I’m finding myself more than a bit reflective today. Students are slowly filtering into the Education Centre again and this weekend, the residence halls will be filling with the eager faces of first-year students. I’m thinking back to where I was around this time many, many moons ago when I was in their shoes. If you’re not interested in a trip down memory lane, you’re best to take the exit now, otherwise, buckle up and settle in for a trip to the early 2000s!
It was late-August in 2002. I was looking around the bedroom that had been mine for more than a decade. Its walls bore posters of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, Freaks & Geeks, and Dawson’s Creek. I was packing a box with what I thought were stylish clothes, but 5 years (let’s hear it for the OAC grads!) in a school uniform had set me back a few years in developing a sense of what did and did not match (a question that’s still a head-scratcher for me to this day).
Later that day, I would go to the “Good Bye Party” my best friend was hosting to commemorate the last day of an era. Over the next few days, people would slowly filter out of my suburban hometown to post-secondary institutions all over the province and country. This was a transition that we had been preparing to undertake for years but suddenly it seemed like a lot of change all at once.
My friends all seemed to be going to schools with other people. My hometown is an easy commute to six colleges and universities so a lot of people had chosen to go that route, and I – I took the road less travelled. I chose a university that no one else chose and as a result, the farewells I bid at the end of the night didn’t mean “see you during Frosh Week!” they actually meant “maybe I’ll see you over Thanksgiving?”
Less than a week later, my parents and I took a silent car ride to a town I had only visited during two campus visits. The only words said the whole two hours were from my mother who said, “don’t leave your umbrella on the bus.” She revealed years later that she was actually crying behind her sunglasses and couldn’t say anything else.
My parents helped me move into my dorm room. My dad propped my bed up on cinder blocks for added storage and shortly thereafter, I was on my own.
I had never really been on my own before. I had no declared major – I hadn’t even registered in a class yet – but I knew I was there, standing in that nondescript room, for a reason. In those first few minutes by myself, I didn’t know why but in the minutes, hours, days, and years that followed, I came to know that I was standing in that room to change the course of my life and to live my life on my terms. Although I was undeclared in more ways than one on my first day on my own, I needed those moments without clarity to get to where I am today. While I’m still the girl with the undying affinity for 90s grunge and TV shows based on teen angst, I am an entirely different person than I would have been if I had made any other decision.
My gratitude for having the opportunity and support to make this decision is overwhelming and I can’t wait to see what this incoming group of students is able to do with a similar opportunity. I have two pieces of advice: 1) Let those unclear moments inspire you to find meaning, and 2) Don’t leave your umbrella on the bus.