It seems surreal that August has been gone for a few weeks now, that summer has effectively ended and somehow we're in the middle of September. It feels like it went by even faster than usual, like it was just April a couple of days ago. Maybe part of it is that nearly half of the summer was shrouded in smoke from the several hundred wildfires plaguing western Canada, and it was almost impossible to spend any time outside. I wasn't ready for fall to come, was hoping that somehow September would be sunny and warm and we would get to experience the last bits of a summer we didn't really have. But we didn't, and now the leaves have curled up and fallen off earlier than usual, frost already cutting through the morning air.
People have gone back to school, signed on to volunteer in new places, have jumped headlong into the thick of it after the slack schedule of summer. It still seems strange for me not to be going back to school, to have a second September where my life continues on as it has for the last year and I'm not flooded with all the realizations that I have to actually buckle down and get to work on those assignments whose deadlines are worryingly soon. If I'm being honest, I miss it. I miss knowing that each semester would bring something new to the table, that as a student you're never really doing the same things long enough to feel like you're stuck in much of a rut. But it wasn't all sunshine, and I remember that clearly too.
This was about the time every year when the shiny newness of the semester would start to wear off for me. The first week of university classes being mostly introduction and reading through the course syllabus before being sent off again, catching up with the people who have been gone for the past several months and enjoying the last remnants of decent weather. Then the second week full of first 'real' lectures and the false sense of security that comes from believing that midterms are still weeks away, that this time you're going to be a better student, get things done well in advance. But then by the third week, it all starts to come back; you realize that the first round of midterm exams actually starts in a matter of days, and instead of being ahead on your readings, you're actually somehow a full month behind despite the fact that school only just started.
It's when it hits you - this whole student thing is actually just a lot of really hard work. It's a lot less fun than it seemed in theory. And it keeps you up at night, term papers staring you in the face and taunting you until it feels like you're losing your mind. I've been there.
It's terribly un-glamorous. And it's enough to reduce the best of us to an emotional wreck from time to time.
Why do we do this to ourselves, again? Something about career development and life skills, but that seems a bit like a far-off mirage across a desert.
When the brightness dulls, and it will dull, buckle down and keep pushing forward. The days are long, but the weeks are short. And before you know it, the semester will be over and you'll be left wondering where all the time went. Four years (or five, or six) go by faster than you'd imagine. Remember that you can do anything for a limited duration. Keep in mind that this isn't forever, that soon enough it will be Christmas.
Remember that you are not defined by the letter written in red pen at the end of your essay. It's an incredibly false measure of a person's intellect, and we put so much more stock into grades than we should. That's not to say you shouldn't try, but rather that a couple of poor grades say nothing about your worth as a human being. Once you've graduated, no one aside from graduate schools will ever care about the details of your GPA.
Remember that there's no one right way to do this. Find what works for you, and go with it. If it means writing out pages and pages of notes by hand, go for it. If it looks like hauling yourself to a coffee shop early in the morning to get some readings done, great. If being successful looks like taking an extra year or two to get through your program, then do that. Or if it means taking a full course load every semester to make it out in the least amount of time possible, that's cool too. Just don't wreck yourself in the process. When you come out the other side (and you will, eventually. I promise.), you need to be a real functioning human.
Remember that it's not all about you. Don't forget to invest in the people you care about, to support the causes that matter, simply because college is consuming the bulk of your brain. Schoolwork is important, but it's temporary and if you graduate with perfect grades and nothing else - no network or support system, that's not much of a success. You've got people around you who have been through the same things you have, people you can rely on in the hard moments and celebrate the victories with.
It's a part of your life you are exchanging for this education, so don't forget to keep living. Real life doesn't just start when you've got the coveted piece of paper in your hand, so buckle up. Dream big. Get over yourself. It'll be over before you know it.
PS. I’ve added a little button to my sidebar, and I’m feeling a little self-conscious about it. But I recently started a page on Ko-fi where people can support the work I’m doing here at Joyfully, Alice to help offset some of the costs of doing business and keep this little corner of the internet running. The nice thing about Ko-fi is that 100% of funds go directly to creatives, with no fees taken off the top. If you enjoy this blog and/or the Real Talk Tuesday newsletter and feel so inclined, you can buy me a ‘coffee’ by following the link. As always, I’m endlessly thankful for you all - for your encouragement and enthusiasm for my words. Much love.