Anticipation. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act of looking forward, especially to a pleasurable expectation.” It’s the waiting period before a song’s beat drops, or the upward climb on a huge roller coaster. It’s the countdown to the beginning, the climax and then the end — a natural human proclivity to prepare for the future. When I was a child, my parents would occasionally surprise me with toys. Did you know the average first-grader gets about 72 new toys per year? At least in my house we did. As children, we are filled with silly hopes and dreams for what each single day will bring, whether it’s a gold sticker in class, a visit from the Tooth Fairy, a McDonald’s sundae after soccer practice, or a Nintendo 64. One of my most vivid childhood memories was the summer I went to Disney World for the very first time. I have a massive, alphabetically arranged, collection of Disney classics. As a child I’d watch a movie once a week, each time elevating my hopes for a visit to the magical motherland. On July 4, 1999, I was eight years old. My parents sat me down because they wanted to talk. I normally feared situations like this, given the trouble my inherently wild nature could get me in to — I was a kid on a leash, once literally. I thought they were going to punish me, as was the norm, but to my pleasant surprise, they told me we would be leaving to go to Orlando, Fla. the very next day. Then the yells of excitement began. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I couldn’t sleep. It was just like the Disney commercials: children waking their parents up at 4 a.m. on the day of departure. When I walked into the park for the very first time, I was overwhelmed. It was so much more than I could ever have dreamed of, and the anticipation made this new place so much better to me. I rode Space Mountain, and I knew that I would be going to infinity and beyond. In the years since, I have gone through 17 years of schooling, I’ve had 11 phones — I dropped my iPhone in college more times than I would like to admit — moved three times, and now I am about to graduate from the University of Virginia. Every moment leading up to this has been so exciting. I’ve crossed off most of the things on the list of “113 Things To Do Before You Graduate.” I’ve joined some pretty amazing organizations that have given me the ability to come out of my shell and have pushed me to my limits. I am about to finally reach the top of Space Mountain and take the plunge into the unknown, walking down the Lawn for one last time. To my fellow fourth-years, I know this time is nerve-wracking — but don’t be afraid. Take deep breaths, because it’s only a ride. See where it takes you. Al’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. He can be reaches at firstname.lastname@example.org.