By Jayde Lazier
Photography credit: Ira Kormornik, 2020, isolated statue in a framed doorway of a museum
University can often be seen as a balancing act of impossible measures, especially for students who are facing it for the first time. The experience is often glamourized in media as an internally freeing moment in a young adult’s life where we’ll be able to leave the four walls of our parents’ house. Once liberated, we are able to move to a new city or country and do whatever we want, be whoever we want, and be free of any of our parents’ restraints. But the reality is, that when you arrive in such a big city, you start to get smaller, and the external worries and anxieties can become overwhelming and almost always isolating. To be isolated is to have minimal to no contact with anyone else, but what you might often forget is that even though you feel alone, you aren’t the only ones. It’s hard, really hard, to put yourself out there and hold your own, let alone try to figure out who you are and how you want to live your life. But the good news is that you will figure all of it out, step by step until slowly but surely, you’ll begin to find freedom in your isolation.
As I begin to think back to a year ago, I can imagine that my first year of university was probably quite similar to a lot of yours. I came here from a different province; I didn’t know anyone; and even though I was primarily excited, I was also terrified of the unknown. I wasn't sure how to go about making friends, which is a bizarre thing to say because, as kids, didn't we just need to ask the simple question: "Do you want to be my friend?" As an adult, that question seems impossible, and looking back, I now realize that my anxiety inhibited me from making so many great relationships. Not only that, I had also set all these expectations for myself that weren’t realistic. Expectations that would soon be met, but not without having to delve through anxiety and isolation. As the profound poet R.H Sin once said, it is in “those moments when you doubt that they’ll ever change, the confusion of it all, the fear of starting over and the pain you feel every time you think of your future and the uncertainty, that they begin to change the most.”
This uncertainty and fear of the future is what keeps us from experiencing new things and growing as a person. But in reality, this should be exactly what fuels us to make any and all unreasonable decisions, face rejection by going out on limbs and so much more. These few years are where we can make nonsensical decisions—decisions that help us make more reasonable ones in the future. Take this time to question everything and most importantly, question yourself. What do you want to be in life? What do you want from your platonic and romantic relationships? What do you want for yourself?
These questions will lead you into the realm of discovering who you are, and although it may sound like a cliché, there’s one piece of poetry that has always brought me back to myself. It’s an excerpt from one of R.H Sin’s books entitled “She’s Strong But She’s Tired”:
“I think she stopped looking to the night sky when she realized that she was the moon, and that meant that she could survive the midnight hour.”
It’s easy to forget ourselves in a new environment, especially when we’re alone and we lack support. Feeling as though you don’t belong, or you don’t deserve to be here—these are all lies that your brain begins to make up to slow you down from reaching your goals. The world doesn’t exist for you to show up and stick to a decision or keep the same friends for the rest of your life. It’s designed to challenge you and make you uncomfortable. Some say that university is a prime example of life in its most heightened state and, although that can be true, it doesn’t have to be. Coming to university for the first time, especially on your own, can be a really beautiful moment where you will make friends and lose them and then make more. You’ll find things you like and things you hate and, you’ll be more stressed than you probably ever have been in your life. But you’ll also push yourself to heights that you didn’t even know you could reach, and you’ll learn to look for love and comfort within yourself. As the wise Rupi Kaur once said: “loneliness is only a sign that you are in desperate need of yourself.” So, whether we want it to be or not, the initial isolation is inevitable, but not permanent. Once you find that comfort in yourself, it will serve you for the rest of your life.
If I can leave you with one thing from this piece, it’s that you are not alone. I can promise you, there are so many people who are in the same position as you. Similarly, try to find the beauty in your isolation, because the only person you need to worry about impressing or making a good connection with is yourself—the rest will fall into place. Aside from this, I truthfully hope that you don’t place too much pressure on asking yourself what you were made to be and comparing yourself to what others’ standards are. That is a story that you will come to write over time. Your pathways in this world are infinite, and you are only made to be exactly who you are right now.
Kaur, Rupi. Milk and Honey. November 4th, 2014.
Sin, R.H. She’s Strong But She’s Tired. 2020.