525,600 minutes until the final bell rings

On Saturday, March 18, when I take a nonstop JetBlue flight from Oakland to JFK, I will return to Yale from a break for the last time.

I had this realization in class on Tuesday and spent the rest of the lecture controlling a minor panic attack.

There are many things I will not miss about spring break. I will not miss the process of traveling. I will not miss the monopoly that Connecticut Limo has on all airport shuttling, making it so that in the end I would pay as much as my airplane ticket just to get to the airport and back. I will not miss schlepping my suitcases (two suitcases, always, filled with books so that I can avoid shipping them home at the end of the year) on the train to the airport so that I can avoid CT Limo. I will not miss haggling with the JetBlue personnel over a few extra pounds because I have the collected works of Milton — and Joyce, and Shakespeare — weighing down the plane.

I will not, particularly, even miss spring break itself. Mine have been good, as they go: Belize, Barbados, tropical drinks with umbrellas, sunburn and suntan, cheesy souvenirs and duty-free alcohol. But none of them have been trips of a lifetime; they’ve all just been ways to break up the dreary monotony of winter in New Haven.

And that is precisely what I will miss. What I will miss is having my year divided so easily, my schedule chosen for me.

For as long as I can remember, my life has been divided up not by calendar year but by academic class year. Clinton wasn’t elected president in 1992, he was elected president when I was in third grade. I wanted Clinton and Gore to win because Gore was an environmentalist (plus, he did invent the Internet), and I had just bought the book “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” at a school book fair.

The O.J. Simpson trial wasn’t in 1995, it was in sixth grade, and the boy I liked thought O.J. wasn’t guilty, so I did too, which goes to show how impressionable I am. Maybe now if I’m ever selected for jury duty I can show this column as proof that I would be an absolutely terrible juror; put one hot guy on there with me, and I’d be sunk. DNA evidence? Pshaw. Eyewitness? What does that mean to me, the jury foreman is h-o-t-t hott!

I didn’t have my first kiss in 1997, I had it in seventh grade, on a class trip to the beach. Sept. 11 was my senior year in high school, which I vaguely remember was 2001. My grandmother passed away the summer between sophomore and junior years of college, which, if I think about it long enough, I can figure out was the summer of 2004. The most recent presidential election was the fall of junior year, so 2004 again; that one was easy, but only because my grandmother died the same year, which you just saw me figure out was 2004.

The only year that has been really burned into my brain is the year 2006: the year that’s on all the class hats, the class rings, all the senior class e-mails. The year when years — actual years, actual dates — begin to matter, and I can no longer measure my life by academic progress.

Soon, I will start measuring my years by the way they look on my resume, by job promotions, by moves from city to city. Soon, I will no longer have the fallback that even if a spring break doesn’t live up to expectations I will be able to return to Yale afterwards and look forward to summer.

Eventually, I’ll be able to measure my years by my child’s academic calendar, and that will be a massive relief. But then, some day when my kid graduates from college, that too will end, and I will be thrown back into this existential crisis.

But until then, there is one last spring break, one last structured period of time before the real meaning of 2006 sets in: leaving Yale, leaving the academic calendar, becoming, if not in spirit at least in body, an adult.

¡Viva spring break 2006!

Claire Stanford measures her life in love … and how many daily planners she’s purchased.