A pale girl with dark bags under her eyes trudges up to the counter at City Convenience. Her arm lands on the counter with a plop as she slides over a bottle of Robitussin to the thin white male wearing a black and red checkered flannel at the cash register. He looks at her with a soft smile through his chestnut-colored beard and rings the medicine up for her. As she turns to leave, he says in an Irish accent, “Feel better, dear.”
Only his accent isn’t real.
Patrick Grogan, MCAS ’18, perhaps better known as the “City Co. Guy,” has a self-afflicted Irish accent.
“A lot of people think I’m Irish,” he said. “I’m not.”
Many Boston College students who wander into City Co. on weekend nights can recognize the “City Co. Guy.”
“He’s the Irish guy with the really long ponytail, right?” Caleb Welch, BC ’17, said.
“He also says ‘dear’ a lot,” Na-Eun Kim, LSOE ’18, said.
In his late-night position at the store, Grogan can be both jarring and caring at the same time. Sometimes he asks how your day went, while in other encounters he will go off on a tangent about global warming, his voice rising with anger. Grogan seems to be passionate about everyone and everything—which it makes it strange that something so common to the BC community would actually make him feel like an outsider.
Grogan’s first meeting with BC was more than picture-perfect. He stepped on a campus much different from its 2017 iteration, when Stayer was still called The Gate and Stokes wasn’t even built yet, in 2012. The much-adored BC grass was shrouded in powdery snow, glistening under the sun. Even the space where Stokes would one day house classrooms and offices, called the Dustbowl, looked beautiful. The cold temperatures did not dissuade Grogan from the campus—originally from a town in New York that borders Scarsdale and Yonkers, he was used to the Northeast weather.
“Full disclosure, I chose the school because it was just very pretty,” Grogan said.
But sometimes we fall victim to an aesthetic, forgetting that classes, exams, and real life also play out on campus. Grogan returned to New York to finish out his last few months of high school and prepare for his move to college life, and the concrete parts of BC faded from view, leaving only the pretty, snow-covered picture of campus in his mind. When freshman year picked up and reality came back to the forefront, Grogan started to feel lost.
“Once I got to school, I remembered that this is the decision I made,” he said. “This is no longer a fantasy.”
The pressure of classes wasn’t the only thing that troubled Grogan. When he arrived on campus, he was a clean-shaven young man with a crew cut, much like the typical BC guy. It was the kind of cookie-cutter appearance that fell right in line with the Vineyard Vines quarter-zip sweaters and boat shoes. He adopted the work-hard, play-hard attitude common at BC and other competitive schools, studying during the week and going out multiple nights on weekends. But not everything about Grogan conformed to the mold—his flannel shirts and skateboard attire, with bold patterns and colors, stood out like a sore thumb. People noticed that there was something that did not scream BC Eagle, and they were not afraid to point it out to him.
“I hate the words, ‘You don’t look like you go here,’” Grogan said. “I’ve gotten that so many times that eventually, the thought is, ‘Then why am I here?’”
As the years went on, the feelings of isolation only compounded on him, and eventually Grogan needed a break. During his first semester of his senior year in 2015, Grogan contracted mononucleosis after drinking out of a cup that his roommate failed to properly clean. The illness added another stressor to an already anxious Grogan, who was struggling to juggle working eight hour shifts at City Co. with schoolwork and friends.
“I had some issues with stress and anxiety, and it doesn’t help when there is a validated culture where people think you can or cannot belong to it, and the first thing you say to someone is, ‘You don’t look like you go here,’” Grogan said. “ It doesn’t help. It’s like saying the sky is blue. Congratulations.”
Grogan took a much-needed leave of absence from BC, delaying his graduation until spring 2018. He went home for the year and took some time away from his academic studies, as well as his job at CityCo. When he returned in 2016, he started growing his signature long hair and beard out, which made him feel more comfortable in his skin. Though it strayed farther from the BC boy stereotype, it did not bring on the same stress and questioning from himself that plagued him earlier in his college career.
At the same time, his change in appearance brought on unwanted attention and comments at times. Grogan said that people have called him a derogatory term for an LGBTQ+ person, because his appearance is not the most typically masculine or heteronormative. But while comments such as this may have bothered Grogan more in the past, as a fifth-year senior, he remains unfazed.
Grogan has also turned his attention to trying to change the behaviors of his fellow students, as well as his generation in general. He thinks people spend too much time on their phones, and do not realize how important just saying hello or asking someone how he or she is can be to people who are struggling. Not everything is so dismal, however. Grogan is one of the few students who has spanned two generations of BC, seeing one complete one-year journey and watching another unfold. Being in the middle of these two has shown him how much the school and its students have changed over his five-year career. Now, people are more open and are more willing to have tough conversations, he said. It makes him optimistic for the BC that will exist after he graduates in December 2017. He suggests allowing exploratory events like retreats and classes like Perspectives to take on a heavier role in later years at BC, when the conversations about God, social justice, the meaning life, and who you are stop for most people.
The fact that Grogan has so much time to think about all of these things is a testament to his character. He can never just think of himself—to him, that would not be the most useful way to spend his time.
“You don’t always meet people as selfless and knowledgable like he is,” Jeff Perez, a friend of Grogan’s since freshman year and MCAS ’18, said. “He almost thinks beyond himself—like he’s pondering the objective good rather than his own wants and needs.”
The questions don’t stop when it comes to our current society or BC students. As a biology and classics major, Grogan spends time delving deep into the ancient pasts of Greece and Rome while keeping up with the most current science news. For Grogan, he can only specialize in so much. He loves philosophy, reading books, and getting sucked down an unending information hole in the form of Wikipedia pages. Nothing is not worth knowing.
Looking back on his years at BC, he has grown immensely in knowledge and his sense of self. Though at times he can get bogged down by questions of authenticity or belonging, he has found a comfort in discovering and conveying who he wants to be, no matter the stereotype or pre-conceived notions.
“Questions like, ‘You don’t look like you go here’ don’t bother me as much now because I know who I am—to a point,” Grogan said. “Still not very well, but it’s taken a lot of people knowing—or telling me explicitly that they don’t know who I am—for me to know myself better.”
Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor