This is a letter from me to you. You, the tall 18-year-old girl with short blonde hair and light brown freckles over your cheeks, nose, and arms. You, artist who is in love with music and writing and someday hopes to have your artistic creations, whether they are songs or long binge-worthy articles, published and admired by the world that surrounds you. I write this to you today with the love and hope in my heart, hoping that someday, if time travel ever does become a feasible reality, you will receive this letter and that you will take the time to read over some of my thoughts that I felt were worth sharing.
Now, I don’t want to make you feel like I am wasting your time by reading a list or that I am telling you what to do because I know how much that bothers you but hear me out. You are about to embark on a brand-new exciting journey (cheesy, I know) into the said to be “adult world” or in other words real world where it is now up to you to pave your own path (cheesy again, sorry). Okay, but seriously, I’ve learnt a lot over the past 4 years and thought that I would share some insight into some important things that I really think you should consider. So, sit back, enjoy a nice cup of your favorite cinnamon-apple flavored tea, give these words a listen because I believe that in the long run, you’ll thank me.
You are incredibly capable
From moving across the world, away from your family and friends, to entering a brand-new environment and starting a new life for yourself in this massive city, that’s pretty incredible. Entering a brand-new territory, not to mention large, that is UofT is an incredible achievement that you have worked so hard for. For that, give yourself a pat on the back. I know that it’s hard for you sometimes to congratulate yourself and recognize how far you’ve come because you tend to feel the need to constantly be searching for something new; a new project that will somehow give you a sense of purpose. I know that the first time I say this to you, you’ll shy away, but you really need to know that you will always be good enough. There is a purpose to everything that you are doing, even if sometimes you don’t see it.
Photo of Mélina Lévesque at her high school graduation in Abu Dhabi in 2016 (source: Mélina Lévesque)
I know that starting this new journey may seem sort of terrifying and that, knowing you, you may be asking yourself questions like “Can I really do this?”, but the truth is that you certainly can do this. Entering this new academic year, try not to doubt your ability to strive for excellence. Be proud of the passionate, intelligent, hilarious, fun, driven and incredibly capable young woman that you are, and you better not let anyone tell you otherwise.
There is no need to compare yourself to anyone else
You’re about to meet a whole bunch of different people in many areas of study. From Engineers to Architecture students, everyone is here to pursue their own academic areas of interest including you. Yes, people will boast about the successes and accomplishments of their majors and future professions right in front of you. Sometimes, they may even dare to compare their areas of studies to yours with the intention of bringing you down and making you feel like you are beneath them. The typical “you’re really studying that?” or “what job do you expect to get with that degree?” are sly questions that people will intentionally throw at you to make you second guess your goals. Here’s the thing, you can’t let them bring you down. At the end of the day, as long as you continue to feel engaged, excited, and enthusiastic about your academic journey and area of study that is all that matters. There is really no need to compare yourself to anyone else’s academic path because yours is the only one that you are in control of.
Trust your instincts
This is a point to live by that will guide you through some tricky situations. Sometimes you may find yourself actually lying to yourself, trying to convince the little voice in your head that your instincts are wrong. Let me tell you something; your gut does not lie. Don’t doubt yourself because your instincts will always be right and you should follow them when need be. If you find yourself in a situation or with people that heighten your uncertainty and uncomfortableness, please trust yourself and do what is best for you because, in the end, that Is all you can do.
Remember to read a book or two
(source: Mélina Lévesque)
Okay. So you have a bunch of readings to do for your big first-year classes and tutorials, and notes to prepare for group discussions, and textbooks upon textbooks to read, review, and write about but this doesn’t mean that you can’t take time aside and enjoy a good book. You know why? Because reading some good old Margaret Atwood and historical fiction novels is what relaxes you, what helps you sleep at night, and what helps ground you in times of stress. Yes indeed, you have your readings and assignments to complete for class, there is no denying that (your agenda is your best friend when it comes to organizing those). However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take half an hour before bed to lay your back on some comfy throw pillows and immerse yourself in the world of a novel.
Stay clear of the black hole of binging that is Netflix
So, here’s the thing, there are a lot of shows on Netflix. Even better, there are a lot of new shows and movies coming out on Netflix to the point where one might feel a little overwhelmed. There’s Gilmore Girls, How to Get Away with Murder, oh and don’t even get me started on Friends(that show never gets old no matter how many times you’ve watched re-runs). Picture this scenario; You log in to Netflix after, what feels like, a long day, and think to yourself “Just one episode”. If there is anything that I have learnt is that “one episode” never means just one episode. It definitely may start out as just one, but then of course you find yourself staring at the clock at 2 in the morning and wondering where all that time went. My point? Plan out your never-ending Netflix marathon plans accordingly and alongside your actual academic calendar because the minute you decide to start a new show, re-run or not, you risk falling into the big black hole of binging that is Netflix where time disappears and instead of focusing on your political theory paper, you end up debating whether or not Rachel and Ross were in fact on “a break”.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Photo of Mélina clearly “sweating the small stuff” (source: Mélina Lévesque)
It’s really that simple. Well, not for you, but you should at least try because if you’re not careful, you’ll let your worrying thoughts consume you and that, frankly, isn’t fun for anyone. My advice to you is this—the next time that you encounter an issue or something that seems to be troubling you, take 3 deep breathes and ask yourself, will this matter tomorrow? Trust me, being able to compartmentalize what matters from what doesn’t will save you a lot of anxious tummy troubles and having to constantly ask what should I do? Don’t sweat the small stuff, because if it won’t seem to matter tomorrow, you shouldn’t be wasting your precious time that could be spent by being productive in the present instead of worrying about the future.
Surround yourself with people that make you feel good
You’ve left your friends overseas who are now dispersed in different places all around the world. The comfort of entering your old high school stomping grounds is now a memory that you hold close to your heart and will never let go of. Now you are faced with the kaleidoscopic labyrinth that is the University of Toronto—the home to thousands of students where it is close to impossible to get to know everyone. You may be feeling small and a little lost, wondering how you will ever be able to create and navigate social circles in such an intimidating environment. You are a wandering traveler in search of the feeling of home. It may feel scary at first, but you can definitely put yourself out there, one step at a time.
Photo of Mélina and friends (source: Mélina Lévesque)
Go to those club meetings! Go the open-house events that you see on Facebook! Join an open-mic session! Eventually, you will meet people and create all kinds of positive relationships. The first step is making yourself present amongst others and reaching out because, chances are, there are other kids in the same room as you are feeling the exact same way as you. Naturally, you will gravitate towards certain people and away from others and find your way.
Photo of Mélina (left) and her boyfriend Jackson (right) in Golden, BC (source: Mélina Lévesque)
You’ll make some friends and you’ll lose some friends. You’ll feel heartbreak and it will hurt, but you will get through it and eventually come out feeling proud that you have overcome these obstacles. As time goes by, so do people, and time can only tell you which people are meant to bring joy and light to your life. It may take you a while to figure it out who the toxic people out of those that surround you, but once you break free from their strain, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much you have grown. At the end of the day, your family are your best friends and I can promise you that they will always be there for you, throughout the good and the bad times, and will always give you the biggest hugs. They are your biggest supporters and love you more than you can imagine.
Photo of Mélina (left) and her family (source: Mélina Lévesque)
Never let go of the things that you love and make you happy
You are an artist with a burning passion and adoration for music and the performing arts. You are a writer with poise and creativity running through your veins. You are a swimmer, who loves the rush of energy that you can every time you reach the finish line.
Photo of Mélina (18 years old) singing at a local music event (source: Mélina Lévesque)
Entering the bustling world of University can be challenging and, at times, a little intimidating. Regardless of the readings, online quizzes, and course work that you have written down your calendar and to-do list, you have to promise me that you never stop making time to pour your heart into the things that you love and truly make you the happiest. These are the things that will keep you grounded on your darkest days and will remind you of who you are when you need it most.
Mélina and her band “Last Minute” (source: Mélina Lévesque)
Photo of Mélina (6 years old) and her father at the musical “Phantom of the Opera” in New York (source: Mélina Lévesque)
The feeling that you get every time you start belting out Music of the Night from your favorite musical of all time, Phantom of the Opera, is that of pure love and adoration. The feeling that you get whenever your creative juices are flowing on the keyboard like a rushing waterfall, transforming creative thoughts into words Is a feeling that you wouldn’t change for the world. The of satisfaction, accomplishment, and empowerment every time you finish another successful swimming session is a part of what makes you who you are—a young, passionate, ambitious, and dedicated woman who knows what she loves. Don’t let that sparkle that bedazzles the fabulous person that you are ever fade because it is truly amazing.
Take care of yourself
I know that at times you may think that putting on a face and lounging a cup of tea and a book is a waste of time considering the buckets of things that you have on your list to do, but in the long run it is totally worth it. Taking care of yourself and sectioning off a little “me-time” is key to the success that you are seeking. Without taking care of yourself can you really take care of anything else? So, put on that face mask, run that bubble bath, and open up that movie on Netflix that you have been dying to watch because if it makes you feel good, then you’re doing it right my friend. Take care of yourself because you matter.
Know that you deserve the very best of the best
Plain and simple; don’t settle for anything less than what you believe you deserve. You deserve to be surrounded by people that will love you unconditionally and will be there to grow alongside you as you navigate the twist and turns of your life.
I hope that my letter has not overwhelmed you but instead, offered you some comfort in reminding you how incredible you are and that you deserve the best out of what is to come. You’re doing an amazing job already, so just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be just fine.
(source: Mélina Lévesque)
Be you bravely.