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And fall ’08 went…where?

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It’s become more and more noticeable recently, and it continues to be a little frightening that, for me at least, and likely for many of you, a year is just not as long as it used to be.

Events that used to entail a hugely long period of waiting now race up and slip by before we can so much as touch them. Once one’s birthday was a day whose imminence was worth dancing over and whose passing was the source of momentous disappointment. Now it’s, “What? Seriously, I’m no longer a teenager? When did this happen?”

Christmas, too, or its season celebratory parallel, came around only once in a very great while. The one (or eight, or 12) day celebration itself seemed almost an impossibly, and the other 364, an eternity. Now, it’s “Wow. Is it really a whole year that I’ve had my iPod? Since Uncle Moe was ‘cleaning’ Grandpa’s liquor cabinet and found that unopened bottle of mint gin from Nixon’s first term? Since sister Maeve broke down sobbing at the end of Mass during ‘O Holy Night’, and said she believed it, she really did, and she could only hope she’d be half that happy when the baby came in summer? And is baby Zooks really six months old already?”

Of course, the answer is “yes,” though it may not feel that way. Because almost a year has gone by since last Christmas.

And likewise, almost a semester has gone by since, er, the beginning of last semester. Which is, in its own way, pretty huge.

Focusing on the passage of a semester could very well involve the harmful sustaining of the ageist, classist, intellectualist “college” mindset. Still, there’s no denying that while one is involved with any kind of educational program, on the giving or receiving end, the semester is a significant unit of time.

So here we are (again, only quicker) at the end of one. For some of you at Notre Dame, this may signify the beginning of the end, or, for you early (or late) graduates, the end (more accurately: an end). For others, it’s the time to leave the new place they’ve only just managed to adjust to, and for those abroad in the spring, it’ll soon be time to start adjusting (those of us in year-long programs will have our own adjustment issues come next fall).

Freshman, on the other hand, whether you’ve had the kind of semester about which an outraged, aging journalist could write the Very Long Novel, or whether your most shocking escapade was stumbling upon the taxidermy display in Galvin (hint: second floor, next to the service elevator), you’ve still reached a major milestone in your life, and it’s definitely something to be proud of. Even if you wind up transferring, or even if your life plans change drastically and you wind up, as did my friend Penelope, taking a year off to teach orphans in Uganda, you will never again live through a first semester of college. Congratulations.

And I, too, have now finished a first semester of my own. I hope I’ve learned enough from the first half of my time at Trinity to make the most of the second.

It’s not necessarily easy, though, to know which direction to turn once our semester driven life comes to an abrupt pause and what the rest of the world knows as “real” life starts up for us again. So, once the semester’s truly ended – once exams are over, once you’ve consumed your last 2 a.m. breakfast of a grande iced Americano and fully condimented quarter dog, once the Irish Studies major down the hall has stopped screaming “There’s no more painkiller, only turnips! Today will be a happy day!” at random intervals, and once you can safely declare that you need never think about math, French, English, or philosophy ever again – be sure that you’re mind doesn’t shut down completely.

The Christmas season is after all a time for birth and rebirth, or at least a time to reboot. Much of the world will be taking a day off “normal” life, but it’s never a bad thing to be ready for normal life when it gets back on course. Especially as, once it is on course, it’ll only start racing faster.

Enjoy your break, and use it well. Because before you know it, it’ll be Christmas again, little Zooks will be walking, Uncle Moe will be pouring you a legal shot of mint gin this time, you’ll think of Nyquil, and, believe you me, you’ll find yourself a whole lot older than you were.

Good luck. I’ll see you in 2009.

And let me be the first to ask: how was your break?

Katherine Khorey is a junior English major and Russian minor about to finish her first term at Trinity College, Dublin. Before signing off for the month, she’d like to first state that she believes there is some value in “intellectualism”, and then to advise that those who have had first semesters worthy of Charlotte Simmons should seek counsel far from the vitriol of Viewpoint.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necesarily those of The Observer.