The Cavalier Daily
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Seize experiences as graduation nears

APRIL is the cruelest month for some, but at the University, it makes suffering through Charlottesville's rainy, dreary winter months worthwhile. Students shake out their picnic blankets and flock to pepper the Lawn on breezy Sunday afternoons, unable to resist the temptations drawing them out of the library and into a world waking up from three months of hibernation. April always reminds me of why I love the University, but now it also reminds me that my tenure here quickly is drawing to a close. Still, this bittersweet end should be an occasion for celebration, rather than an excuse to wallow in graduation malaise.

It's quite fitting that the eve of April 1 marks the 50-nights-til-graduation milestone. A Class of 2000 e-mail promotes the Last-Chance Wine Tasting Tour thus: "You cried when you heard that we had 100 nights left, what are you gonna do now that we have 50?" I wonder who came up with that marketing tactic? Make fourth-years so depressed about the prospect of leaving the University that anything involving alcohol seems like a good idea. But the spirit of the message should hit home to my compadres who can't contemplate the events of May 21 without flying into a blind panic. Yes, it's going to be hard to leave this place. Yes, you'll miss the Corner, the Lawn, the occasional jaunt to Rugby and, most importantly, your friends. But dwelling on the things you'll leave behind during your last opportunity to enjoy them will thwart the experiences of this final, glorious month.

The question we all ask each other these days -- "What are you doing with yourself next year?" -- remains the root cause of many a bout with pre-graduation funk. A survival tip for my fellow fourth-years: Whether you have your life in order or you have no idea what next year will bring, refrain from pestering others with this question. If your friends want to let you know their plans, they'll do so. If the stranger you encounter in OCPP wants to do the same, let him. But at this point, bringing up the subject of life beyond the University with those nervous about what that life might bring serves only as an unwelcome reminder of the uncertainty ahead. Rather than dwelling on what the future holds, concentrate on enjoying the present as much as possible, and allow those around you to do the same.

Each April weekend brings a plethora of Greek philanthropy events, a cappella concerts and other performing arts productions. If this is your last chance or your first to sample from among them, seize the opportunity. This flurry of activity only comes once a year and for some of us, it's coming for the last time. Soon, parties in the Lot, singing in Old Cabell Hall and drama in Culbreth Theatre will lie much further away than the 10 minute walk now required. Foxfield, a perennial favorite featuring sun dresses, straw hats and the occasional equestrian, provides an oh-so-traditional highlight of the spring experience at the University. Surrounded by beautiful people in their finery, some of whom also attempt to appear refined, seems "so U.Va." Even if you don't think this day-long field party is your scene, try it out while you have the chance.

These last undergraduate weeks provide an opportunity not only for fun, but also for sitting back to watch University leadership change hands. Relinquishing positions of influence in the organizations you love will be difficult. But take advantage of the opportunity to watch those you've trained and groomed as future leaders begin their tenures at the helm. Remember how excited you were at this time last year? You could see the pinnacle within your reach -- fourth-year status lay only weeks away. Now we look to Beach Week, and not much further. We're unwilling to contemplate what graduation and its aftermath will mean. And that's okay.

With the best month of the year stretched out before us, we should be focused on enjoying the moment rather than worrying about the future. I never have encountered a University student who didn't love this place. Maximizing happiness during the next month and determining what aspects of life are most central to doing so might help distract those who loathe the thought of leaving. Share the joys you've found at the University with others during Days on the Lawn, Spring Fling or even during random encounters with prospective students. Make the hoards of impressionable 18-year-olds who will visit during the coming month realize why this place is so remarkable. They'll know when they witness a glorious April afternoon on the Lawn. But tell them anyway. Articulating why you love the University forces you to determine which aspects of your life here mean the most. Those are the aspects that should monopolize your time during these last weeks.

A friend and I have a joke about creating a self-determined "A-List" to enumerate the most important people in your life. Though not a completely serious suggestion, prioritizing allocations of time and energy is becoming more crucial as the end draws near. Decide what needs to top your A-List this month. You have 30 days. Make the most of them.

(Amy Startt's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)


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