By Taylor Jevning
University seems to be a transient time in anyone’s life, easily making it one of the most difficult. Apart from being a life-changing experience in general, there are few other times in a person’s life where they will have to endure the same levels of constant change. From the moment a person commits to attending university, they have also committed to altering nearly every aspect of themselves–their friends, relationship to their family, their interests, and their career. This can be accompanied by a sense of loss for a life of familiarity but is also generally accompanied with a spirit of ambition and excitement for the unknown. Entering a new semester is when I and many others experience these conflicting emotions at their highest.
An entirely new course load is the first difficulty. I don’t have to explain to most students how it feels to leave everything familiar that they have learned in the previous semester and attempt to find interest in information they haven’t even encountered yet. The cycle of endless essays and projects and homework and midterms begins building up again to an overwhelming extent, sucking the time and energy out of your body and putting it down into strictly-formatted pieces of paper. Friends from the semester prior move on to bigger and better things, and we watch them enviously while calculating how long it will be before we can look back at this place as only a memory. Some of us spend time in our hometowns over the holidays and realize that being home isn’t accompanied with the same sense of being at home as it used to be, leaving us to wonder if it is the place and the people who have changed or if we’ve been away long enough to not be the same person we were a few months ago. Even for those of us at home living with parents, waking up and not going to university every single day and not being bombarded with the anxiety of constant deadlines puts a sense of stillness in the air that did not exist before.
This cycle repeats every semester and sometimes occurs without warning throughout. The impermanence of a place and time like university takes away everything you once knew yourself to be but cannot replace these missing things with a sense of stability. A fast-paced transitory environment is necessary for facilitating self-growth, but it leaves you feeling like you’re walking the plank on a sinking ship over and over again. However, with every forced period of change, there is also an accompanying period of opportunity.
Going into this semester at full force with barely any time to mourn what we’ve left behind is comparable to living through a natural disaster. There is almost no time to react–only time to take control and make sure we do everything in our power to survive. Our new classes will be interesting and will eventually become habitual as they do every semester. Whether you are struggling with academic probation or changing your degree or simply just doing higher-level courses for the first time, the solutions to these struggles will become self-growth and only lead us to become more capable of managing ourselves than we were before. The friends we made and loved who have moved on will become great people living incredible lives in places we may get the chance to visit one day, and new people will fill the void they left behind and cause our hearts to grow beyond our current capabilities just to fit a part of them inside of ourselves. Entering university is not only a commitment to leaving who you once were behind, but it’s also the promise that, after stripping down the layers of what you thought you once were, you’ll be left behind with something even more beautiful and polished than before. It’s an open world with a global span of friendship encompassing your love life, your friendships, and your career. It’s the chance to look back in twenty years from the place you always hoped you’d be and think about how you wrote for the school newspaper, participated in events with people who made your soul feel complete, and woke up in the morning and somehow found the energy to accomplish the impossible based on the sheer power of your ambition to be a better version of yourself. After nearly four years of university, I can say with confidence that very few of us here have any form of certainty about what the future holds, but we’re here in the hopes that some part of us is piloting us in the right direction. Every synthetic piece of advice we’ve been given somehow becomes relevant, and we have no choice but to have faith in our own characters and sometimes run on autopilot.
A new semester is bittersweet and we all seem to be only half-tuned. This brand new period of time will bring us four months closer to new challenges we will conquer in the hopes that one day we can say this was one of the greatest times of our lives. The feeling of nostalgia is constant, but we will quickly have so many distractions to replace what we feel we’ve left behind, and those distractions will quickly become just as important to us as the things we are longing for right now. Enjoy this semester while you can and love the people who are enduring it with you, because at the end of this semester, you won’t want to say you wasted a second of these four months that are being given to you. This time in your life is not a tragedy, but an opportunity in which you have full control over. We may not have control over the inherent transient nature of university life, but we can choose to build something incredible from the opportunities given to us in an environment that offers experiences we may never again be able to take advantage of. When you came here, leaving yourself in the past was the only option, but losing yourself in the past would be a travesty.
I wish you all the best luck finishing up the second half of this school year!