There is a well-known inspirational quote that says, “tough times don’t last; tough people do”. My Granny had this quote up on her fridge (and I think she still does), and at to the bottom, she added “we are tough people!” I thought about that a lot yesterday as I finished my last final exam.
For a lot of people, university isn’t that hard. They quickly find what they love to do, they enjoy their courses, make good friends, and though they may find midterms and finals stressful, that stress drives them to do better. Others may struggle, but they find a way to get through it despite challenges. And then there’s me… Eight years ago, I graduated high school and went straight to university. My brother told me that I should go to post-secondary as soon as possible so that I wouldn’t lose my momentum. I also knew what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do with my life. I applied, and started my degree in September of 2007. That first year was a surprise to me, as I learned that there were many other people who were also good at writing, and were smarter than me. I felt so intimidated, and that made me fearful of failure. I hated my English Lit class (mostly because of the prof), and decided I wanted to switch my major to Psychology, but due to a very competitive Psychology program, I wasn’t able to, so I settled for a minor in Psychology and continued with English as my major. As the years went on, I felt more and more intimidated in my English courses, and felt like I didn’t fit in with anyone else. I’m not a very social person in new environments, and prefer to sit and observe (which at times affected my grades). I hated being put on the spot, and I would often feel anxiety for the whole class, hoping I wouldn’t have to say anything. I was always behind on my reading, because English professors think it’s their job to make sure you read everything ever written within three months. The more I didn’t read, the less I wanted to go to class, and the less I wanted to continue with my degree. But, I kept going because it’s what I thought I should be doing and I didn’t want to be a quitter, even though I was certainly not succeeding. After going part-time for two years (taking three courses a semester), I had officially been going to school for six years. Many of the people who I started my degree with were getting their second. I hated nearly every moment of school, which was a foreign feeling to me since I was that kid in Elementary that loved getting homework, and that girl in High School who finished all of her assignments in class rather than socialize. I spent many days at home in bed, wishing I could just be done, but doing nothing about it. I now consider that time in my life a depressive episode (I’ve studied enough about abnormal psychology to know I don’t suffer from chronic depression, but have had depressive episodes in my life). After taking nearly two years off (three semesters), I felt like I had separated myself from that person I was, and would be able to finally finish what I started. I went back to school in January of this year, and had the most successful semester I’ve ever had. Though I still didn’t enjoy everything I was doing, and still felt anxiety about being called on in class (this only happened in my Italian class), I was able to overcome it. I thought I’d be able to do the same when September rolled around and I was enrolled in my final English courses, the ones that had plagued me for years, the requirements I could never seem to get. September was a good month, and I thought I had a handle on things. Then October came and it became a little harder as I was happier to procrastinate because I was feeling stress, which makes me feel anxious, which makes me feel paralyzed rather than have a desire to do anything. These feelings continued into November, and by the beginning of December I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pass. I put things off, and put very little effort into those last moments of my semester. It felt better to just ignore it than to do something about it.
After encouragement from one of my professors (who is one of the few that I can say actually cares about the success of her students), my mom, Christopher (and many others too), I was able to go for that final and hardest mile. I know it may seem ridiculous to many, but finishing my degree has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As I handed in my final exam yesterday, I had to suppress a squeal of joy at finally being finished. After countless papers, exams, novels, plays and poems, I am done! Though I’m not officially a graduate (I’m still waiting on that exam mark — hopefully I actually did pass!) the sense of relief I am feeling right now is enormous. I realized yesterday that for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something of note. I said to myself so many times in the last eight years that “tough times don’t last, tough people do”, but I never believed Granny’s addition that I was a tough person. Today I feel tough. I know that I can actually do hard things. I know that I have a lot to work on to be successful in my life and a future career, and that I need to work harder at actually letting myself do my best, but I finished something! Honestly, I didn’t always do my best, but some days I did. Some days my best wasn’t very much, but if I still try, I can succeed. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. And we are tough people!