The Bachelor of Education students started classes this week, first-years are experiencing Lakers Orientation, and campus will be humming with the sound of thousands of students by Tuesday; another academic year begins. And as it is with each September, I think about what the year has in store for me.
Oddly enough, thinking about the year ahead in my first year as a professional isn’t all that different from when I was a student; there’s the thrill of a new beginning, the anticipation of adventures, and the fear that I’m going to do it all terribly wrong. But even more than that, I feel like I’m travelling back in time to my first year at Nipissing University.
I was the guy in high school that did everything—taking courses from the grade above me, involved in a club for every day of the week, and working twenty hours a week at Shoppers Drug Mart. I was deeply entrenched in my school community and so, while the transition to university opened a lot of doors, it also left me fearful that I wouldn’t find my place. And instead of diving into every co-curricular activity I could find, I elected to spend my first semester firmly planted in my room, only venturing out for class or to go to the study down the hall in Chancellors. I asked myself, “Is this what university is? Do I just get through this?”
I remember fearing that I wouldn’t be able to sustain my academics if I took on any extra-curricular opportunities; in reality, as I soon learned, I wouldn’t be able to sustain myself without them. It’s who I am—it’s what I do. There are so many ways to engage and challenge and reinvent myself, and that’s my fuel. Anything else would get stale.
Which is why I felt gut-punched when a coworker, asking how the new job is going, noted that she asked herself, “Crap, is this what the rest of my life is like?” when she started her first job post-graduation. I realized I had been asking myself this question, indirectly, since I started work and moved into a new apartment. And this time, there is no “Do I just get through this?” because “this” is the rest of my life. So how can I sustain myself? How can I feel engaged and thrive here in North Bay—and if I can’t, where do I go next?
The work is great, but it’s never enough for me. So now I find myself on a journey not at all unfamiliar to myself or most (if not all) students: the hunt for an undertaking, a venture through which I can find my community here outside the university. And I’m not going to say it’s going exceptionally well right now. I Zumba at least once a week, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading about topics that invigorate me. But I still don’t feel like I’ve found my place yet.
It takes time. It takes effort. And it takes trying a whole lot of things that won’t work out or energize me in the way I need. For those people that find it easy, I salute you and I’m happy you’ve found your place. And for those who haven’t, that’s okay too—we’re still digging, and we’ll keep digging until we find a way to root down.