Quarterlife Crisis


It would be fantastic to be able to start off a column by saying, “Three years ago today, I wrote my first column for the Cavalier Daily.” Coincidences and anniversaries are always good ways to start anew. Unfortunately, my first column for the Cavalier Daily was actually written “More than three years ago but less than four,” and that statement doesn’t have as nice of a ring to it. That column was called My Fractured First Year — a name suggested by Anya, one of my first-year suitemates. I don’t live near Anya anymore, so recent column names have proven to be substantially less ingenious.

The title was fitting because the column centered around a defining first-year experience for me. I could recap it in the words of my current, fourth-year self, but I think a quote from my first column would be more appropriate:

“At 4:14 p.m. Aug. 25, somewhere on the harried expanse between Carruthers Hall and Central Grounds that is Emmet Street, I ceased to be an ordinary first-year student biking back to my dorm room and became, instead, The Girl Who Got Hit by the Truck. To shorten what otherwise could grow into a tiresome, long-winded account, a truck pulling out of a parking lot plowed into the back of my bike, flinging me from the sidewalk to the middle of the road. After a whirlwind ambulance ride, my RA and I spent a slow nine hours or so in the ER waiting for my painkillers and X-ray results. My suitemates and I underwent some unexpected bonding that night as they worked to clean the dark, oily smears of tar and dirt from my legs and raw road rash. The diagnosis revealed that I had a hematoma on my right thigh and two pelvic fractures. The next day, armed with my shiny, new aluminum crutch, I looked at the stairs and hills throughout Grounds with a newfound sense of dread.”

My first-year columns were dedicated to quintessential first-year experiences while discovering U.Va. and figuring out my place here — all while healing multiple pelvic fractures and other injuries from my accident.

Fourth year has, at least so far, become a time of reflection. Do you know how people tend to talk frequently about remembering things on their deathbeds? Fourth year is a metaphorical deathbed. Am I proud of my time here? Could I have done things differently? Do I like where I’m headed?

If I hadn’t written a column during first year, I probably would have forgotten everything — how I felt, what my hopes were, how I wanted to grow as a student. And thanks to The Cavalier Daily’s searchable online archives, all those transcribed memories are only a few keystrokes away.

I can read all of my columns, and that’s what I’m going to do. This column set is going to be a semester-long compare and contrast essay. Don’t worry, I think it will be more interesting than that makes it sound.

Maybe that’s vain, but here’s the catch — it isn’t going to be strictly about me. It is in one sense, but I also want this column to be able to help you. If you’re a fourth-year, or a third-year, maybe it will help you reflect, too. If you’re a first-year, maybe it will remind you of how quickly the time goes.

To bring it all together: I wrote a column first year. I’m writing a column as a fourth-year in some strange effort to connect the beginning and the end of my college experience. I want to see how The Girl Who Got Hit By the Truck became The Girl About To Graduate.

I hope you’ll read with me. I hope you’ll reflect with me. It’s been a long ride, and there have been ups and downs, but it’s been real.

Courtney’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at c.hartnett@cavalierdaily.com.

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