Hannah's blog posts are written in collaboration with our partners at Yellow House, which is a space and community for Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Colour at Queen's. Thanks to Yellow House for their partnership. Make sure to check out their Instagram to stay current with their events for Queen's QTBIPOC students!
First year is a human experience.
If you are in first year or will be in first year, this is for you. I want to be honest with you. First year has not been a non-stop, scintillating, magical experience. Between the time it takes for the leaves to fall and plants to die and for the flowers to bloom again, some of us have changed a lot. Others perhaps haven’t changed much at all. I can’t say.
But I think that’s the point. In first year, you realize more than ever that you don’t know everything. You might not know how to do your laundry. You might not know what that vile smell in the common room is. You might not know how to not feel awkward when introducing yourself to new people at parties and gatherings. You might not know what you want to do with your degree yet. You might not know if you want to wear anything but sweatpants. You might not know if you want to start going to the gym. You aren’t going to know a lot of things, and that is going to feel scary at first.
The thing about first year is that in the first few weeks, everything felt to me like a lucid dream of euphoria and exhaustion. If you’re like me, you might cry on the phone to the people you left behind at home. You’ll find that you aren’t as homesick as you thought you’d be. You’ll be tired—so tired—from meeting so many people at once. Your first lecture might feel jarring, confusing, thrilling, boring, or send you into an existential crisis that makes you think you need to re-assess all your life choices.
No one tells you that in first year, despite being surrounded by people constantly, you might feel lonely sometimes. The halls of your residence might be a chaotic cacophony of noise because somebody decided to blast Morgan Wallen while somebody else plays opera in the shower and someone else listens to rap. It will not feel magical at all. It might just feel incredibly inconvenient and frustrating.
I don’t want to sugar-coat the reality of first year. You might wake up on Saturday mornings with glitter under your lashes and your hair in a messy oompa-loompa state. You might feel humbled by your exhaustion and by how far from shiny life feels. Maybe you will spend an ungodly amount of time procrastinating. Maybe you will put all your blood, sweat, and tears into studying for a class and your grade won’t reflect your effort. And that is okay. You aren’t going to post all those messy experiences on Instagram—it’s not going to be glamorous—so don’t pay attention those with perfect, shiny social media lives. They are you.
This is the nature of first year. It is so incredibly human. You’ll learn things about yourself that will make you feel a bit uneasy. You’ll realize the silly habits you’ve picked up from your nearest and dearest that you wish weren’t part of how you move in the world. You will learn how you deal with drama and how you feel about that. Maybe you will find a few little tools that help you figure out how to manage the drama. Maybe you won’t. That’s okay too. You will laugh with people you never thought you would laugh with. You will grow in appreciation for good soul food. You are going to listen to a lot of music that you’ve never heard before. You are going to meet a lot of people and laugh a lot and dance a lot and cry a lot and feel a rainbow of emotions.
I promise you this: you are going to be okay. Maybe you’ll cry in bed with your curtains closed to block out how noisy the world feels. If you are anything like me, you are probably going to stagger through a tempestuous waltz of emotions sometimes. Some days you might feel like a dying star; maybe a bit fragile and broken and extra human. Some days anxiety might feel like a heavy elephant on your chest. But you are going to be okay. You will find one person at the very least, I hope, who sees you for all the lovely things that make up who you are. You might find them in your residence, in a club, in a class, at Yellow House, or at the Common Ground. You might have to look hard, but they’re out there, I promise. And you will step forward, one foot at a time. You are not wrong for feeling, for crying, for experiencing all your big feelings. And you are most certainly not on your own. You are not the only person who moves away from home and finds that the transition into adulthood welcomes a host of messy feelings and memories you thought you’d grown away from.
First year involves feeling incredibly tired: tired of trying, tired of dreaming, tired of the mundanity of everyday life, tired of being tired. I think what I have learned most from first year is that the innocent chaos of juvenescence has given me the capacity to climb the mountains of life that feel most enchanting. But, as a result, I can also experience with less fear the sunken valleys of life that make me want to retreat into a gray hoodie and pretend I am Eeyore for three days. This is the humanity of first year. You can experience the high highs, the low lows, and what feels like the monotonous cloud of the in-between.
If anything, my first year has been a most human experience. I have learned what it means to try, and what it means to feel broken. I have learned that life will bring you people who will feel golden and make you feel golden. And I have learned that life will bring you people who you are going to live life with for only a few breaths, and then you are going to part ways. And this is okay too.
I have learned that there are small things worth living for: puppies and warm cups of tea and the laughter of those I love. I have learned that it is okay to fear missing out, but I do not have to be governed by that worry. I have learned to celebrate the days where I need to honour my small wins: putting pants on (even if it’s just sweatpants), going outside, and drinking a glass of water. I have learned that it is okay if I am not okay. And as cheesy as it sounds, I am not the only one feeling this. Life is not a cave, it is a tunnel of light.
You will grow and learn a lot in your first year. I hope you hold onto this: you will be okay.
See you next year, Queen’s.