The 4 Year Itch


The 4-

Year Itch

By Alanna Mixter

All of life happens in cycles. There are highs then lows, ups then downs, goods then bads. In healthy relationships we vacillate between giving and receiving. As women we have cycles in conjunction with our hormones. We also move fluidly through the circle between ambition and contentment.

I recently had an ‘ah ha’ moment while talking with a friend of mine. She is struggling with anxiety 4 years after starting her career. 4 years. I realized she has the 4- year itch. 

I propose that we have taught ourselves to learn in a 4 year long cycle (approximately). Hear me out. The phases of our lives can be broken down into approximately 4-5 year learning cycles.

This is my list of cycles I’ve experienced throughout my life:

1. Pre-reading
2. Learning to Read
3. Reading to Learn
4. High School / Learning to be an adult
5. College
6. Becoming a Tenured Teacher

For the majority of my life, I’ve been in a 4-year cycle of acquiring new information, applying it, then reflecting on it. And while these accomplishments relied heavily on the critique of teachers, professors, and administrators, I’ve realized the true value in their efforts is in my ability to complete this process entirely on my own. 

After 4 years of raising a human, the process of learning, applying, and reflecting has nearly reached the end of my 4-year cycle. Again. And I’m also experiencing the 4 year itch. I feel like I’m ready for more. No, not another baby (okay, well maybe another baby, but that’s a whole other topic) but I’m craving the learning process again. I’m craving a new phase just like my friend. Just like I felt after high school, after college, after teaching for 4 years. 

I’ve gone through the whole circle and I want to start learning again. I want to be a student. I want to step outside of my comfort zone. I want to learn from a professional, be critiqued by them, and inspired by them. I want to practice until it’s a pleasure, a release, or a new hobby. 

I have a 4-year itch to learn and grow and start the process all over again.

So, if you’re feeling stuck or anxious for reasons you can’t quite pinpoint, here are some questions to ask yourself: 

What has changed for me in the last 4 years? When was the last time I learned something entirely new? When did I really feel like a student? When was the last time I felt out of my comfort zone?

Could you be experiencing a 4-year itch too?

It’s possible you’ve reached the end of one of your learning, applying, and reflecting phases and are ready to begin again with something new.

If you feel like you haven’t truly learned something new, consider taking some classes or taking up a new hobby. This might be the perfect time to make a shift from being the expert to the student. 

Let us know in the comments below where you are in your learning cycle!

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash