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Life is long. Life is short. How do you live accordingly?

| Monday, March 29, 2021

In the past few years, I’ve heard a lot of “Life is short!” but also, “You’re still young, you’ve got so much time left!” Well, which one is it? 

Evidence that life is short: 

Life is never shorter than right before you cut your bangs. The seconds before I’ve spoken out of turn are thin as the teeth of a comb. I’ve seen a sunset spread across all 360 degrees of sky, and watched how the ground slurped it up in minutes. 

Before my first formal dance at Notre Dame, I only had time to curl half of my hair before it was time to go. I blinked and my first exam of junior year was upon me. I might have missed springtime entirely if not for the robin outside my window, assembling her nest stick by stick. 

Evidence that life is long: 

I wait years for my friends to text me they’re safely home. I hate reading the textbook in advance. Life stretches on for miles when the heart aches. The horizon doesn’t seem like a finish line when you’re walking through hell. Recovery takes a long time. Understanding takes ages. Boiling water takes forever when I really want some pasta. 

Melodramatic prose aside, it’s been hard to resist the urge to be myopic about my twenties, or about my time in college. I know that so much life awaits me after these four years, but everything now feels so important, so imminent, so crucial to whether I create the foundations of a good life for myself or not. College graduation draws an arbitrary line between 21 and 22, but other than getting a diploma, it’s really not clear why that demarcation is there. I know I won’t stop learning, growing, loving and enjoying life once college is over … so why is that impending graduation date so scary sometimes? 

I think for me it’s this: some works take 20 minutes, others can take twenty years. Because the 20s are a period of many beginnings, you have to start journeys without having any idea how or when they’ll end. You could start a hobby that could turn into a 50 year-long life’s mission or you could start a relationship that flubs two years in. My graduation date gives some events an upper bound, a cliff — and I don’t quite know what’s on the other side of it. 

But I know that I feel the happiest when I try to pretend the “end-of-college” line doesn’t exist. I’ve been the most successful when I try to forget that I’m in college and make decisions as if I was a minute post-graduation. When I can delete that demarcating line from my decision making, I’m no longer in an intermediate limbo, waiting for what’s next, but living fully on my own terms in the “real world.”

Renee Yaseen is a junior who majors in economics with minors in theology and the philosophy, politics, & economics (PPE) program. In her free time, she writes poems, hangs out with loved ones, and works on her software startup. She can be reached via the chat on a shared Google Doc at 3 a.m., on Twitter @ReneeYaseen or by email at [email protected]

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

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