With January coming to an end, midterms on the horizon, and reading week around the corner, whispers of encouragement can be heard ringing through the halls of university campuses all across Canada. “You’ll be fine, “Don’t worry” and my favourite, “Everything will be okay.” However, amongst all the encouragement and positivity, I can’t help but ask myself, “Will everything truly be okay?”
Rewind a little bit to high school. Imagine me, an 18-year-old Indian boy with gelled hair, a scrawny body, and a knack for procrastination. High school hadn’t been particularly fun for me. I grew up with visions of what high school would look like, but for me, it never lived up to the hype of Mean Girls. Fast-forward a little bit to second year. Being a transfer student from Halifax, I didn’t get to experience “rez life” as they call it. So moving into a house as a second-year transfer student, with 4 guys I barely knew and my best friend from high school, might have seemed a little odd to some. As a kid, I grew up in a small city and attended a private school for 13 years, eventually graduating with 34 people. As a result, moving to Queen’s and being on my own, was a pretty big move for me. I was in a city that I had never been to, with people I had never met, that for some reason kept saying, “Cha Gheil”. (For the longest time I had no idea what this meant)
However, what became abundantly clear in those first few weeks at Queen’s, is that I have never truly felt so alone in my whole life. Remember that sheltered, probably a momma’s boy I was telling you about earlier? Well, I was still that same guy. I still had the same problems, the same issues, but at least in the past amongst all the problems I may have faced I always had my parents and friends there to comfort and tell me that, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay” and for the longest time I believed them. Blindly following the comfort my parents provided, for 19 years I never questioned them because I truly felt that everything would be okay, I mean why wouldn’t it be?
Fast forward a little more, it is half way through second-term. I was starting to get a hang of what it meant to live on your own. It was hard at first. I didn’t really know anyone. Hadn’t lived away from my parents for more than a few weeks (even then I was with family). But I got used to it. I made some friends, started to get into the groove, but for the second time in my life, I couldn’t help but noticing that I felt a deep feeling of emptiness and loneliness, as if something was missing. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing I always had my mom there, or maybe the comfort of the home I had lived in for 15 years. Whatever that void was it would continue to persist for the remainder of the semester. No matter how many friends I made, parties I went to, even the good grades I got, nothing could take that feeling away. It wasn’t until I spent the summer in Halifax that I truly understood what I had been missing this whole time.
So much of who we are as people and how successful we are as students is determined by metrics. How many followers you have on Instagram, how many pounds you lost this week at the gym, how many parties you got invited to on the weekend, and oh of course, how high your GPA is. And while it may seem silly to worry about how many followers you have on social media as opposed to your GPA, you would be surprised as to how many people’s confidence and persona is a direct product of just that. But what does this have anything to do with me, who I am, and why I’m even writing all of this?
As I mentioned earlier, this past summer I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time back home in Halifax. This was good in a way because it gave me a chance to reflect on my past, present and (hopefully bright) future. What I came up with was that as we grow older, the metrics that we use to measure ourselves simply change to things that hold a greater significance to our ultimate being. How much the mortgage is, how much money you make in a year, how your job performance is, and of course, how long will I live. Our lives become so consumed with these numbers, that often times people get lost in the obscurity of a pursuit that they aren’t even sure they want in the first place. We work endless hours on goals and dreams that seem to be exactly what we wanted at one point, but will completely pivot on those when they eventually fail to suit our needs. As I looked more into this, I was appalled at the level of influence this kind of thinking has within our society and the human hierarchal ladder that we all fall on.
What I have learned through my experience is this; it is extremely difficult to ignore these metrics no matter how much someone may try to convince you otherwise. Numbers are constant, everlasting, and do not lie. They plague our minds, our bodies, and ultimately our well-being. We perceive ourselves in relation to how others tell us or perceive us. It is why when my mother would tell me, “Everything will be okay” I would believe her. I trusted her judgement and was comforted by her words. Because I mean, why wouldn’t I be? She is the woman that birthed, fed, and raised me. However, what people forget, is no matter how much time you have spent with your parents and with your friends, you have never spent more time with anyone other than yourself. So why is it that when someone else comforts us that makes us feel better because of the relationship that we have with that person, but when we try to comfort ourselves, we react harshly to anything we try to contrive from within. We insult ourselves, say we’re worthless, and that we can’t do anything. The metrics that we burden our own selves with are ultimately the deciding factor in us being comfortable enough with who we are. Trust me, take it from someone who continues to struggle with this every day, telling yourself everything is going to be okay is definitely not a comforting thought.
I realized that it was as a result of this dynamic that my life at Queen’s had been so different and produced the feelings I was having. At home around my friends and family, I was comforted by what they had to say. The constant encouragement and positive words created a facade that I lived in. I never took the time to truly evaluate who I was and if I even liked that person. In my loneliness at Queen’s, I had time to reflect on exactly that, without the regular support and words of encouragement that had been there in the past. What I realized is that I really didn’t like the kind of person I had become. I didn’t like the way I treated others, or the way I viewed life in general. All I was doing was letting life pass me by, as I went through the motions. There were so many things I realized were just fundamentally wrong, and against how I saw myself in comparison to who I actually was. It was truly amazing to see the difference.
In the midst of all the positivity and encouragement, I forgot to keep a check in place on myself. I took what I heard, the metrics I saw, and the boundaries people placed on me, as an indication of who I was and eventually I began to define myself by those measures. Queen’s made me realize that I hadn’t taken the time to analyze who I was becoming. I lived in this fantasy world of comfort where everything was always going to be alright. So what’s the real takeaway here? Love yourself *jbiebs voice*. No, but seriously, love yourself every day. Take the time to take a step back, evaluate who you are as a person, and take the time to be absolutely comfortable with what that looks like. It’s easy to get trapped within the metrics and what people tell you. They begin to define, control, and eventually mould you into who you are as a person. No matter how much money you make, how high your grades are, or even how many followers you have on Instagram, you will never truly be happy until you are happy with yourself. Don’t ever let anyone other than yourself define what it means for you to be okay and ultimately happy, because, in the end, the only person you’ll always have by your side is yourself.
Thanks for reading