In my Fifth and final year here at the U of A I’m beginning to feel I’ve overstayed my welcome on this lovely campus. The hundreds of students I pass daily seem to all have their focuses set in steel and walk with determination in their steps, they laugh with friends and stay long hours in the library, I see them stress over grades and friends while building their resumes. As for me, I’ve spent the majority of this past half-decade doing that the same.
My first-year self thought that I would work as a conference interpreter and that I would live abroad and meet some European hunk to spend my life with. But then I joined some campus teams, volunteered, worked three jobs a semester, and did everything in my power to engage in the quintessential “university experience.” All these experiences, however short lived or unsuccessful shaped parts of my identity and taught me, piece by piece, who I am, what I want, and most importantly, what I don’t want. I lived abroad and realized that though I adore Europe, I don’t want a life working in an office, in fact, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do. Five years ago or even just last year, I would shake in fear at the thought of not knowing what I wanted to do post-grad. What about the money? What about the house and the husband, and oh god what about the money!?
Well first-year self, all those years spent exploring your likes, dislikes and taking chances led you to know exactly what you do not want, and that is to live a life of routine which is simply not for me.
And listen here first-year self, you can be unsuccessful in absolutely anything, you can be unsuccessful in a job that you hate even though it has a good salary, you can suffer here doing what you hate or you can throw everything out the window and take the chance to be successful in what you love. Both take work, both take courage but only one will make you feel alive.
First-year self, after coming to the realization that time is limited and happiness is not, can’t you understand that you should embrace every ounce of passion in you, no matter how terrifying your own possibilities may seem.
First-year self, you will forget the people that hurt you; you will learn to affirm your dreams despite the doubts of loved-ones, because you will ultimately learn that this life is yours. The thousands of times you hear “you only have one life” will only ever ring true when you find yourself stuck imagining a future that you want no part of.
So what would you prefer first-year self, the hard or the easy way out?
You can fail in any life you chose, and failure is just another way to learn, so fail your way into a life that you want to live. Fail with unwavering enthusiasm until you find what makes you come alive. Because your fifth-year self no longer cares about being rich, or popular or having a certain status - she only wants to commit herself to a life of her own and to seek greatness on her own terms.
If I could tell my first-year self one thing, it is this: every moment counts. Every small moment deserves your full attention and dedication. Your life is the one great masterpiece you get to ruthlessly edit and create so make it vibrant, make it exactly how you want, and take full ownership of the choices you make, and do not let anyone else paint on your masterpiece.
Paige is a fifth year BA student with a double major in French and Spanish. She is passionate about anything cultural (especially cuisine) and loves to travel anywhere new. Her hobbies include feeling guilty for taking naps but doing it anyways, watching old French films, and running long distance.