“I feel so old.”
This is the sentence that usually starts the same long and pitiful conversation I have with my friends on a daily basis. Mind you, we’re all 20-year-olds in our junior year of college.
Freshman year of college, especially at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is eight months of bright and shiny new things. You’re immersed in a new culture, a new pool of people and a new sense of independence. You look at the older students on campus and think, “That’s so far away,” until you blink and are suddenly starting your junior year. Sophomore year flies by too — you still feel new enough, but wow, the transition from your second to third year on campus really seems like a time warp. Trust me, I just went through it (begrudgingly).
Maybe you and your friends have experienced this phenomenon many like to call feeling “washed up,” which really just means growing out of the excitement and newness that comes with transitioning to college.
It’s something about watching not the first, but the second new class of freshmen below you go through all of their iconic college firsts that really cements this feeling. At least it did for me. I’m at the point where I genuinely reminisce about living in Witte and going to Regent Street on the weekends (I know, hot take). Realizing it’s been two whole years since I’ve done those things makes me realize what my parents meant when they told me not to wish away time — it’s fleeting, and it won’t slow down for you.
Then again, I think to myself, “I’m barely a legal adult, how could I, or anyone my age, possibly be feeling old?”
The only logical entity I can boil it down to is a fear of the future. When you’re in high school, becoming a senior means you’re finally at the top of the pecking order. But when you’re in college, becoming a senior means you’re preparing for the start of the rest of your life. Securing a full-time job you actually like, leaving the safety bubble of school and probably doing things on your own for a while — it’s honestly terrifying.
Where will I end up? Will I make enough money? Will I be doing what I studied in school? The future is one big question mark, and that puts a lot of undergraduates into a constant state of panic while they're in college. People spend their entire lives preparing for a career, working hard in school, taking on internships and part-time jobs, and they’re the closest they’ve ever been to finding out if it’s going to pay off. If we’re being honest with ourselves, maybe we don’t really feel old. Maybe we just realized we’re in the final years of our childhoods and are not looking forward to the burdens of being an adult.
Growing up, you always hear people say college years are some of the best of your life — probably because it’s the last time in your life before you have real responsibilities. So, why are we spending it constantly worrying about what’s to come? In a few years, we’re not going to want to look back and realize we wasted our undergrad experiences feeling “old” and sorry for ourselves. I mean, come on — as upperclassmen we’re all still just young 20-somethings with years of experiences to look forward to, and I think it’s time we start acting like it.
If you identify as a washed up college student, I implore you to start appreciating the era you’re in because God knows you’ll be reminiscing about your junior year of college in just another short blink of an eye. I understand it’s easier said than done and I struggle with it too, but spending your “glory days” terrified of them coming to an end is only going to make you resent this stage of life, when you should be relishing in it. So, the next time you see a group of careless freshmen walking around campus and feel washed up, remember you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, and try to enjoy it for a change.