“Fourth year, don’t care” is a lie
Notes from the plane on why I’m pumped to be a fourth-year
I’m up at the crack of dawn this morning and weirdly happy about it. Actually, dawn is a stretch — the sky’s still purple and I can see all three stars visible from light-polluted Houston. My alarm went off at 2:50 a.m. On purpose.
It’s time to go home. And by home, I mean Charlottesville. I have a 5:15 a.m. flight and sleeping on the plane is proving to be a struggle — there’s turbulence, a mysterious ringing sound, and a hellishly pungent odor of jerky coming from the man in 7F.
Mostly, I cannot sleep because I’m Charlottesville-bound, about to start school for the last time ever. It’s not so much anxiety as vague excitement mixed with uncertainty mixed with readiness mixed with unreadiness — a trashcan punch of emotions and we’re all drinking it.
What do I want this year to be? Of course, I want it to be good. I want it to be memorable. And if a genie came and asked me if I wanted it to be the best year I’ve ever had, who wouldn’t say yes?
I’m excited to be able to say things like “fourth year, don’t care.” School is just starting and I’ve already heard people say it. But the funny thing is, if you think about it, no one is using the term to mean “I’m a fourth year and I’m done so I don’t care about anything.”
In fact, I’d say it means the absolute opposite. We use “fourth year, don’t care” in the way we used to use “YOLO” — to justify doing what we actually want, even if others deem what we want irresponsible. It’s an extension of the idea you really do only live once; you only get one fourth year, so carpe freaking annum. It means something much closer to “I’m a fourth year and I want it to be a great year so I’m going to do what I actually do care about instead of this other thing.”
“Fourth year, don’t care” shows us what matters to us, what we are willing to drop or be less uptight about so we can spend our time on something we think is better. It entails choosing one thing over another — value judgments upon value judgments.
Since I could probably win a gold medal in making choices and regretting them later, I asked a friend for some fourth-year advice. He emphasized getting to know fellow fourth-years better. Knowing we have a year left relights the fire in our collective belly to live fully in this community while we have it.
I’m excited to be a fourth year because I get to be one with thousands of fellow fourth years who are going to discover more of what matters to them this year — embracing the energy behind the “fourth year, don’t care” mentality, which decidedly means “fourth year, really do care.”
Kristen’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.