The best four years of our lives? I hope not.

Published: November 29, 2012, 2:52 am ET
Graphic courtesy of Carlton Zesch
"But this year, I can’t help but feel that that same chair, that same line at ETC feels incredibly mundane. The 'bubble' feels cloying, closing in on me with alarming swiftness."
Opinion Editor

People say that college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives.

And yes, rarely if ever again will we have access to an all-you-can-eat dining hall, a free gym or the time to take a course merely to learn the intricate facets of Lady Gaga’s personal life. Once we’re holding that diploma, the years of only having to worry about getting a B in Finance and which pregame to attend will be over. There’s a sense of carefreeness unique to the years of higher education that we should soak up before it’s gone.

But the best four years of our lives? I hope not.

It seems like such a backward way to think about things, like, “Welp, all downhill from here. Might as well resign myself to whatever’s next.” Doesn’t the real world bring a new thrill? We’ll finally be able to do the things we always said we’d do when we grew up, or graduated college or had a job. Once we’ve crossed that graduation stage, there aren’t any more excuses. We’ll be on our own, free to be and do as we please, unconstrained by a small school environment or other responsibilities.

And if we achieve none of those things, it’ll at least be a change of scenery, a new routine through which to see and feel the world in a completely new way. For the past four years I’ve been following the same path to and from class, passing the same buildings, sitting in the same chair in the library. And for the first three years, that consistency was comforting and dependable; my school, a little home away from home. But this year, I can’t help but feel that that same chair, that same line at ETC feels incredibly mundane. The “bubble” feels cloying, closing in on me with alarming swiftness.

On the weekend, at the same parties I once reveled in, calculating my stance so my beer would always face the camera, I’m suddenly overwhelmed with the sense that I’ve walked in on one of my younger sister’s parties that I really shouldn’t be at. The blitheness that once felt so exciting, so freeing, now feels trite and immature. The cozy little campus feels like a fairytale playground that’s lightyears away from the real world.

I feel myself craving something real — for my B in Finance to mean something more than just GPA boost, or an insightful comment in class more than an encouraging nod from a professor. Perhaps more than that, I want to select my meals — my life — based on how much of my own hard-earned bank account I’m willing to use, instead of blindly swiping away my parents’ tuition dollars. I feel ready for concrete responsibility, for the work I do to have an impact on the world — or at least the company — around me.

I know I’ll miss the protective embrace that the University of Richmond so reliably kept me in during my four years here. But I’m also filled with the sense that no matter what I do next, it’s a new, crucial turn in my life that I’m ready to take. There’s so much out there to see, touch, taste and put on that there isn’t here — so much of reality that’s suspended by the elegant fountains and beautiful landscape. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m ready for the next step. College is only the beginning.

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  • Paul Rakov

    You may find that you have made the most long-lasting friendships during these fours years. I graduated in 1990 and am still in regular contact with 20+ classmates (certainly, social media helps immensely with that), and I see many of them several times a year. So, does that make colleg the best four years? Perhaps.

  • DasFellow

    The word “blitheness” is good.”

  • 2003WCgrad

    I’m 10 years out and while college was an awesome time, I am much happier now with a job, a family, a life. Somehow the “real world” is less stressful to me, and part of it has to do with age. In my early 20′s I was still a bit insecure, a bit depressed, a bit focused on things that don’t matter, now that I’m in my 30′s I’m so confident in myself. Sometimes I miss the little things at college, especially the chance to learn and the amount of time for naps, but there are definately greater things to look forward to, and you can always keep learning! Good luck after graduation!

  • John

    They were pretty good years, I give them that. I like myself a lot more now though, so I suspect there was still plenty of room for growth left when I graduated. I felt the same way you did my senior year. It’s normal, and a good thing to be ready to move on.