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I Wanted to Graduate in Three Years and Now I’m Taking a Fifth Year: Why Time Matters Less Than You Think

I knew this girl who finished her degree in three years and attended her dream grad school two months after her early graduation. All my life I dreamed of getting ahead. Now, I’m taking a fifth year, have a reduced course load and have been taking summer classes since first year.

I look at those two comparisons and for a moment, I’m hit with shame. Then I think about why I’m proud of that person and I realize I’m proud not because she graduated early but the fact that she strived for what she wanted in her life. Her hard work went toward her passion for research and her plan to graduate early aligned with her dreams. So I look back at myself and realize I’m exactly where I need to be and I’m proud of myself.

window view of houses in Toronto

When this winter semester started, I experienced the most panic attacks that I’ve had in a while. All of my assignments felt more overwhelming than they actually were while I was still adjusting to my new accommodation in Toronto that I moved into on short notice. When I tried getting into the groove of studying, I was held back by obsessively looking at my degree process on Degree Explorer. Five courses were a challenge for me but it would help me fulfill my major requirements, I told myself. I was desperate for an inkling of certainty and I thought a full course load would give me that. Furthermore, I was figuring out what courses were best for my CV for my grad school applications. With all the confusion and anxiety I was going through, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing with my life.

girl with facial mud mask holding a peace sign
The self-care that typically comes to mind (Still refreshing, though!)

I ended up spending a few days in my hometown, sorting myself out and recuperating. I dropped a course and am currently catching up with my other coursework. But I feel much more content and I know that the guilt I had over not being able to do a full course load wasn’t worthwhile if it took that much of a toll on my mental health.

Although I’ve been in school longer than I intended and I wasn’t able to do a full course load for most of it, I wouldn’t change a thing. The confusion I went through in first year when I was in a different major and with the recent anxiety I experienced, those times pushed me closer to my passion. My courses, majors, and degree all line up with my passion. I think passion itself becomes forgotten in the maintenance of mental health. While we should remember to take care of ourselves for our mental health, prioritizing our passions is equally part of the process.

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