Endings & beginnings

My final post could not have come at a more opportune time. In the torrent of change and conflict and joy that has come in the last few months, I feel as if I have at last been reborn. It feels weird to write my final post so I’m trying not to overthink it – in the words of John Cage, “don’t try to create and analyze at the same time; they’re different processes.”

In almost every possible way, my world has inverted and its horizons have been stretched toward the abyss. I have meditated on the uncertainty of the paths of our lives, and have been shown so many ways in which my life can be deliberate, rebellious, compassionate, and kind.

We come to university to try and be something. Sometimes it is something that our family or friends or society has asked us to be. Sometimes it is the something that we believe our future selves to be, and we come here to articulate that. Often, though, we don’t know precisely why we are here. Or, upon our arrival, we realize that this place can give us radically different things than we initially believed to want or need.

It’s okay if university changes you. That means that it’s doing its job. It’s okay if you change your major over and over; if you grow each time; if an elective course or a chance meeting with a professor brings out a side of you that you hadn’t found yet. It’s also okay if you fail.

Not knowing you, reader, based on statistics alone I can say that at some point while you are here, you will struggle. There will be days where you will feel anxious, depressed, misunderstood, or alone. There will be other days that are bliss beyond compare; when you will find places and people and ways of living and ideas that seem to materialize from the ether and are ready to embrace you when you are ready to do the same. There will be classes in which you’ll excel, and there will be other times when you wonder how you’ve even gotten this far. You will lose yourself, sometimes. You’ll be tempted to dissolve into an identity on the basis of your gender, major, religion, socioeconomic class, history, or ethnicity. At these times, I hope you will remember two things. Firstly, that you will always be capable of more. Secondly, that you are enough, right now, exactly as you are. Enough.

Your GPA is high enough. You are a good enough writer or speaker or athlete to chase after the things you want to do. The people I’ve seen excel here weren’t always the best – they were just the least inhibited. They recognized how intensely free they are. Chances are, the people in your classes will probably really like you if you talk to them. Generally, people don’t want to hurt you, and if they do, you will survive. They will teach you to be forgiving yet unapologetic when the world calls for that sort of thing. You will find compassion in unexpected places.

It’s important that you don’t forget about who you are, because that person has been there for your whole life and is just waiting to flourish. Stop waiting. You must learn how to bloom where you’re planted. It is the greatest skill you’ll ever know – and besides, you’re in fertile soil.

Don’t go quietly. The things that you’re most afraid of are the ones that control you. If you’re uncomfortable with math, or with asking for what you need, or with saying “no” when you mean it, you need to realize these things. You need to practice them. This is a good place to practice and make mistakes. You need to know the kind of power that comes from finding the bridges that are your weaknesses, fortifying them, and crossing over to the other side.

And so, to everyone who has read my posts this year: thank you for sharing your time with me, it’s so strange to share my life with strangers; but more so, it is liberating. To those who I know personally – those who are the essence of “U of T” in my own mind – thank you for the lectures you made me attend, and the books you made me read, and all of the faith, wisdom, and empathy you could manage. There has been an incredible number of people who have truly shaken and shaped my world in ways far beyond the scope of this post. Everything that has happened – both good and bad – we must eventually release and let go completely, carrying only the ways that it has changed us. As strange and uncertain as it all feels, I am ready for this, and far more brave as I depart than when I arrived.

This is a very good thing. A lot of love and talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage.

Jennifer

4 thoughts on “Endings & beginnings

  1. thank you for your writings. you did an absolutely fantastic job. thank you also for this last very meaningful piece. good luck with your future

  2. Thank you both for your comments!

    @Javier:
    Don’t feel bad. I’ve submitted my graduation request and I still think about what I could have/should have majored in. It’s not that I dislike my program, it’s just that things are too interconnected and interesting for me to be comfortable with just one or two majors. Universities in general (excluding, to some extent, some liberal arts colleges) tend not to offer programs in which disciplines blend fluidly into one another in the way in which the phenomenology of the world does. To compartmentalize feels limiting because it’s not how we interact with the world. The key is to pursue that which intersects the greatest proportion of your interests, and move laterally from there. It may make you a lone traveller (since your classmates are undoubtedly each doing different things) but this grants you the pleasure of discovery. Do far-reaching and somewhat absurd independent study projects that unite seemingly disparate fields. Who knows what you’ll find?

    @Andrew:
    Thank you so much for your very kind comment, I appreciate you taking the time to write it. Hopefully my posts this year have inspired you in some way to find new ways of connecting (with people, research, organizations….) on campus. Best of luck to you as well!

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