Lessons I’m Learning

Here’s the thing: I have always assumed that by certain milestones I’ll become a particular person, fully equipped to deal with her situation. By 23, I had figured I’d be a graduate, doing my Masters in London, England, working part time for some really cool company, with a cat and a nice boy living in my cool new-graduate home.

giphy.gifThat’s not exactly where I’m at, these days.I have two more years of my undergrad left, but I ain’t mad because I’m learning a second language and working two jobs that I love concurrently.I still live at home, but it’s ok because without the support of my family picking up the slack and making sure I keep an eye on my health, I wouldn’t be able to do everything that I’m doing now. I don’t have a cat, I have a bunny. And even though we don’t live together yet, there is an extremely nice boy in my life (he just lives and works in a different city).

This week has been quite something, friends. I was at OUF last Sunday, and worked my other job the two days beforehand, so by Monday I had completely run out of spoons. For anyone with a chronic health issue, managing your energy reserves is a huge task; I failed to keep mine stocked up, and Monday was spent in bed, feeling very poorly.

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I took my vitamins, slept, and ate soup. It reminded me that rushing out of the house every day before I’ve even had a chance to drink some water – let alone have breakfast – is a massive disservice to my body, which has worked so hard to recover. I find it really hard to eat in the mornings, but by the time my appetite kicks in, the only available options are usually Tim’s or the caf… or if I’m at work, Starbucks. It starts to add up quickly: an extra-matcha green tea latte alone is over $5. And here we are, lesson one:

I need to take better care of my body and bank account.

On Tuesdays, I work at my on-campus job: writing, video-editing, blogging, and more. Sometimes it will hit me out of nowhere just how lucky I am to be able to work in a position that stretches me, affords me new skills, introduces me to wonderful people. Tuesdays make me feel powerful, because I’m able to create and be productive, which inspires me. Also, on Tuesday, the wifi on campus was down. Lunik was almost deserted, and with no access to the internet, I sat and got a bunch of readings done uninterrupted. Let’s just forget that I also couldn’t access some other work, because lesson two was this:

I’m not the type of person who can study around distractions. Therefore, study space needs to be realistic and productive.

On Wednesdays I don’t have classes, so I worked my retail job all day. It was a strange day, with lots of rude and unkind customers scattered amongst our usual lovely ones. One woman, after demanding to know if I get “Asian glow”, told me that my skin colour is “so weird”.giphy-2

It was a shock. I’m not used to people having the audacity to comment on my appearance in general, and I’m very fortunate to rarely experience such ignorance in person. I learned two things:

Some people don’t deserve free samples.

I work too many hours.

I came home shaken, frustrated, hurt, and exhausted. I didn’t get any studying done that evening, even though I desperately needed to catch up on my readings.

I always look forward to Thursdays, and my favourite class, Language Endangerment. Bruce Connell is such a smart, thoughtful and interesting professor; his field work and experience alone makes it a joy to be taught by him. This class reminded me of something I’d long forgotten:

I love linguistics. I’m constantly in a state of stress recently, always feeling like I’m failing at something. This class reminds me of why I’m here: I love my program. I love learning about language, about how it works, how they shape our very cultures and beings. This reminder is grounding me. It’s keeping me focused.

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This next lesson is the most important one so far. Ever since I came back to Toronto and began to build a more permanent life here, I’ve been trying to reconcile the loss of some dear friends. Being ill, I found it hard to make friends with the wonderful people I met on campus in second year, because as much as we liked each other, I just wasn’t around much (people often thought I was on exchange, because as much a part of Glendon as I am, nobody really saw me around much!). I’ve had to accept the fact that people will move on, that friends will drift apart; I’m also learning to deal with a lot of paranoia and insecurity that people don’t actually like me. It’s an irrational fear, but a real one. This year, as part of my One Word 365, I’ve been embracing the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, and my life is illuminated with smart, kind, funny, interesting people as a result.

This week, my friends showed up for me in a way I couldn’t overlook. I was so moved by some belated birthday gifts, which were chosen with such meaning and care by three people I love so dearly; the offer of a ride to the subway station; the quiet reminders from my friends that “you’re a good friend, a nice person”; “you’re the kind of person people would make the effort for”; “You got this, boo”. I walked into work in a bad mood and was immediately swept into two pairs of arms and complimented on my butt. This week’s most important lesson:

I am loved.

This lesson spreads warmth through my body like tea and honey. And now I know it to be true. My partner, who graduated in 2012 and sees me struggling with abstract concepts in one of my classes, has been studying my readings and helping me understand them. My mum, hearing the hoarseness in my voice and the flagging in my energy levels, ordered me spicy Thai soup and demanded I take a night off from studying. My sister is home this weekend. I’m going to Nuit Blanche with my girls tonight.

I may not have it all together, yet, but I’m trying my best and working my hardest. Despite all the stress and the workload, the pressure – I’m happier than I’ve been in years.

I’m learning a lot, but mostly, I’m learning to forgive myself for not being who I’d hoped I would be. I’m learning to be the best version of the person I am. And I’m learning to kind of like her.

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