A few weeks ago, I was walking home from central Grounds. I took the same path that I always do. I strolled past the Rotunda then crossed the street to walk alongside the Corner. As I navigated my way through the students and restaurants that always enliven the Corner, I realized how familiar and ordinary it felt. Yet only two years ago, I remember feeling so intimidated by it all. I didn’t know where Roots or Grit were. I didn’t know The Virginian was nicknamed “Virg” or what in the world “Survivor Hour” could be. But somehow, in the blink of an eye, that once alien world became my own. Looking back, I spent so much time trying to do it all and often felt like I was falling short of college expectations. But little by little, I’ve learned to savor the present and be okay with missing some things.
That walk home was one of the first times it really hit me — I used to think I had an eternity until I would begin fourth year and there I was starting it. Graduation and serious job hunting was always something I witnessed other people doing. Now, it was my turn. That’s the tricky part about time — for better or for worse, it moves forward.
I’ve grappled with the idea of growing older and the passage of time almost my entire life. Even as my 21-year-old self, I vividly remember my thoughts as a second grader. I would look up to the fourth graders in awe of how mature and cool and tall they all seemed. I couldn’t imagine being that old. Then, I entered middle school and eventually high school. With each step, similar sentiments crossed my mind. And now, here I am, on the last stretch of the sequence. It’s bittersweet to say the least.
As I’m writing this, my stomach is in knots and a part of me doesn’t want to think about it at all. One of the toughest parts is recognizing that time does and will pass. Someday, I’ll be looking back on this entire year and I won’t actually be living it. Fourth year in particular feels fleeting. In a way, it’s silly — this year is still just a quarter of our college careers. Simultaneously, I feel a pressure to savor each moment a lot more than I have in the past. It’s the culmination and conclusion of our college years, after all.
Because moments feel more fleeting, I’ve sometimes found it difficult to find complete contentment with my choices. If I’m studying alone, I feel like I’m missing out on quality time with my friends. If I’m putting aside my work to be with other people, I feel like I’m not prioritizing academics enough. Spending time with one person means losing time with other people. It’s a tough balancing act.
Luckily, one critical dose of reality my older brother shared has helped me over the past few months. College is all about sacrifices and tradeoffs. It’s difficult to do it all. There’s almost always something else or something potentially better you could be doing. And isn’t that how most moments in life go? We often don’t know if what we’re choosing to do is the “best” option — or if a “best” even exists.
Ultimately, you can’t optimize everything all the time, but you can learn to embrace the present moments. As someone who’s prone to feeling FOMO, I’ve failed to enjoy certain experiences at times because I felt like I was missing out elsewhere. So, accepting that college life is bound to be intertwined with compromises has been a critical lesson for me. The grass often appears greener on the other side no matter what you choose — it’s easier said than done but it really is futile to think about what could’ve been. I aspire to leave this year feeling like I found contentment in whatever I did do, even if there could’ve been a better alternative.
This entire train of thought boils down to one thing. How do I come to terms with the fact that the year is going by so quickly? To be honest, I’m not sure if I can ever really accept the reality of a fleeting fourth year. There’s some people who are ready to leave and begin the next phases of their lives. Then, there’s people like me — in denial that graduation is just around the corner. It’s difficult to accept that supposedly some of the “best years of our lives” are about to conclude.
But if these past few years of writing have taught me anything, reflection often brings resolution. It is true that time does pass, oftentimes a bit too quickly. It means good moments come to an end. However, it also signifies a culmination of all the new memories you’ve made and the people you’ve met and the hurdles you’ve overcome.
These past few years have matured me into who I am and shaped how I think. They’ve brought me to the people who I now call my closest friends. And, these years are beautifully adorned with the nights out and spontaneous excursions and living room conversations that I’ll hold close forever. And, in that way, I’m grateful for this passage of time. I hope you are too.