Or, ‘Third Semester Review’.
Inevitably, things will go wrong. Or maybe not ‘wrong’, but not exactly how you would prefer they go. That is the nature of a vast and variable world.
The holidays are over, and my third semester of undergrad is complete. I have had a bit of time to collect my thoughts on what transpired. If I had decided to do my review of the semester’s work directly after I finished, there would have been much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Now I suppose I’m fine with how everything shook out, and maybe a little bit smarter if slightly bitter about it, to boot.
Basically, I was about a percentage point away from the Dean’s list last semester because I just. Took on too many things. I was taking 5 classes with a natural science lab. I was doing a ton of work for the Psychology Students Association. I was a TA for the Philosophy department, I was working in the behaviour lab, I helped re-do and re-launch a website for an organization that really needed an upgrade, and when November hit, my precariously balanced life exploded. My dad had two heart attacks and started experiencing a scary level of daily anxiety, and I was destroyed by an absolutely relentless chest infection for weeks while our house was having renovation work completed. On top of all the normal issues, appointments, paperwork and administrative stuff I face day to day with my disorders, and an ever-worsening issue with being able to properly enter REM sleep (more on this in a later post, I’m sure).
My professors were incredibly understanding while I tried to juggle all these things. I managed to only miss a few classes here and there. I slowly tried to get my health back, finish my last assignments, complete finals, and finish with not entirely terrible grades. Being so close and yet still missing the mark with the Dean’s list was incredibly humbling and frustrating, but I feel better prepared for this semester’s workload, and I made some hard decisions about where I would be allocating my spare time and decided to walk away from some obligations, which is incredibly mature and very, very unlike me. … In a good way, though!
There is definitely a version of myself that would have reached the point I did in November, looked at the work still to be done for the semester, felt the pain and pressure I was experiencing, and literally just cut and run. Given up. Disappeared. Decided to take the defeat and maybe try again later. Maybe. That version of myself would definitely have wielded my various mental illnesses and struggles as a shield to deflect any encouragement or criticism the decision would have brought me, and while that is a completely valid and sometimes accurate thing to cite as an understandable reason for quitting, I didn’t do all this work setting up accommodations and advocating for my needs and showing myself that this work IS possible for me just to completely crumple under the first serious brush with a shitstorm.
I survived. Dignity and academic career intact. Not pristine, but definitely not even close to a write-off. I saw a very large, scary bunch of problems culminating in an ending I wasn’t really into. So I decided to do the ugly, sweaty, unglamourous heavy lifting. It was a brutal slog of forcing myself to do the bare minimum to get where I needed to be. There were many days I walked from class to the bus stop and burst into tears because of the effort involved. I tried to do the work to set myself up for the next day as much as I could. I tried to be kind and understanding to my crumbling self. There was one day I even asked my mother for help because I just could not bear to be in public, exposed, feeling so ill anymore. This is a big deal. I do not ask for help. It is the ultimate admission of weakness.
But I needed to finish.
And with a few weeks to digest, I can resolutely nod at my past self and their efforts. Not giving up and flopping over the finish line in an ungraceful, disgusting, torn-up heap is something to be immensely proud of.
Think about all the things you have lived through, and marvel that you occupy the space you do now. Body and brain attempting to slough off the encounters like dead skin so you can start over and do it again. But this time, with the corpse of the past to examine. We are incredibly fortunate for the detritus of the antecedent. Onward!