The U.Va. experience, as told by a chronically late fourth-year

U.Va. lessons I’ve learned from being tardy

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Athena Lee is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

I’m a little late on a lot of things. Here are a few examples — I didn’t lose my last few teeth until I was in fifth grade, I buy trendy clothes long after they can still be classified as “in style” and I don’t like to leave my warm bed in the morning until it’s absolutely necessary. And I always rack up late fees every time another unwelcome sorority fee rolls around.

I feel late on more significant things too, although I do consider my tooth-loss timeline a crucial part of my childhood identity. I was later than most in loving the University. I actually hated it here — for a while. I never really found my niche before getting overwhelmed by the atmosphere here. To me, the University was foreign, difficult and didn’t offer much support for a first-year trying to practice independence without a clue of where to exactly begin.

It was hard to be candid about this fact around fellow first-year students who also pretended, or genuinely felt, like college was incredible and that balancing school and friends was easy. At the same time, I felt a certain level of isolation from the friends I had begun to make. A lot of my friends joined sororities while I didn’t, boys were rushing and everyone else seemed to find their niche elsewhere.

So, I was late to rush. I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole Greek life thing, so I didn’t end up joining a sorority until my second year, which meant that I was also late on making friends within the sorority, but I found that didn’t matter. The organization I chose to be a part of gave me people who are always worrying about how I’m getting home, making me laugh despite having tough days and motivating me to be a better person. Meeting these people finally caught me up with everyone else — I officially loved the University. It was probably the best decision I’ve made as a student here — something I never thought I’d say about joining a sorority, even if I was a little late. During my last bid day with this group of women, I realized that I do wish I were a little earlier on finding this special place.

As for other things, the same pattern of tardiness follows. For example, I didn’t realize until it was a little too late that the opportunities I’ve been afforded throughout my four years here have been essentially priceless. World-class resources are at our disposal here, and I’ve been taking advantage of them for years now. The fact that I’m being practically fed information from professors — who are way smarter than I will ever be — is a gift I didn’t realize I was blessed with until recently. I researched and found that my professors were spearheading really cool public health projects across the globe that might have real implications for our health outcomes and wellbeing. As for some of the smaller perks, I just learned today that there has always been free printing at the Multicultural Student Center on the bottom floor of Newcomb Hall until 2 p.m. — countless pages of readings too late.

Despite being aware of some things now, I’m still late. I’m a second semester fourth-year who is late on my pre-med requirements, my job applications and figuring out what I truly want to do in the future. Do I want to be a doctor? Can I still be a doctor? Is corporate America really that bad? Yeah — it is. Will this job make me feel like crap when I’m 40? These internal dialogues remind me that there are still so many things I am hurrying to understand and catch up on.

But maybe I don’t wish I were earlier and less late. Maybe I just wish I had more time to meet people and be awestruck by them, to study and take it seriously and to love this University wholly for the experiences it affords me. Sometimes, I wish I had more time to understand exactly where my passions lie. Retrospectively, I realize I could have done so much more to meet these goals earlier, or at least on time. But since I can’t change time, and I’m always tardy anyway, can graduation just be a little later?

Athena Lee is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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