“I feel like I missed out on undergrad.”
I said it out loud to no one in particular and was overcome by a fleeting moment of emptiness before being yanked back to reality. It was Saturday night and my friend and I were seated comfortably in the Hart House Theatre, surrounded by that distinct stuffiness of old auditoriums and a shifting darkness that spoke of anticipation. The 15th Annual Hart House Festival of Dance was about to begin.
It was a night of many firsts. It was the first time since the beginning of undergrad that I had ventured into the Hart House Theatre, the first time I had seen a campus-wide performance and the first time I truly appreciated the multitude of talents possessed by the U of T student body.
After the show, I was physically tired yet I felt so alive – more alive than I have been for a long, long time. Looking at the wide display of talent from that night and knowing the students come from an equally wide variety of academic disciplines, I realized that it is possible to have a life outside of the cubicle in Robarts Reading Room. It is possible to lead a not-so-humdrum life without jeopardizing your marks or your future. It is possible for undergrads at U of T to feel joyful about life!
It feels like everything I’ve done in undergrad thus far has been for one purpose only: building my resumé. I began building in first year towards a career in medicine. The result of all this effort became somewhat irrelevant when in second year, I decided to switch from medicine to counselling. But even then I wasn’t really sure, so by my third year I told myself that I needed to try laboratory research because, after all, I am in Life Science – what do people specializing in Molecular Biology do if they don’t do laboratory research?!
So I nearly sold my soul fighting for a summer research position, but in the meantime, that summer I nearly lost my soul to a new-found love called journalism. This seemingly insignificant cognitive dissonance ultimately resulted in a mild quarter-life crisis by the start of my fourth year. The confusion (and panic) I experienced was not unlike those expressed in Cynthia’s post. Then finally, just as this past fall semester was about to end, by a stroke of luck I stumbled upon a career that even I, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, would deem to be “just right.”
Would I say that I regret having tried to build my resumé in all those different directions, for all those different career goals that never worked out in the end? Probably not. My personal philosophy is that everything happens for a reason, and a corollary to this is that everything we choose to do brings meaning into our lives. Therefore, I don’t choose to label any of my past experiences as a “waste of time.” What I do want, however, is to go back to the past and fix the attitude with which I have done all the things I did.
What I’ve learned is that our lives go far beyond the things we put on our resumé. At one point in high school, when I was still heavily involved with the music portions of my school’s annual variety shows and spent hours after school reading my poetry and short stories to people in my Writers’ Guild, I had known this. I made the distinction between my personal and then-budding professional life, and my life was completely mine. Looking back, I realize that:
- We are not obligated to shove everything we do into a column on our resumé. Sometimes, it’s not a crime to do things simply because it’s fun and makes us happy.
- We can get so much more out of a potentially resumé-worthy experience if we don’t prejudice it to a specific (career) goal straight off the bat. This allows us to be fully receptive to all aspects of the experience and prevents us from being locked into tunnel vision.
Walking out of the Festival of Dance that evening, I suddenly felt like joining some sort of performance group at U of T – just for me and my sanity. In high school, things were so simple: there were two major shows each year and one office where you signed up for everything, including auditions. But U of T is so large that not only is there an overwhelming number of groups and opportunities available for the artistically minded, it’s hard to find them, too.
So I dug around the web for a bit and stumbled across a relatively new website called ArtsZone. It’s an amazing hub for all sorts of opportunities – both academic and extracurricular – in the arts at U of T, where “arts” can be anything that fall under the category of architecture, film, music, new media, theatre, visual art and writing. There is even a page featuring the newest art-related opportunities in our school and also in the city, such as auditions, submission deadlines, jobs and workshops! How awesome is that?! I also found plenty of student organizations and groups for the arts at the good ol’ Ulife website.
All of this might take you a while to browse and digest, but I urge you to do so if you feel even a tiny itch to participate in the U of T or Toronto arts scenes. Fresh out of the dreadful womb that is Robarts, I must now go and also explore all this new-found wonder. In the meantime, let there be music.