Some people come to University immediately out of high school, do their four years, and then move on.
I am not one of these people.
Through an odd combination of bad luck, mental illness, and not being a good enough student to do five courses a semester per year, I find myself turning the corner of my fifth chronological year since I’ve started University, and wondering what the heck I am doing.
The answer is: I am going at my own pace.
Before I was medicated and in therapy for depression, this felt wrong to say to myself. I preferred to focus on what went wrong and beat myself up. Even now I feel a level of stigma and social pressure allowing myself to go as slow as I need to in school: there is pressure from family, media, and the self to succeed, succeed well, and succeed quickly. So it should hardly come as a surprise that when I turned 22 and was without a Bachelor’s degree, I was dejected.
But nothing happened. I still go to school and I still earn credits for this nebulous “degree” which I may or may not be awarded someday.
I think the main reason that I work as the blogger for the Academic Success Centre is not because I am an exemplar of Academic Success. Instead, I had a lot of hurdles thrown at my legs but over time I’ve managed to return to school and do well in a small number of courses per semester. This may not be very inspiring, but what I want to get across is that, despite whatever challenges you may face, there is help on and off campus for you, and you can return to University whenever you are ready.
As I write this, another stigma comes to mind: that this attitude is just a sad way of justifying failure. The stigma is inaccurate and unproductive. The attitude of giving yourself credit for your successes no matter what pace you go at is an attitude that helped me return to school and stay in it. Setting time limits for long-term goals can help you plan out your future, but life is strange and meddlesome, and these gang aft agley. Timelines of several years should have some flexibility, and being self-destructively hung up on a missed goal is a recipe for missing out on your other goals.
So take your time with school. Work towards your goals, even the most ambitious ones, and don’t be afraid to change them or make new ones. Working at your own pace doesn’t mean your goals are less worthy, no matter how much a certain nagging voice may tell you that.
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