In class last week, one of my professors said casually, "oh, you'd better get to work on those research papers... they're due in about three weeks." I felt my heart stop. Those papers are due on the last day of classes. I just pictured the color draining away from me in a cartoonish way until I was completely see-through as I put together that I only have three weeks between me and only having one more year of undergrad. Slightly-more-than-mild panic set in.
First, my brain started reeling through all of the assignments I still have to do. Six books to read, two research papers to write, two final exams, one final literature paper, and one film analysis. Three weeks to do it all. And let's not forget about the internship I'm working, the CIO I'm president of, visiting home for Easter, maintaining a long-distance relationship, and trying to spend as much time as possible with my friends who are graduating. Oh and enjoying the beautiful Spring weather — can't forget that.
But even all of that wasn't the real reason I was panicking. The panic set in because I do not feel by any means like I'm ready to be a fourth year. Not even close. I don't know what my post-graduation plans look like (other than the hazy notion of "grad school"). I don't have my life together. I don't even know what I want next week to look like, let alone the rest of my life.
When I was a little baby first year, I met all of these upperclassmen and I remember thinking "wow! They're so grown up and wise!" Realizing now that I'm their age and I don't see myself as being any of the things I thought of them as being is the main source of this panic. In my head, I'm still one of the young ones, one of the ones who can look up to the older ones and just kind of enjoy living my life without having to plan for the next big change. But that isn't the case. In three weeks, I won't just be one of the older ones, I will be a fourth year; graduation will stop being some hazy dream or a "Oh, I'll get there someday," and will start being a terrifying and rapidly-approaching reality.
At the beginning of this year, I was hanging out with some friends at our house, and my roommate asked each of us what we would title this year if it was a chapter of a book. I remember answering "the beginning of the end" because I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that this would be the last year for a lot of things; I have lots of friends graduating, I know I'll be prepping for all of the major life changes that come with graduating next year, all of that good stuff. But looking back, I would title this year something more like "up and over" or "mountain climbing." Believe me, I hear how stupid those both sound, but it really does kind of feel that way. There wasn't a lot of transition between second and third year. I was living at the same place and five of the seven other people in my house were the same, so there wasn't a lot of change. But since August, there's this feeling that I've climbed up a mountain and that, by the end of April, I will have finished coming down on the other side.
And so I'm finding myself mostly over the mountain of third year, nearly ready to walk through whatever landscape fourth year will offer me, and I don't feel at all ready. I feel panicky and nervous (and OK, fine, I guess a little excited too). It's not that I don't want to graduate and move on, because trust me, there are some days when I'm so discontent with where I'm at that I feel something pushing toward excitement over graduation. It's just that I don't feel ready. Maybe I'm being nostalgic for something I don't want to give up quite yet. Maybe it's because I remember those older students and I don't feel like I've made it to the same place they seemed to be at when they were here. Or maybe I just know that it isn't quite time yet.
I have learned though, that everything is going to keep moving whether or not I'm on board with it. So, solution to my panic (other than a lot of praying): milk the time I have left for all it's worth, to get my head out of the sand of worrying and instead ride out this last year of college life. Cheers to fourth year!