Written by Sharine Taylor
Acceptance granted me the title of being the first person in my family to attend university. My academic resume pre-acceptance was dotted with both scholastic and creative accolades. I was accepted into a program that I had excelled at while I was in high school and figured I should pursue it in my post-secondary years. I was ready to tackle this new part of my academic journey and was doubly excited to do so.
My journey has afforded me the opportunity to learn that finding personal revelations from really unfortunate situations, are a testament to both self-growth and self-appreciation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the victim of pressing the metaphorical ‘reset’ button in my life.The challenges I faced after achieving one of my greatest milestones, being accepted into university, should have been underscored by this same sentiment.
I’ve changed my major multiple times, I jump between creative pursuits almost daily, and still have to deal with the perpetual state of confusion that most twenty-something’s are riddled with. It’s easy to beat yourself up for failing to meet your goals. It’s also much easier to slip away into a sadness that seems almost impossible to get out of. Though the period of time that you spend navigating through your sorrow seems daunting, the minute you tell yourself that you will crawl out of that hole will be your biggest (and ironically your smallest) triumph. This moment consists of making the cognitive transition of getting out of that state, and then deciding that you’ll be the agent of change in your situation.
Unfortunately, my first year of university was quite a disastrous experience; I had frequent moments of overwhelming anxiety, was geographically separated from my closest friend at the time, and was plagued with self-doubt– which was very much reflected in my work. I was placed on academic probation and finally suspended.
At that point, everything that I had ever thought about myself was suddenly made illegitimate. I questioned my intelligence, competence and worth and felt that I disappointed my entire family. The suspension period lasted a semester and gave me four months to reflect on what I needed to do. Four months later I was back in school and on academic probation. I trudged through the winter semester and summer semester but was still feeling uneasy about where I stood. I was suspended again and this time for a whole year.
Re-framing was my first step towards a direction of progress, healing and self-appreciation. I understood at that moment that the academic journey is not a homogenous experience, though most students pursuing post-secondary are not aware of that reality. Students are constantly reminded of how much they need to achieve in a sometimes unrealistic amount of time. As well, there are certain factors that privilege some folks to accomplish what needs to be done in four years and refuses to permit others.
We talk about healing and overcoming, yet hardly focus on the realities of the grey area that is sorting out our distress. Rummaging through devastation is not an easy process, especially the second time around. It was during this time though, I was forced to do something that did not initially occur to me: I had to actively change my state of mind. Though this is easier said than done, and requires an extra push of individual agency, it is a preliminary step that can prove to be a feat for some folks. With that being said, at the very least, acknowledging that you’d like to be in a better space is a huge leap in and of itself.
The time off allowed me to grieve but it also gave me an opportunity to re-frame my thinking about school and my self. I connected back to my creative self, thought about what resources I had access to at school to assist in transitioning back into the space, and more importantly, saw completing school as a personal fulfillment and not necessarily a requirement for a purposeful life. I signed up, changed my major and decided to write for my campus’ publication. Making this cognitive decision of re-framing restored the confidence I had lost and I felt so much better about myself. Two years later my GPA has soared, I’ve been more academically and socially involved on campus, I’ve secured a position on the masthead of the same publication I wrote for and have been hired as editor in chief for the upcoming school year.
Re-framing your thinking, or at least outsourcing for help to do so, is a minor step towards creating major change. Our perceived failures don’t define our final outcome. I’m glad that this realization will prelude my downfalls and successes to come.
Sharine is a writer of the Jamaican diaspora based in Toronto. She is part of the ENUF collective, which aims to provide safe spaces for women of colour. She is also pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in media studies, enjoys listening to music, reading and watching films.