Hello beautiful humans – welcome back to the action!
Have you looked outside lately!? All of the fall colours and falling leaves remind us that constant change is all around us. This has since prompted the period of self-reflection. I have been wanting to write for a few weeks now, but I have felt relatively stuck. As we shift from one season to the next, I have been reflecting on my current situation and my personal growth a lot.
Undeniably, 2020 has thrown us all a curveball. This time has forced us to grow in ways that we could not have imagined (whether we like it or not!). In general, the pandemic has forced us to examine how we interact with the world around us. But more importantly, this time has forced us to examine how we treat ourselves. Personally, I know that the last few weeks have put me in weird grey area. I am finally settled back in Guelph, but with classes being mostly online my life here looks different. Many aspects of my situation have been flipped upside down– pockets of friends scattered around, living in new house and navigating the virtual learning environment has challenged me far beyond my expectations. The last few weeks have been tough go, and have prompted me to make changes in order to better support my own wellness. These changes, as necessary as they were, left me feeling extremely guilty. In addition to extracurricular activities, I am used to working two jobs and taking five classes a semester. But now, I find myself barely having enough energy to keep up with the three classes that I am enrolled in. Why am I struggling so much more than any other year? What is wrong with me? These questions filled my mind for weeks, until I finally opened up about what I was struggling with.
After talking to a few close friends from across Canada and my partner, I realized that a lot of students are feeling like this right now. My friend Laura put it perfectly, “I feel like I am not living anymore, I am just existing.” This is exactly how I was feeling. With the pandemic forcing everything to become uncertain, it was hard to find enough mental capacity to do the tasks that we would normally complete without a second thought. Not only that, but the outlets we use to cope, such as changing your study space or taking part in a club, are now limited more than ever. As much as this online learning environment is new to everybody, it has left students feeling super isolated. Sitting in the same spot and staring at a computer screen is not ideal let me tell you. The worst part is that we are all struggling along side one another and NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT. After many conversations, I have noticed a few common themes that are worth mentioning.
Number one – many students are feeling like there is no platform to express their struggles. Universities love to “highlight” what resources they offer to help students cope. However, when it comes to providing us with the necessary time/space to process these changes – it doesn’t happen as easily.
Number two– it is not just the online learning environment that is unfamiliar, it is all aspects of student life. The amount of time and energy it takes to navigate classes has forced us to put our wellness on the back burner. As a relatively motivated individual, I have found it challenging to even cook basic meals or keep my space clean. Add on the financial pressure from the pandemic and it has left students feeling burnt out.
Number three – Students are entering an unprecedented identity crisis filled with personal guilt. A lot of us are struggling to keep up with the commitments that we would normally take on in a semester. We are unable to keep up with other’s expectations or our own. This has forced us to believe that this is an “us” problem and is leaving many students feeling disconnected or lost.
So, what needs to change? Well that is a loaded question. I believe that the first step to prompt change is to provide students with a platform to voice their concerns. More often than not, administration enacts decisions that they believe are best for us. The issue is that NOBODY CONSULTS THE STUDENT BODY. If you want to create effective learning that promotes student success and wellness, ask us what we need! Students are fed up with the empty promises and at the end of the day we know what we need to succeed. By spreading awareness and taking proactive steps to eliminate strain, it would speak volumes.
I wanted to include a quick little message to anybody struggling right now; your mental well-being is more important than any grade you will receive. We are in an unprecedented time and you have been affected in almost all aspects of your life. If you are feeling defeated right now, I see you. I want you to know that this feeling is temporary. I urge you to take the extra time to reflect on what you need to be successful in this moment.
Do you need to take a break from studying to make a meal? DO IT. Do you need to take a power nap to get through reading that chapter? DO IT. Do you need to go for a walk and clear your head? DO IT. Do you need to take a break from social media to focus on your own needs? DO IT. You have the inner power to make all of those changes and I support it.
Your needs are going to continue to change and how you navigate obstacles is evolving now more than ever before. I know that everything feels unstable and unpredictable right now. But I promise that you will get through it. If you ever need anybody to talk to my door is always open.
Reflecting on myself, I am in an insanely different place than I was a year ago. I think back to that girl and I find it hard to recognize her. As crazy as 2020 has been, many beautiful things have stemmed from the chaos. I have found a lot of clarity over the past couple months. It is becoming easier to appreciate myself and set boundaries for my energy. I have had to take steps to heal parts of myself and strip values down to my core in order to decide how I want to live my life. Of course, this process is far from over and will continue to change throughout my lifetime. But I finally feel like I am on the right path and that is incredible.
I want to take a moment to appreciate some of the wonderful. I want to emphasize that the universe has forces at play beyond our recognition. I do believe that situations and people walk into our lives right when we need them the most. 2020 has turned my world upside down – as I am sure it has done to all of you. Nonetheless, our growth is still occurring and that is worth celebrating. Below I have included some of my own transcendent moments, I urge you to reflect on yours:
Coming to Terms with my Sexuality – I am finally able to accept all parts of myself and share it with the most important people in my life. This whole experience has shaped my confidence like crazy. I am so grateful to have a supportive community around. They show me unconditional love on a daily basis.
Moving to Lake Louise, AB – I truly believe that reconnecting with nature kickstarted my personal journey. I was able to explore elements of myself without pressure or distraction. Plus, how could spending months in the mountains ever be a bad thing?
Connecting with Spirituality- HUGE POSITIVE! Connecting with elements of spirituality has forced me to heal, reflect and make changes in my life. It has forced me to narrow what energy I put out in the world and decide what energy I want to claim in return.
Meeting my Partner – I am going to give her a little shoutout here (how could I not?). Cass – you have been a huge ray of sunshine in my life and have forced me to grow in so many ways. She is always right behind me pushing me forward and forcing me to recognize how far I have come. I am very grateful to have her in my life. Thanks babes!
Senior Year Baby! – Yes, this semester looks very different and we are all navigating the new student reality. But, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my education and advocate for students everywhere. We have all the power to inspire change – use your voice wisely.
I hope that you are able to find some comfort in these thoughts and this post forces you to reflect on where you are right now. I am excited to see what the next couple months bring our way – keep your head up sunshine!