Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier managing editor
My first semester at Berry has been my favorite semester at Berry. Independent for the first time in my life, I was essentially able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Many of my most fun and carefree memories from college come from that semester. Stargazing on weeknights outside of Frost Chapel. Late nights and KCAB events. Spending countless hours on a several thousand piece puzzle with a dozen people I barely knew in the MoLem basement. My idealized memories from that first semester live in my head as pure and perfect, albeit unattainable.
When you’re coming into college, you’re constantly being told things like “college will be the best four years of your life.” They are trying to advise you to take advantage of your time in college, to savor your experiences because the years you spend in college are completely different from anything that comes before or after in your life.
I’m graduating in a few weeks, so I’ve spent a good bit of time recently reflecting on my last four years at Berry and pondering my future. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. Honestly, that idea is really stressful. If college is supposed to be the best four years of my life, and college is almost over, I guess it’s all downhill after May 8. And if college is supposed to be the best four years of my life, and I spent a good portion of it anxious, sad and overwhelmed, did I just blow it?
College can be an amazing time in anyone’s life. But it doesn’t have to be. And it certainly doesn’t have to be the best time in anyone’s life. College is stressful and scary. College students, especially at Berry, are incredibly busy, and oftentimes busy doing menial tasks. Most people spend college broke, worrying about the future and panicked about a test for a class they won’t remember in 20 years. That doesn’t have to be the best time of your life.
The sentiment is particularly unfair after the year and a half we have just gone through. I spent a lot of this summer mourning the remainder of last spring semester that had been “stolen” from me. I’ve spent a lot of this year mourning the fun and exciting things I should have been able to look forward to if COVID-19 hadn’t prevented things. If we only have four years of college, which are the best times of our lives, and those of us who follow COVID-19 safety regulations have to spend a year and a half of our time in college lonely, behind masks and in our rooms, what do we get? The best four years of our lives cut down to the best two and a half years of our lives?
I missed out on some big experiences this year because of the pandemic. I haven’t been able to go out with my friends after turning 21. I didn’t have a senior spring break trip. I missed my Model UN trips to Atlanta and New York, and the competitive travel season for the mock trial team I’ve spent the last three years building. I haven’t been able to see my family, or see my friends in their final performances and concerts. I’m sad about that. I’ve had to spend a lot of time and mental energy reconciling with the fact that those things didn’t happen, and the added pressure of graduating and leaving behind what is supposed to be the “best years of my life” has been completely and utterly draining.
I had some fun times in college, at Berry and I’m leaving with memories that I will cherish and adore. But I know that I’m going to have better years in the future. I’m going to make more memories. My life is not going to be less exciting after graduation. Aging and growing does not have to be a bad thing, and I can’t wait for my upcoming experiences. The best year of my life might happen when I’m 95 years old. There’s no reason to resign myself to thinking that I just finished the best years.
You will go on after graduation to have more exciting times and memories. New jobs, new friends, new travels. Weddings, birthdays, promotions. There’s no reason to think that college is your peak, even if you have a really fun time while at Berry. The world is full of happiness and opportunity, and the idea that that is only found for four years at a specific place is unnecessarily restrictive and depressing.
College can be a great four years. It doesn’t have to be the best four years of your life.