University milestones and eliminating guilt

Graphic by Kash Patel

The minute you begin your first year at university, there are a number of expectations (both spoken and unspoken) that you are supposed to fulfill. By the end of first year, for a number of programs, you may feel like a failure if you have not come out with a great internship for the summer.  

Following this, you should (of course), have an even better summer job every other year of your university career. Furthermore, you should have the perfect LinkedIn profile, work on at least five side projects related to your degree and begin to think about what you’ll do after university. Can’t possibly take a moment to think or reassess your life, of course. You’ve been told ever since grade nine – you need to know exactly what you want to do by the age of 14.  

Let’s just…stop.  

I know, easier said than done. At some point I’m sure we’ve all felt like we are on a conveyor belt, an endless assembly line of students. We might not be conscious of it, but it’s an easy cycle to get into.  

Now in my last year of Laurier, I’ve felt some more clarity on how university is full of as many milestones as highschool is. However, they’re far sneakier.  

The main one is being unaware of just how fast the semesters move, and how many resources there are at the university that you will simply never have enough time to take advantage of. In first year, I felt a  lot of guilt for not being able to take part in every club I wanted to. It was hard to strike up a healthy balance.  

In my second and third year, I had managed to figure out a system to keep everything on track. I was overworked, but the majority of that former guilt was gone.  

Now in my last year, I’ve stepped back almost entirely from clubs to  focus on my studies. I’ve felt more disconnected from the university, only coming to attend classes and the occasional event with friends.  

Guess what? That’s okay.  

Don’t put pressure on yourself to hit milestones in your university career as you make your way through. Don’t feel guilty as the years go on and you feel more disconnected from the whole “university experience.” 

As we graduate and move on from our lives, we have to learn how to be generous and gentle with ourselves. As soon as you think that you’re completely free from milestones (such as when you graduate), they will only be replaced by new “adult” milestones.  

We all grow at our own pace. Embrace your unique lived experience and follow your own inner path.

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