One thing that few people know about me is that there was a point in time when I didn’t believe that I could make it through university. I didn’t believe that I was supposed to be at U of T. My struggles with mental health had taken a toll on me and I felt defeated. When you get to university, you’re made aware of mental health statistics and the resources available, but you never know how you will deal until you’re in the thick of it.
Full disclosure: in my first two years of university, I have accumulated less credits than most people get in their first year.
But here’s what I did do: I got registered with Accessibility Services, started seeing a psychiatrist at the Health and Wellness Centre, figured out methods to cope with my mental illness (including medication, therapy, and meditation), met with a Learning Strategist from the Academic Success Centre to get my academic life back on track, met with my college’s registrar to discuss my course load, and most importantly, I started learning how to truly love myself.
If you have been reading my blog posts regularly, you might notice recurring advice about learning how to be happy, how to love yourself, and figuring out what you love to do. I keep repeating this because it’s the most valuable piece of advice I have to offer.
I had always equated my own happiness to academic success. And while this was a good temporary solution to my unhappiness in high school, it didn’t translate well into university. This is mostly because university, in my opinion, is more than just academia. We’re not only here to study and receive a degree, but we’re also here to discover ourselves, our goals and ambitions, and our interests.
Additionally, one of the pressures I gave to myself in my first year was to be great at everything. I wanted to excel academically, make a ton of friends, participate in every co-curricular activity known to man, and leave some time to binge watch Orphan Black in between all of that. I wanted to have it all, and realistically, we can’t.
You’ll see many wonderful tips regarding academics, studying, and co-curricular activities and I encourage you to read through them and figure out what works for you. However, you’re going to find that you won’t necessarily find the time to do everything perfectly. As a student and as an adult, you learn to prioritize.
I chose to prioritize my own happiness, and that looks different for everybody. Maybe you are an academically driven person who is genuinely happy with academically success, and that is okay. That works for you. But not necessarily for everyone. For myself, I had to focus more on co-curricular activities.
Unsurprisingly, I love to write, so I also started focusing on writing for various student publications such as The Varsity, the UC Gargoyle, and The Salterrae. I found writing to be therapeutic and a way to relieve the stress I was feeling from everyday life.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since the second grade, when I wrote a short story based on the classic animated series Arthur. In the story, Arthur Read tried on roller blade for the first time and then started rolling across town uncontrollably. Throughout the entire ordeal, he was completely terrified of roller blading and the incident seemed to justify his fear.
The story ended with Arthur crashing into the girls’ bathroom at school (second-grade Avneet found this really funny for some reason). Instead of feeling upset for his failure to roller blade, Arthur just laughed it off. It was a fun experience and a funny story to tell. Plus, he finally knew what the girls’ bathroom looked like!
If you find that you’re struggling right now, maybe you’re just in your roller blading Arthur phase. But soon, you’ll be able to laugh it off and start to feel comfortable about yourself. I promise that the moment will arrive. I also implore you to seek our the many mental health and academic resources that U of T has to offer. It may seem daunting at first, but once you have all the resources lined up, the clouds start to clear up and everything gets a little easier. That much I can promise you.
As far as my own struggles goes: yes, I’ve hit a few bumps along the way. Maybe I’m an over-sentient human being, but that’s the way I interact with the world. I believe that everything happens for a reason. If I weren’t supposed to be at U of T, I wouldn’t still be here after these past two years. But I’m a survivor. And I plan to keep going at it.
As far as loving yourself goes, that’s something you need to figure out on your own since everyone has their own needs. I will say this: you are valued, your struggles are valid, and you are beautiful. If all else fails, I will end this post with an iconic quote from RuPaul Charles:
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”