I had a difficult time picking the right college. When I finally decided on John Carroll University, it was a huge weight off of my shoulders, as I’m sure it was for everyone else. I couldn’t wait to move into my very first home away from home.
One thing I was nervous about, though, was finding out what the school was really like. The tours and brochures obviously made it sound awesome, but I knew some of that had to have been a little bit embellished.
One selling point I remember in particular was that my tour guide told me John Carroll was like a family.
I obviously didn’t believe that.
So many other small schools I visited said the same thing. That the smaller campus community provided a tight-knit atmosphere, as if it were a family. My high school said that, too. My high school sucked.
I figured that the shuttle wouldn’t actually take me anywhere I wanted, and that the food probably wasn’t as fabulous as they said it could be.
I was right about most of the doubts I had, except for the one about Carroll being a family.
I wasn’t one of Pat Waldron’s closest friends, but we had been friends since freshman year when he tried to impress me with his jokes while wearing a women’s Nike sweatband on his forehead.
We got much closer our sophomore year when we happened to be in two classes together. I never wanted to miss class, because if I did, I wouldn’t get to listen to him pronouncing all of the words much louder and with a much heavier Spanish accent than necessary.
And who could forget his Snapchats asking for smiles when he needed them, or of his “f*** cancer” hat? No one could.
Of course I miss Pat. It’s hard not to miss someone who was a positive influence in your life, even for just a little while.
But this isn’t just about Pat. This is about everybody else, too.
As I was sitting in the St. Francis chapel two weeks ago during Pat’s memorial mass, I was emotionally overwhelmed by the people who I was sharing that space with.
I would have never, ever guessed, or could have hoped, to be at a university that fosters a community like this one. I have never heard of a school coming together to commemorate and celebrate the lives of its students the way John Carroll does so often. I am so happy and eternally grateful to everyone that has contributed to this feeling in that sense.
I don’t think this school is perfect. Everytime I send in my tuition payment plan bills, a very large part of my soul dies. Thank God I have a big soul because those things just keep coming.
And I know I hype up Carroll a lot in my columns, but this school is an easy thing to talk about because it’s so wonderful in so many ways.
I know I may complain about the not-so-great stuff a lot, so I figure that this is a good place to say why I love it so much.
This is for Danielle Rose, Adam Shergalis, in honor of Rachel Kirsch and for Pat, and for all of my JCU friends, teachers, acquaintances. You’re all my second family, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.