Once upon a time there was a girl who couldn’t decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. As she got older, she felt compelled to enroll in a post-secondary institution for no reason other than: everyone else her age was doing it.
She tried to find her way, attempted to find a program of study that fit her interests, but alas she could not. After three years of wasted tuition she gave up, resigned to the fact that she was not one of those people for which post-secondary education fit.
She carried on with her life, found a job in an office, worked her way up at a company from reception to accounting. One day she stumbled upon the University of Toronto’s website. She decided immediately that she would try again to finish her education.
She went back to school that year. She was older than all of the other students and for the first few months she felt as though she might be found out at any time. Soon she came to understand that her age didn’t put her at a disadvantage.
She studied hard, went to her classes, and soon she was nearly finished her degree, but in the course of the years she was at the university, she met many young students who, like her nearly twenty years before, were lost. She struggled with the urge to impart the wisdom she had gained from her experiences and the urge to not sound condescending.
She wished with all her heart that all of those younger students struggling with feelings of indecision and fear of the future could know that it’s okay to be lost…not everyone knows the path they will travel when they are twenty years old.
Some of us take a straight path towards our future. For others, like me, the path wound and curved. My journey has taught me that conformity is not how I learn. I cannot be twenty years old again. I cannot pretend to write a paper or answer a question as though I bring only the knowledge of high school with me into the classroom.
I incorporate who I am and what I’ve experienced into all my learning. Even if you are twenty you can do this too. You may not realize it, but your experiences matter and they contribute to your perspective. You must own them.
If university is about finding your voice, you can’t ignore any part of what makes you, you. Embrace it all the good, the bad, and the ugly and make it your own. For me learning is about polishing all the parts of what make me the person I am. Unlike, what some people may think, coming back to school hasn’t changed me…it’s helped me to remember who I am.