Alumni raise questions: Are these the best years of our lives?

Nothing brings alumni back like a goodfootball weekend.

By Friday afternoon, the cars start rolling down Main Street, waving their orange and blue flags. Every restaurant has a two-hour wait and you can just forget about parking anywhere in the greater Charlottesville area.

But whatever we lose in parking spaces, we gain in spirit. Just walking down the Corner, you find yourself swimming in that sea of orange and blue. Even the tiniest toddler has a blazing "V" on the back of his jumper.

Between the Career Fair and the football game last weekend, it almost felt like reunions had come to town a few months early.

For many recent alums, it was the first time they had been back to Charlottesville since walking their way down a muddy Lawn last May. But whether it had been six months or six years, the mood was still the same: "I would give anything to be back in college again."

I have been hearing this lament continuously since the summer. I would meet alumni during my internship, and it would not be very long before the nostalgia took hold of them.

They would reminisce about football tailgates, Thursday nights and living on the Lawn. They would ask whether their favorite professors were still teaching and if anyone still ate Gus Burgers at the White Spot.

Regardless of the story, it always ended with the same words: "I would give anything to be back in college."

As a fourth year, the pressure is especially high to "take advantage" of your last year in Charlottesville. I constantly hear how fast the year will go and how painful my first day of "real work" will be.

I even had one guy refer to Charlottesville as "God's country" when talking with another U.Va. alum. No doubt he spoke the truth, but it makes me wonder what type of hostile territory might be waiting for me when I leave Virginia.

I have always heard it said that college is the best four years of one's life. While my college career has certainly lived up to that statement so far, I hate to think that I will never experience this much fun again.

I do see the point, though. When will you ever have an opportunity to live with 12,000 people your own age and to learn so much every day? When will your weekend ever begin on Thursday night? And when will you get an entire month off in December and three months vacation in the summer?

Is it too late to sign up for the Ed-school, so I can stay another year?

I have begun to understand that part of the nostalgia and the longing to return to Cavalier Country is simply the allure of the "good old days."

While it is certain that past students have made wonderful memories in Charlottesville, it is also quite possible that we look back through rose-colored glasses after we take our degree on the Lawn.

I think it was the poet laureate William Joel (better known to some of you as "Billy") that said, "The good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."

I sure hope that's true, or else I am facing the sad prospect of my life being all downhill after age 22.

We will all miss the fall days on the Lawn, Sunday brunches at the Tavern and all the other Charlottesville experiences that keep alums coming back for football weekends. But I am also looking forward to earning a real paycheck, buying my first house and having a business card with my name on it.

On a side note, what is it about business cards that signal that you are officially an adult? I have seen the business cards of friends who have recently graduated, and it is astounding how professional they sound on a 2 x 4" card.

Their name goes from "Jimmy" to "James Davidson Whitmore Ellington, IV" as soon as the card is printed. It is almost as if these names appear out of nowhere.

I for one will be delighted, although somewhat frightened, when I finally see my name in that embossed ink. As my only middle name is Anne, I will spend the next 10 months coming up with some appropriate fillers.

Now, pardoning our short detour, we return to the topic at hand.

With homecoming weekend quickly approaching, I am prepared for the nostalgia to intensify around Charlottesville, as alums return from all across the country.

It is important that we listen to their stories and match our own experiences with theirs. Keep in mind that one day you will return to U.Va. and will want an undergraduate to patiently listen to your reminiscing.

We will play our part next weekend to reenact all the good times that alums have had at Virginia. We will dress in our preppiest finery for the game, we will eat chicken wings and potato chips on the Lawn, and we will pack the Biltmore Saturday night.

Nothing is more popular than returning to the bars on the Corner, whether you are even aware that the Greenskeeper has been replaced by another bar with a funny name.

Regardless if they seek refreshment at Jaberwoke or Coups, the alums will be out in full force next weekend.

Take a moment to appreciate their love for this school and to appreciate the time you have left here.

Then quietly excuse yourself from the festivities by reminding them that you have been out since Thursday night.

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