An Open Letter To My First Year Self

Dear Leah,

Welcome to Western! You are about to embark on the most serious, life-changing, character-testing experience of your young life. The next four years will be filled with triumphs, challenges, heartbreaks, hell-raising, passion and persistence.

I remember you fondly as a shadow of what I am now and a whisper of what I will become. I know how intimidated you are and I would like to offer you some advice that I wish I had had when I was in your shoes.

1. Focus on the now  

Your entire life up until this point has been defined by your wanting to be here. You studied tirelessly in high school and slaved away at part time jobs just to have this experience. Now you’re here. Now is the time to stop worrying about what it took to get you here and, instead, focus on being present. You will only experience this once and this period of your life is precious. Don’t isolate yourself in your room. Don’t study to the point of a breakdown. Get out and enjoy your first year. Make friends, have experiences, do your best and forget the rest.

2. Experience everything!

Western’s campus has so much to offer! From intramurals to art shows, guest speakers to galaxy gazing: you have four years to take advantage of all of this. Four years seems like a long time right now but trust me, it will be over before you know it. Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to go to these events by yourself—this is how you will meet some of the best people you’ve ever known.

3. It’s okay to not be okay

You’re alone, far from home, and feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders (...or that might just be the weight of your calc textbook). Either way, you’re going through a lot. At times it can feel like you’re the only one who feels this way. Other times, you remind yourself that everyone around you is sharing in some academic burden. This can be comforting but can also make you reluctant to vent when you need to.

My advice to you is to vent anyways. If you’re not yet comfortable venting to your new friends, seek out Western’s resources. Western has so many resources available to support mental health and wellness. I know it can be awkward. I know it’s hard to admit that you need a little more help than usual. Please, do it anyways. You will save yourself from some really low lows and learn how to better cope with the bad days.

4. Reclaim your time

Over the next four years you will meet many people! Some will be friends, some more and some much much less. Regardless of the category in which they fall, these people will challenge you to be a better, fuller version of yourself.

Embrace those that celebrate your successes and act as your shoulder to lean on. These people will be become some of your best friends and they will remain so over the next four years. These friends will act as a support system, a sounding board, an advice panel and much, much more. Treat them well and be open to them. However, know that it is okay to let go when the friendship is no longer healthy or serving to you—this is a valuable lesson I learned much too late.

As I mentioned before, some of the people you meet will become more than friends. Your dating life in university will be like a bad episode of Wipeout. We both know that you have always been too forward, laughed too much, loved a little too hard, and forgiven much too often. These are virtues that will haunt you over the next four years. The upside to being this open, expressive person is that you will always leave it all out on the table and will never have to ask yourself, “what if I had done more?” The downside to this, however, is that you will be hurt deeply and often. People don’t always like someone as forward as you are and rejection is imminent. What’s worse than rejection is the fact that some people will take advantage of your giving and forgiving nature. It’s going to be a hard lesson to learn, but if you take anything away from these experiences, please let it be that you will do better the next time, with the next person. That’s all I ask.

As for your enemies, I challenge you to ask yourself why you don’t like them and/or why they don’t like you. If you are able to perform an accurate self assessment, I guarantee that you will learn a lot more about yourself than your horoscope could ever tell you.

5. Love yourself more

Love yourself more than you love your program. Love yourself more than you love your friends. Love yourself more than you love looking at that cute boy in stats. Love yourself more than King Richie's pizza. By loving yourself more, you will automatically make better choices for yourself.

When I learned to love myself more, I learned how to put the textbooks away in favour of sleep. I learned how to tell my friends no. I learned how to stay focused on my goals. I learned how to have a proper balance of treating myself and maintaining my health.

With this advice in tow, you’re on your way to an outstanding undergrad. Like I said, this will be the experience of a lifetime. Western will be one of the best, most difficult, and most rewarding decisions you have ever made. I know you can do it. Good luck!

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