Hey U of T! I hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed this lovely long weekend- which for me, included some much-needed sleep-ins because my world is about to get a lot busier.
My courses are now reaching the intense parts of the syllabus, there are quizzes to study for, assignments to start working on and for some- midterm season! Safe to say, a lot is going to be changing…and so is the world around me. The weather’s getting crisper, the wind is getting colder and slowly but surely, leaves are going to be drifting down from trees in the thousands, turning campus into a giant snowglobe of red, yellow and brown.
All this change takes me back to the very first time I experienced Toronto in the fall- that first gust of cool fall air, the first coat I purchased (horrendously overpriced because I didn’t know where else to shop) my first ever bite of pumpkin (I gagged. I’m sorry, my South Asian taste buds still aren’t accustomed to squash. No #PSL for me) but most importantly, it was the middle of my first year in Canada.
As new and exciting as it all was, I remember having to deal with a lot of different emotions at the time which, in light of October being Mental Wellness Month, I’m going to talk a little bit more about.
One of the big things I was dealing with at the time was self-identity. I felt sometimes like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know about the Canadian history my professors kept referring to in my politics class, I kept having to resist the urge to empty an entire bottle of Sriracha onto the mac and cheese everybody else seemed to relish and I didn’t quite know how to deal with this completely unfamiliar system of learning.
In a nutshell, fall last year involved a lot more stress and anxiety than I had thought it would and I would often shove these feelings into a figurative box, to deal with at a later date. This later date, unfortunately, didn’t really come around until quite a bit later and sometimes I find, that spills over into the present- I find myself juggling jobs and commitments alongside questions like ‘What am I doing here?’ or ‘Does where I come from really define me as a person?‘
Couple that with stress from schoolwork and it can make for some ‘feeling down’.
It’s perfectly natural to have ‘down’ times but when down times start turning into down days and down days into down weeks, you know it’s time to do something about it. Some of the things that really made me feel better included taking out time for activities I enjoy. Whether it’s a solo city-exploring trip or dropping in on craft sessions, I like to remind myself that I’ve got something to look forward to in the midst of an exceptionally chaotic week.
Another one of those things has been a four-week arts program I’m taking at the Multi-Faith Centre this semester called Being Authentic. It’s all about deepening “self-knowledge and reflection for students exploring questions of identity, meaning, purpose and spiritual-well-being.”- just what I’ve been looking for.
We’ve only had two sessions so far but I can’t tell you how liberating it has felt to go from a demanding tutorial into a group space where I can really loosen up- through physical exercises, breathing deeply, loosening our bodies and voices (by shouting at the top of our lungs!) and hurling imaginary cans of paint at the walls to get rid of any pent-up tension before we can begin our self-exploration activities.
One of the activities that really resonated with me was when the instructor asked us to choose one thing our ‘inner critic’ keeps telling us and find a way to turn negate it and turn it into something positive, a ’self-affirmation’. For example, my inner critic often likes to comment, ‘Emaan, you don’t know what you’re doing’. So my self-affirmation was ‘I do know what I’m doing. I might not know what I’m doing five years from now or a year from now but I know what I’m doing today and I know what I’m doing tomorrow and that’s good enough for me.’ I found that repeating my self-affirmation to myself when I wake up really shapes how I’m going to tackle the day to come.
So I hope this post was a friendly little reminder that you’re not alone in feeling blue every now and then and also that there’s lots of resources on campus to help you through whatever it is that’s getting you down but most importantly- your worries, like the leaves, aren’t permanent! Take care of yourself, UofT!