PARTING SHOT: Appreciating the more lackluster fourth-year realities

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Athena Lee was a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

It’s around the time of year when people start reminiscing and naturally these reflections culminate into a realization about how much one has changed, matured and learned from years past. For me, as a graduating fourth year, my life and my friends’ lives are no exception to these inevitable sentiments. But what’s underrated, I think, is also the ways we may not have changed so much.

For example, I think I’ll always be scatterbrained. It takes a lot of energy for me to stay organized, which is a shame because I love being organized. This means that I have to make a lot of lists, and my OCD doesn’t let me leave anything even slightly up-in-the-air. You could probably spend an entire day scrolling through my iPhone notes of day itineraries.

Somewhat related to this is my forgetfulness. I don’t remember anything. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’ve always been like this. I check Facebook every morning to make sure I’m not forgetting one of my close friends’ birthdays, and again, my iPhone notes are full of reminders — as is my reminders app.

Did I mention I think I have undiagnosed ADHD? Not in the way that “everyone does these days,” but in the way that my thoughts are constantly changing, and my brain is always turned on. I agree that the condition is over-diagnosed, and I most likely don’t need to be medicated for it, but those hour and fifteen minute classes are pretty excruciating.

These traits have followed me throughout my entire life, and I have a sinking suspicion that they’re not going away anytime soon. It’s always been hard for me to focus in college, but no year was as hard for me as my second year. In the wake of my exciting and dynamic first year, where I met more people than even existed in my small hometown and quickly got involved in organizations that made me feel like I was truly part of the University, I found my scatterbrained nature spiraling out of control.

So then I became extremely anxious and depressed that year. I stopped taking my iPhone notes, slept in a lot, and had a hard time compartmentalizing the thoughts that ran rampant in my brain. During this time, I hated myself for being so lofty and wished I could just focus on the important things — school, my health and those who were close to me. This funk lasted for a while until around my fourth year.

This year, I am taking notes in my iPhone again, reprioritizing the things that matter, and yes, still being extremely aloof a lot of the time. Instead of this trait hurting me, though, I’m channeling it into more productive mentalities. This comes in the form of spontaneous trips with friends, walking a little slower on the way to class to enjoy the final strolls as an undergraduate, going to the gym when I need to move, still getting involved in University clubs even though it’s probably too late and reminding myself that it’s all right to feel a little disoriented as a fourth-year too.

Though the endings of these four years marks infinite amounts of changes, both professionally and personally, there are still things that remain. For me, it’s my inconvenient, weirdly-OCD, borderline-ADHD, overactive personality. Looking ahead, this character trait is already impacting my future goals and career plans. In simpler terms, I don’t know what I’m exactly doing. My passions are just as scattered as my brain is, and in a world where our paths need to be determined as soon as possible, I’m sure I will run into some roadblocks along my way.

But despite my nightmare second year and despite my friends occasionally getting mad when I don’t remember a story they told me two days ago, I can confidently say this personality curse is the only reason I now love the University as much as I do. Without being so hyperactive, I wouldn’t have gotten involved — and arguably piled my plate too high — with the organizations I fell in love with — Class Council, The Cavalier Daily, Lighting of the Lawn and Madison House to name a few. Thanks to my lack of focus, I took the random anthropology course that completely changed how I view the way people behave, and the Asian American studies class that allowed me to understand my own self and culture on another level. If it weren’t for my restlessness, I would have no good stories to tell about my spontaneous nights out.  

So though it’s the season of celebrating change, growth and maturity, I urge you to also reflect on some of the things that haven’t changed and may not ever change. If you look at these in a different light, you could find a lot of beauty in the boring, stagnant things as well. For me, I’m just now realizing that sometimes the greatest growth comes from being able to better handle things that are out of my control. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what a scatterbrained Athena does in the real world.

Athena Lee was a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

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