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This time is yours

For 16 years, I’ve measured my life in school years.

Fall is an exciting fresh start, full of hope and promise. Winter is a halftime break. Spring is a time to wrap up and summer is a timeless in-between. It’s part of the reason I’ve always disliked spring. The trees and flowers may start to bloom and the sun comes out behind its permacloud, but the season is more so a period of goodbyes, endings and change. And sometimes, I don’t want to talk about the way that it was.

Freshman years are for learning names, sophomore years don’t matter all that much and when junior years roll around, there’s a feeling of superiority and independence that comes from being an upperclassman.

And then there’s senior year: the beginning of the end, the pinnacle of it all. 

College is a place where everyone here is in a different stage of their life, but also the same — learning more about the subjects that have always interested them, figuring out what they want to do in their life and taking leaps of faith toward the future.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll measure the passing of time once I’m done with college. When everything you’ve ever known is different, what happens? But the thing about your four years at college is that it’s so much more than school. It’s living steps away from your best friends. It’s being no more than one degree of separation away from any student. It’s laying on the quad until 3 a.m. on a Monday night just talking.

For some people (read: me), it’s finishing up the newspaper at 4 a.m. so it can be distributed throughout the tri-campus. While The Observer is my college endeavor, everyone devotes themselves to their own passion in their four years here.

I spent the past summer living away from home for the first time. (Yeah, I’ve lived at Notre Dame for the past three years, but something about living in a small dorm room with your best friend makes campus feel a lot like home.) Living somewhere else made me realize that Notre Dame is an escape, for better and for worse. 

Here, days are measured in class schedules, lunch breaks, study sessions, parties, extracurricular meetings, on-campus jobs and walks around the quads. Weeks are measured by assignments, tests and time until mid-semester breaks. Then before you know it, fall turns to spring real quick. 

And a lot of the time, you get too caught up to think about it. 

As I spent most of the summer trying to decide what I wanted to say in this column, my mind kept going back to what I learned from a magazine writing class last semester taught by Kerry Temple. He talked about the importance of thinking time: time to mull over ideas and thoughts and time to figure out what you actually want to write, not what you write in the rush of the moment. He said he gets that most college students don’t have time to do this.

It hit me that he was right — I didn’t feel like I had the time to let thoughts, ideas and feelings simmer in my mind.

And that’s the advice I have for first-years. Give yourself time to stop and think. College is fun, but it’s more bittersweet and fleeting than you first realize. Measure it by the number of nights spent with friends, hours spent in a meeting for your favorite extracurricular and minutes of a home football game. The time is yours.

The views in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

A version of this column was published in our Aug. 19 issue.

Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a senior majoring in history with minors in digital marketing and journalism, ethics and democracy. Contact her at aguffey@nd.edu.