2013-2014, my first academic session in university and one that has now come to a close. Walking out of my last exam, CHEM 1001, I was excited for the prospects that summer would bring. Leaving, I felt somewhat bittersweet about the whole experience. I then started to reflect on the time I had invested, all the way back to the first couple of days and weeks leading up to the endeavour. I thought about the advice I received prior to starting, whether it was inquisitively or spontaneously acquired, and I started to wish some parts of the puzzle were filled in more completely before I had begun. Many times days felt like weeks, weeks felt like days, and months were experienced in the blink of an eye. Such is the nature of university and other ventures that hold on to the entirety of your focus. Although I hope you may learn from what I express, experiencing university for oneself will teach you what it really is like to be an undergraduate student, much like everything else in life.
Those of us that have the privilege to seek an education seek it out not only for it to be a means to an end, but an opportunity to learn about that which uniquely fascinates us. I mixed my academic responsibilities by taking on extracurricular ones and was able to learn the importance of time management in the mean time. Meeting and engaging with a diverse set of individuals throughout academic and external activities also greatly enhanced the whole experience. I personally felt that when those three components were balanced during that brief period in my life, I was able to function most effectively and was happiest.
University students understand that they must take specific courses in their area of study in order to take advanced courses in their major in the near future. Just as one bears the fruit from one’s labour, they are able to take courses that appeal to their taste if they are able to endure the bitterness of introductory courses. In spite of the fact that they may be bland, do not underestimate the power that these initial subjects bring, for they build the foundation for later years. They also provide an excellent opportunity for you to decide if what you are presently learning has anything to do with what you are passionate about and therefore what you want to do in the future.
This may sound obvious in retrospect but it is surprising to witness the growing number of students that don’t know what they want to work toward, and therefore don’t know why they entered university in the first place. Many want to switch majors or leave university altogether in the search of something that speaks closer to their hearts. Changing direction shouldn’t be avoided but if it is for the sole reason of winds that have left one’s sails it should be done carefully. We all have our ups and downs, as is expected, and if we persist in our endeavors the pendulum will inevitably swing back our way. Keep in mind that it is darkest before the dawn. Albeit, if going through an experience such as university led you into a completely different direction, pursuing a business idea for instance, and you were happier because of that, then the change was needed and ultimately beneficial.
When pursuing a career, it should be seen as an attempt to make a living. Not as a way of producing a profit, but of producing a living, a life fulfilled. If profit is a side effect of this primary goal, then that is to be seen as a dividend from the effort put in.
I thought about what I had done over the course of my high school education that I didn’t like and ultimately regretted, with the goal of not replicating such situations whilst in post secondary education and in the future thereafter. What I had come to realize was that it wasn't things that I had done that bothered me the most, but those risks that I didn’t take and opportunities I didn’t close. Many of those instances may have included certain groups, societies, and people that I didn’t take the chance to connect with, whether it was due from advice of others, or my own fears that I harbored. Realizing this in the summer after high school graduation, when I had time to reflect, I promised myself that I would never succumb again to the fears that held me back for so long.
This understanding still fresh in my mind, I logged into YUConnect, the website that displays all the registered clubs York University has to offer, and dedicated myself over the next couple of days to research which organizations I would be most interested in. I built an understanding of which groups embodied the values and goals that I held and still hold most dear to myself. By choosing to help those same clubs expand in innovative directions, I would provide myself the optimal foundation to grow from. Like a worker bee that spreads the influence of the flower it pollinates, a mutualistic experience formed and held. I’m glad that I saw the mental chains that were detaining the freedom I kept over my own actions as early as I had, invisible but potentially all the more menacing for staying inconspicuous. By attacking them head on I was able to build relationships and results that were to become the bulwark of my happiness and self.
As dominos started to fall one after another, with each action leading to the next, space and time opened up before me and gave me the freedom to connect to an increasing number of people on a personal level. Sharing past experiences with one another and aspirations for the future enabled a flow of ideas that many times benefitted the communities we comprised. This is amplified even more in a university such as York, because of the vast amount of commuters that represent the population, and the rift that creates in the society.
Take the time to learn more about the fellow students and staff around you during your university stay and you’ll enjoy it all the more. Humans are social animals by nature, which have become increasingly asocial through social media, and through an exponentially growing population. Where we once lived in closely knit villages that had the time to invest in one another’s well being, our time now seems to be shrinking in a mountain of responsibilities. Truly connect and the stress you once bottled up will leak out from you and those that you spend time with. Through word and action, drop by drop.
If you decide to discontinue one responsibility while moving forward, don’t hesitate and stop to pick it up, because eventually your other ones will begin to scatter and it’ll be doubly harder to regain your momentum. Focus on your most immediate and important (to you) priorities and everything will fall into place. Managing your time to incorporate these priorities of academics, extracurriculars and the people that intertwine within your existence will be the glue that holds your sanity together over this trying moment and future life. Start juggling. Start now.