The Final Year: Questions and Reflections

Would it be wrong for me to say I’m ready to leave St Andrews? Every time the thought pops into my mind, my stomach sinks. I love St Andrews. It was (and still is) my dream school. I’ve made amazing friends, made unforgettable memories, and fourth year seems to be looking bright. But the more I reflect on how much my life’s trajectory has changed within the past twelve months, the more I wonder: will life in St Andrews really ever be the same? Is there really anything else that I could experience in fourth year that would be better than my first two (years pre-Covid)? 

All the worries that nag at seemingly every soon-to-be-fourth-year have been amplified by Covid upending everything. I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me bite my cheeks and make my thoughts race just a little bit. I have always been one to try as much as possible to stay in the moment. Over the years, I have found that I am happiest when I am present with myself and my surroundings, with a healthy barrier between the past and future, and reality as I experience it in real-time. The impending, inevitable fourth year jitters are slowly starting to seep into this calm I have been maintaining. I find myself unwilling to let go and enjoy a chill Sunday afternoon. Instead, I feel guilty that I’m not looking for internships to avoid resume gaps or researching what to study in grad school  (nevermind researching which grad schools to apply to). 

A lesson I have yet to learn is that being productive 24/7 does not correlate to an enhanced quality of life. Finding the right way to compartmentalize tasks related to future planning, such as assigning them their own time slots, might just be the way to go from now until graduation. But how to stop them from permeating all of my thoughts throughout the day, from racing in my mind when I try to sleep, and stop them from intervening in moments when I do try and relax - that, I am still figuring out (and that’s A-OK). 

‘Go with the flow,’ ‘everything will work out just as it should,’ and so on, and so on…. I try to repeat these mantras to myself day in and day out. Some days they calm me down, reassuring me that, yes, everything does in fact figure itself out (perhaps by some magical force in the universe that works in ways beyond my understanding). However, it is difficult for me to deny the safe comfort in having a plan, knowing which turn to take down the road, and having headlights that show me what is at the end of that road. 

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the possibility that everything in life is pre-planned, that all actions we take will eventually lead to the same thing, and nothing we do (even if we think it changes things) will stop us from meeting the fate that is meant for us. This concept has certainly helped, to a certain extent, calm my thoughts about fourth-year and post-graduation life in general. Unfortunately, I can’t deny the fear-inducing thought of graduating from St Andrews and, after having a few transitory moments of celebration and bittersweet reflection of the last four years, stepping into the “next big thing” for me when it doesn’t yet exist. 

Once I finally make a choice about what school to go to next, if I should take a gap-year, or what type of internship to apply for, how do I know I’m making the right decision? What if I’m just making certain decisions because everyone else is doing them, and they aren’t reflective of how I truly want to mold my life? Will the decisions I make help manifest my dreams and goals? What if they will just steer me in the opposite direction? Making decisions is certainly difficult. But, it seems to me that the real challenge comes after the decision-making, when the constant questioning and mulling over of “did I do the right thing” and “what if” kicks in. As much as I wish fourth year could be like senior year of high school, where classes are easier, there is less pressure, and the only expectation of yourself is to live it up with your friends and soak up every second because everything will end soon, I feel it will be everything but those things. So, as much as I am looking forward to spending one more year in St Andrews, I often feel something tugging me out of there, towards my “next thing.” Perhaps this is because I am avoiding confronting fear and uncertainty, when I would do well to remember that uncertainty and fear only make us stronger and steer us towards the things meant for us by, crucially, first showing us what we don’t want so we find out what it is that we do want. 

Despite this all sounding a bit pessimistic, I am unbelievably excited for fourth year. I have grown in ways unimaginable to bright-eyed-fresher-Eva back in 2018. I am equally positive that I will take the time to enjoy looking back at all the events (good and bad) that transpired before starting the next big adventure in my life. Ultimately, I view my fourth year as being likely one last boat ride through the sea: there will be storms, the wind will rock the boat a bit, but at the end of the trip the clouds will part and lead to an inevitable sunrise there to welcome me towards whatever is meant for me.