What I Wish I Had Known in First Year: A Reflection
“Pro Tem”: an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “Pro Tempore”, translates to “for the time being”, describing what we are on this campus, as on this earth. Indeed, at the edge of the precipice, in my final year, I realize now more than ever that no gleaming, beautiful experience will ever last. I see in hindsight the effervescence of my first-year self, at present day wound down and tamed to become a quiet simmer of a woman, confident but not unbothered.
This is not a depressing revelation — but it could have been. My quietude now reflects a compilation of events, both anticipation- and anxiety-inducing, that I have endured (including a five-month strike by this very university). This compilation of events is a volume in survival, a footnote in existence, a dog-eared page in my own personal hippocampal novel. Over the course of this article, in some ways, it will be yours, too.
Primarily, I wish I had known that the terrifying, albeit comforting, truth is that most everyone harbours a small, nagging sense of insecurity, as no one truly knows what they are doing. This is especially true for those who insist that such a statement has never applied to them. At some point — many points in fact — you will likely find yourself in a position of authority for which you feel woefully unprepared. You will survive it (most everyone does) and you will come out with a sense of leadership and confidence greater than ever before.
Someone might well have also shared with me another little truth: not only can you insert uniqueness and joy into every day, but you should. Long gone are the days of hoarding my favourite items for fear of not using them at the right time, or breaking them, or losing them. Bagged tea tastes better in fine china and stickers are only as beautiful as the objects on which you show them off. Sometimes this is enough to make a day special — a carefully placed patch on a denim jacket, a delicately perfumed bath bomb at the end of a long day, or an impromptu walk down a narrow and uncharted suburban street. Every day should have its own special, memorable quality, lest you discover that you have failed to squeeze every last ounce of wonder out of the small slice of existence allocated to you.
Finally, and most importantly, I wish I had known that it is always worthwhile to aim a little higher than you anticipate achieving. There was a time when I would cower at a blank application in my hands (to a school, a scholarship, a job— including this one), ruminating over my sheer ineptitude relative to the other applicants. A professor for whom I reserve a deep, unwavering admiration once explained, “what happens when you jump too high? Well, you hit your head on the ceiling.” He shrugged. I smiled. The truth is that I have seen opportunities and successes that I would otherwise have never known without exposing myself to the mortifying risk of rejection. Of course, some days I hit my head on the ceiling. Other days, I break straight through it.