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Exams are important, but so are you

It feels like the season finale of a very long, very tumultuous show. We are nearing the end. I hear my roommates coming home at 4 AM after a study session at Stauffer. I find me and my friends exchanging encouragement and motivation with a bowl of $0.25 ramen on the side.

I have five exams. After those five exams are over, I can go home and relax with my friends and family. In the time between now and that car ride back home to Guelph, I am trying my hardest to hold myself together.

My journey this semester has not been easy. Even though I’m a second-year student, it was still my first time on campus. Navigating this new part of my life apart from my mom and boyfriend, my two most prominent supporters, has been extremely hard.

I got my first failed test a few weeks ago. It was a major catalyst for a depressive period. At first, I was in a state of shock. I thought I did decently, so how did I fail it? I floated around the class, trying to determine if this was a me thing or an everyone thing. It turned out it was an everyone thing: the class average was 50%. Even though I tried my best and the class average was 50%, my sadness or worries didn’t just disappear.

I tried a tutoring session for that course. It didn’t help, which caused me to spiral even more. I felt hopeless. My mind went in hundreds of directions, but the general trajectory was this: if I were to fail a course, my GPA would drop, my transcript would show it, I wouldn’t be able to get any internships or jobs, and I’ll never make any money or buy a house or make the people around me proud.

When I type it—and you read it—it sounds silly, doesn’t it?

  1. Failing a test doesn’t mean failing a course.
  2. If you fail a course, you can do it again. Simple as that.
  3. Jobs value your character and work experience more than a letter on your transcript.
  4. School and careers are not linear. There is not one path you have to take to be successful. No matter what I did, I’ll make it out fine as long as I worked hard.

The logic in my head was fool-proof, but my body disagreed. I still feel a knot in my stomach, I’ve probably cried more times in the last month than in the previous five years, and it’s a lot harder to get out of bed in the mornings.

So, I left it up to the professionals and adults.

I booked a counselling appointment. I booked a therapy appointment. I called my mom, brother, and boyfriend’s mom. I had a Zoom meeting with my program’s academic advisor. I went online and tried to find people who went through the same things that I did and see if they had any input.

I want to share what I’ve learned:

  • My worth is not decided by my grades, a failed test, or an extra year at university – it’s my kindness, empathy, and consideration to others that are important and notable.
  • Not all days are the same, and some days or weeks, we’ll feel like quitting as things might not be in our favour. Take a break, talk to people, and come back stronger.
  • We don’t have to take one path in school. We can move some courses and take a fifth year, and truly enjoy what university offers: clubs, new people, and new experiences. It’s supposed to be some of the best years of our life.
  • Be patient; nothing worthwhile comes overnight. We have a lifetime.

My university experience this year has been study, study, study. To be blunt, it has not made university very enjoyable for me. If you’re struggling, there are so many people we can talk to that want to help. Adults have been in our shoes and can give us sound advice. During our call today, my mom told me, “You’re still just a kid. Let us help you.”

Let’s take care of ourselves. We only have a couple more weeks to go.

I’m crossing my fingers that the reassurance I’ve already received will last me until I set foot back in Guelph. But if I ever need a bit more, I know where to find it.

Good luck and happy holidays, Gaels! – Liyi