Good Grief

I’m grieving the end of my university career.

Something I don’t think about often (if at all) is the extent to which I connect my identity with Nipissing University. Having been involved in Student Affairs throughout my five years in various capacities, I’ve put a lot of myself into the institution. I’ve held nine different jobs or volunteer positions, influenced institutional policies and procedures, and worked to support the wellbeing of thousands of students. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that I’ve invested more time in my work outside the classroom at Nipissing University than in my academics (but I swear I was a good student too!). After so many years and so much work, I feel like the University is a part of me.

Many friends, family, and colleagues seem to anticipate my continued employment with the University in some capacity. I’ve had professors and friends in other departments ask, “So which department are you going to be working in?” or “So you’re sticking around here in September, right?” There’s also a lot of jokes here and there about what will happen to Nipissing University when I leave. Apparently I’m not the only one who ties my identity to the institution; there seems to be this general consensus that I am inseparable from it.

Which is why, as August approaches, I am grappling with what leaving means for me. Am I losing a part of myself? Who am I without this community? Can I excel beyond these walls? And what am I leaving behind? These questions aren’t fun to tackle–they’re ugly and tough and make me uncomfortable–but they address the reality I will soon be facing.

What I keep reminding myself is that my relationship with the University is reciprocal. Yes, I’ve put years of my life into my work for the school, but I’ve gained just as much–if not more–from that investment, and I recognize that. The challenge that remains, however, is how to articulate that return investment. It’s one thing to say that I’ve had all these various experiences; it’s another to be capable of expressing what I’ve learned, how my actions and identity are influenced as a result, and how my future ambitions have been shaped.

I stated in my last post that I see myself as an amalgamation of all the people I’ve met. With each day, I reflect more and more on the growth I’ve undergone, and the people and environment that have influenced it. I feel an immense gratitude for the past five years. But I am also realizing now that I am not merely an amalgamation of these experiences; there is a “me” underneath it all, and as I mentally prepare myself for whatever it is that comes next, I am embracing the challenge and inherent vulnerability in exposing that self.