know you have some fellow Notre Dame fans up there with you. Because you never know when you might run into a USC fan...