As I sit in the library, rudely munching on carrots and hummus (yes, that is me), I’m faced with a moral struggle: I struggle to find something innovative or insightful to share with the students who will follow me. Offering the cliché advice, such as “do your readings” or “Go to your classes” or “put the time into your writing assignments” seems incredibly silly, or trivial, or insignificant, to me, at least. I’m aware that the high school system inadequately prepares students to think critically, and for themselves. But, I do not believe that it is my place to share my new-found knowledge with those who will follow me. Instead, I think that there is beauty in the self-discovery process that comes with entering university: learning what works best for you through trial and error.
In my first few weeks, I learned that I wasn’t putting in enough time in my reading and writing assignments, and I received a 68%. Instead of moping and crying about it, it’s about picking myself up and learning that this mistake happened, and now, I must boldly face the future and do something about it. There is research on how to be academically successful, but there is no research on what they don’t tell you during Orientation week and academic advising appointments. Therefore, I thought I would devote my final writing assignment to the unanswered thoughts that 12-week younger me wanted to know.
Entering university, new prospects and experiences excited me. However, when I started university, so many opportunities presented themselves, and I was overwhelmed. Instead, I sought guidance from upper-year students to balance an active social life and an academically successful life. I began university with an idea: that I needed to attain academic excellence, but also, be socially engaged. However, no one told me that I would be challenged to balance the two while living at home, and working part time. Thus, if I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self, do not stress about trying to be perfect, instead, look to others, who have come before you and seek their advice and opinion (and to help you find the beauty in yourself, and in your everyday actions. It is not about being the smartest person in the class, or being the most popular person, but, find upper year students and students in your year who love you and want you to succeed. To those who endured my hundreds of “how-to” questions: how to find clubs and teams, how to study for multiple choice tests, you have my undying gratitude, and I’m glad that I can confidently say that my mentors (in my year and older) have become my friends and confidants.
In my first twelve weeks, I faced hundreds of new opportunities and temptations, that I needed to quickly learn to say no to. The university, it seems is a living social network: where students, faculty, and staff are hardwired to socially and academically engage with one another. But, the institution of the university also exists to teach and form tomorrow’s greatest minds. On the road to intellectual greatness, I needed to learn to balance social and academic life. I entered university expecting it to be like the movies: a 24-hr. party, or a perpetual Orientation week. Entering the second-week slump, I learned that while the university is an exciting thing to a part of, I needed to prioritize my school work and study time; and sadly, I realized that I cannot do everything. The week of my first major Psychology midterm, friends wanted to go out and grab an ice cream, but I knew that I would need to balance my time and my school work so that I could be academically successful.
On the heels of Mental Health Wellness week, I would want to tell my younger self to keep school and life in check. Do not allow school and “life” to be mutually exclusive. I experienced euphoria for the first six weeks of the term, managing school, and life when it seemed that school activities didn’t exist on campus. However, when I hit the sixth-week slump, and events sprung up, academic work dominated my days, and I intentionally had an empty social calendar, to keep up. When I hit the middle of the term, I felt unprepared; I felt alone. It is ironic that I’m sitting, eating carrots, conversing with friends and churning out this blog post after overcoming week 6’s gloom and dark shadow. Rewind to week 6, the school work is piling up, and the number of ScanTrons I’ve completed are innumerable: I find myself, alone in the library, cross-referencing as the Young Stephen Fry did. While Fry sought love, I insightful research to better myself and the arguments I’ve proposed and an A or B+, to boot. Subsequently, I found myself feeling alone and isolated, in need of relief. While I had friends, I dedicated myself to my studies and found myself drudging through week 6. At the dawn of Week 7, I felt better about myself, because I made a conscious effort to balance school and life. To those who strive for perfection, it will slowly haunt your inner-being and mental wellness, if you neglect self-care and self-love. Do yourself a favour: take breaks, and balance the institution’s demands with your personal need to connect.
The journey towards finding balance and support and accepting that I need others is a slow-moving process, but as a new group of students joins the fold in January: I hope that they will seek help from those who have come before them, and care for themselves deeply.