Hopeful Reminders to my Past Self

A photo of Amjali and her friends, all wearing masks on campusWritten by: Anjali Singh, SASAH + Honours Specialization in International Relations

Photo by: Anjali Singh 

Even as I was pinning classes on Draft My Schedule I don’t think it hit me that we are transitioning back to in-person classes in the fall. I hadn’t realized what an exciting thing that was since I feel, like a lot of people, that I had forgotten what it was like to be excited about the social aspect of school. During my time as an Academic Support and Engagement (ASE) Transition Leader at Western I was reminded that: firstly, I did remember how to make friends (thank god); and, secondly that there are so many different people to connect with at Western. With last year being online, I feel like I often kept myself in a bubble, physically for safety reasons of course, but also mentally. I feel like I forgot how much there is to enjoy in making connections with new people. While I did learn to appreciate the smaller and more personal things in life like spending time with myself and focusing on my personal wellbeing, with every new conversation I have I am reminded of how many different thoughts, ideas, and people I am surrounded by and how exciting that can be.

While I’ve been having a great start to this year, first-year was a bit of a different story. I have always been a social person and have usually had more trouble with the academic side of school. This was what I thought the main challenge was going to be for me coming into first year but, I instead had a hard time finding my place in my social life. I was suddenly taken out of the confines of my small city where I was comfortable being myself and put into a building where I faced adversity and opinions that did not align with my own. I was afraid that I would choke up when expressing myself or not be able to support my beliefs when challenged, but once I surrounded myself with people who I could engage in meaningful conversations with I was a little less scared. And with every confrontation, I got a little less unconfrontational, something that I am proud to have worked on.

Examples of adversity that I faced were experiencing microaggressions and racism from people around campus, something I didn’t expect. It was hard coexisting with people who I felt uncomfortable around. While at first, the situation seemed hopeless, once I became more confident and spoke about these types of issues with my friends and in my classes I began to find these issues not only improving for myself but for my peers as well. I am now much more vocal about the experiences I have, realizing that they are important conversations that should be brought to light and addressed. If I could go back and show my first-year self a glimpse into the future, I would remind them that it indeed does get better (as cliché as that sounds), and that surrounding yourself with supportive people is as important as standing your ground.

Before entering first year I feel like a lot of people believe that they have to change their identities to become a “whole new person,” something that I thought I needed to do for a while too. But I felt a lot more confident and happier when I found myself improving things that I already knew were within me, while allowing myself to be open to new ideas and experiences. I started this blog post with the idea of writing about the switch from online to in-person school, but it has transitioned to a letter to my first-year self as well. I found myself reflecting a lot on first year and how many changes I, like many people, have gone through during this turbulent time. I guess it was a given that a reflection about transitioning back to normal life would make me reflect on a time that my life was not, which has allowed me to understand why this transitional period makes me feel the way I do. The takeaway that I got from putting all my ideas down in this somewhat scattered way is that everyone is excited to get back to what life used to be like and that life hasn’t stopped while we were in this pandemic. I feel like I have been put in situations that allowed me to face my fears and get out of my comfort zone to grow into the person that I was meant to be.

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