Life Lessons Taught while at University

This is my last post as an undergraduate student at Nipissing University. I am completing my degree in philosophy this year, so I will not be returning in the fall. It’s a very bittersweet feeling. In one way I am excited to move out of town and go somewhere new, but I am also not sure what I want to do anymore.

I guess this is the time in which I am supposed to reflect back on the good times and the bad, right? I honestly don’t know what to say other than I am a completely different person now than I was before I came to Nipissing. I guess that’s what education does to you. I have a much better perspective on the world which gives me a great basis on which to base the rest of my life upon. I learned valuable life lessons while at Nipissing.

Much of what I have learned in my classes are things that question life to the core (obviously, I took philosophy). That’s what a humanities education does for you, it allows you to question everything and to find the truths in life that sometimes science cannot explain quite yet, if ever. I feel the most open-minded I have been in my entire life. I feel like my education has caused me to constantly learn new things about myself, and gave me the resources and education to help me learn more on my own.

To me, university and high school were both more about the experiences than the grades by the time I finished, but during the times while completing them, it was all about the grades. The funny thing now is that if the people I knew in high school and university interacted and had to describe me, they would literally describe two completely different people.

In university I wasn’t really one of those students staying up late, studying all the time. I also have yet to fail a class, though. I was pretty much an average student at Nipissing. I am also not the type of person that went partying too much and lost track of the real reason I desired post-secondary education. My degree was a lot of hard-work, mixed with a lot of mistakes and challenges.

To contrast, I used to be the straight-laced girl in high-school who got good grades and always had a next-step or a plan. I remember once on New Years Eve in Grade 10 staying home and researching universities. On one of the last days of Grade 12 my vice-principal saw me and stopped me in the hall to tell me I was the only student in the entire school of about 700 people that had perfect attendance. Somehow, that person was once me, and although I don’t regret being that person, my interests have just changed and getting high grades was no longer a big goal of mine.

When I was in high school I had a deep passion to become a psychologist, and that is ultimately what was my driving force through my education there. I had deep dreams and goals I wanted to achieve with high grades. I think the person I was in high school is the person we feel pressured to be like, and there is obviously no wrong in being that person. People who are organized and plan often get things done and are very successful people.

Being at Nipissing taught me the biggest lesson of all: one size does not fit all. I know college and university drop-outs who became successful, and some who haven’t found success, yet. I know people who have graduated university and/or college who have amazing success, and those who do not yet.

Now I am sitting here, likely graduating either after this semester, or possibly after the summer, depending on whether or not I pass my final courses this semester. I am so close to my degree, I can taste it.

For those wondering, I still don’t know what I am doing career-wise. Currently, I work at a library and a retail store, but that’s not what I wish to pursue forever. I considered taking a masters program, and originally desired to do so, but I have changed my mind for now because I have been unsure about whether or not I want to pursue academia as a career. Ultimately, my goal right now is happiness. I just want to find a workplace with good coworkers, and a living wage. I have worked at places before that have employees that earn a lot of money but they are still miserable and that, in turn, makes that place miserable to work at. I would prefer to take a pay cut to work with happy people than earn double to work with miserable ones.

The key is: don’t settle. Don’t settle for less than you want, or less than you deserve. If you are unhappy, do what you have to do to get by until you find an opportunity to get out. Sometimes that is hard, but it is worth it in the end. Mental health is one of the most important things one can have, and it is one thing I see more and more people deteriorating with, because of forced societal obligations.

One last thing I learned: Your four-year degree does not have to take four years. If you need longer, you can take longer. If you fail one class, it is not the end of the world. There are spring and summer courses, or you can spread your degree out over longer periods of time. The 5-course load isn’t for everyone, some people take overloads with 6 courses, and some can only take one or two at a time.

Education is a process that should not be rushed. Just because the degree framework is intended to be done in four years, does not mean you are a failure if you take more time to do it. In the end, your degree is equal to the person who finished theirs “on time”.

Life shouldn’t be rushed. Just because some people the same age as you have a house, or a family, or any other thing that you don’t have that you want someday, doesn’t mean you are at a disadvantage, it just means it’s going to take you longer to achieve your dreams. It does not mean that you can’t.

I guess this is goodbye to the blog, then. You can see how I have changed over the course of all of my posts. I started blogging in first year and you will likely see a huge shift in who I am as a person, which I think is a really cool thing to have. So if you aren’t already journalling on your own, or have some kind of outlet for your thoughts, put them down. Record them. Do something to document your life. Maybe you’ll be the same person you were when you walked into Nipissing, and came out, but somehow I doubt that.

I know it can be quite a journey to find what makes you happy and find the chance to do what you actually desire to do in life. There are more chances and opportunities than you know of out there. Something may not pop up until you’re 50, or something could happen before you’ve even finished high school. There are always outliers and everyone carries a different story with them. I wish luck to all of those trying to do the same as me right now and just know that I’m right there with you, still looking for something to do in life that will make me happy. I also wish luck to all of those out there who know what they want out of life and who are trying their hardest to get there right now.

– Sarah