Undergrad.

Has there ever been in your life, what you would consider a ‘perfect’ period of time? The time when you felt you were reaching your potential, when you were happiest, when you were the most confident about the direction in which you were headed, and when you felt you were making the best use of your time, dividing it evenly between what you loved accomplishing, and time you loved ‘wasting’? For me, there was. It was the five years of my undergraduate degree.

Everyone knows that nostalgia, like love, is blind; times you’ve had in the past are easily glorified in the present. We ignore the bad and replace it only with the good so that we may comfort ourselves, deliver ourselves from what constitutes our real, stressful lives.

Nostalgia is blind. But I have written proof that the years of my undergraduate degree were the best, the most rewarding, the most formative, the most meaningful, the most fun, the most emotionally satisfying years of my young life to date. In my darkest times in recent memory, I’ve found myself wondering how I can re-create that happiness again, or if I can at all.

The funny thing is, I am by all accounts, better off now for so many reasons than I was when I was an undergraduate student. During those years, I was overweight; I was piss-poor; I was under-employed, under-paid, and disillusioned. I never had a real job, never had a boyfriend or even a kiss, at least until my fourth year; I was the ugly fat friend and I knew it. I was stressed, I lacked free time, I was spending beyond my means, and I had depressive solitary episodes in various apartments and residences where I lived; I had my first real heartbreak and spent the whole year that followed wallowing in self-pity. It was a time of great reflection and personal growth, and a lot of that wasn’t by any means fun or enjoyable or easy or positive.

Yet…

Nowadays, I coast. My days are all like this: I wake up to my alarm, make myself look presentable, eat breakfast, walk to work while getting coffee on the way, get to work, work, go to the gym, then home, then dinner, then watch that evening’s television shows, then I brush my teeth, and go to bed. And then I wake up the next day and do it all over again. I live alone, I only really see my colleagues during the week and I rarely switch up my routine, to the point where when I do, it’s an inconvenience that I almost dread. I’ve travelled more but those are sparse moments of happy spontaneity. Rare moments where, once removed from everyday life, I can truly feel and be alive and be myself and wake up, excited about what the day holds. There are obviously worse ways of spending one’s time and I’m by no means saying this is a hardship. But it’s jarring. It’s jarring to go from a life of five years of excitement, action, friends, learning, personal and academic achievement, and working towards something for which you’re extremely, gut-wrenchingly, fervently passionate, to being a cog in the wheel.

A friend of mine who I met in my first year of my undergraduate degree, who I lived in residence with, told me that in her first year, she went to bed and woke up every day, just smiling because every single day was something new, interesting, hilarious and memorable. I feel the same way; my memories from nine years prior are still so vivid, they’re palpable – even the bad ones. But the bad ones reminded me that I was alive, and that I felt things…

I can’t remember the last time I cried over something worth crying about. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, I was struggling to breathe, losing muscle control, unable to contain myself. I can’t remember the last time I loved someone or something, or discovered someone or something, so meaningful, I felt like SCREAMING it out so everyone in the world would know just how much love was inside me in that moment. The last time was probably while I was still in university…

In my daily life, I advise university students. And one of the most common questions I get from them is, “What can I do with my degree?” It’s an almost-laughable question, for a few reasons: First off, the reality is that students with undergraduate Arts or Science degrees don’t often get streamlined into a specific career path, hence why there are so many running jokes throughout society regarding the usefulness of an undergraduate degree. Secondly? Outside the Running Room store in Edmonton on 109 St. there’s a mural which says across the bottom, “The distance between two points isn’t the point.” As a runner and as a human being who has undergone an incredibly life-affirming journey, this statement resonates with me astoundingly. The point is not to get a degree and get a job; the point is, the learning experiences, the diversity training, the patience and tolerance-testing, the stress and anxiety and uncertainty you face while finding your place in the world. The point is, to feel something. So you don’t spend your whole life, never knowing what it actually means to really open up and feel something emotionally valuable.

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