I have a pair of shoes I bought just before my sophomore year at Georgetown, at a time when I was afraid, after a tough freshman year. After years of wear, not only have I lived and experienced so much inside them, but they also have become my most comfortable pair of shoes. Whenever I am feeling disheveled or frazzled, I slip into this pair of shoes that are formed to my feet and instantly feel more comfortable, more at ease and slightly less stressed out than before.
Many of the memories in these shoes were created while grilling in Red Square every Friday as a part of the Georgetown University Grilling Society, a group that has become just as comfortable and welcoming to me as those pair of shoes I bought when I joined. Like every new freshman who first walked onto this campus, I yearned to find “my people” at college. I wanted to be understood and welcomed for who I was.
After failing to find such a group during my freshman year, as a discouraged sophomore I walked up to my first grill on a sunny Friday in September. At the time, I thought I was joining a club that made burgers for members of the Georgetown community. What I found in GUGS has become so much more.
Georgetown can be an incredibly competitive and high-stress environment. As a student in the business school, competition is inherent in the grading system for our classes. There are clubs that are more difficult to get into than Georgetown itself. Many people here, myself included, find we constantly compare ourselves to others and find ourselves upset over who has the better job, got into the better club or received the better grade.
GUGS has provided a respite from all of the stress, big and small, that I have encountered in my time here. No matter what was happening that week — from job interviews to accounting midterms, to relationship stress and breakups — there was always a Friday to look forward to, where I could show up to Red Square in any state of appearance and demeanor, and I know I had a place where I could be amongst friends who would not judge me or write off how I was feeling.
I could focus on working with my hands and working together with others, all while cracking jokes, laughing and singing to Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen and serving the Georgetown community. Nobody takes himself or herself too seriously; in this environment of laughter and community, my stresses of the week would float away.
As I get ready to leave the Hilltop, I know GUGS and the community I have found will be what I miss most. It is so difficult to replicate or transfer the GUGS experience to life after college, unlike friends or hobbies, and I know when I graduate I will be saying goodbye to the GUGS and the Georgetown I know forever. I know I can always come and visit, but it will be inevitably different. I am afraid of not having five hours every Friday that I know I can count on to always make me feel better and provide much-needed laughter and silliness in my life.
Georgetown’s focus on Jesuit values has influenced my four years here in various ways. One value in particular has given me special comfort over the past few weeks: gratitude. I have tried to use the quote from Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others,” to guide my attitude surrounding graduation. I cannot change the fact that I will be graduating or how the next time I come back to a grill things will be different. What I can choose, however, is to show how grateful I am for the time I did get at Georgetown, how thankful I am to experience the love, family and comfort from a group like GUGS.
Allison Manning is a senior in the McDonough School of Business
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