Hey everyone! It has been another little while I know… I think that from now on, I’m going to post when I can, when I feel inspired; hopefully that’ll be more frequently considering the amount of free time I now have (you’ll see why below), but if not, just know I’ll always post something at some point! Anyway, today’s post is about what’s going on in my life right now and how I feel about one’s environment, change and happiness.

From September 2016-April 2017, I spent my first year of university studying arts and sciences at the University of Guelph (ON). I’m originally from Toronto, so going from a big city to a small place like Guelph was quite the change. Nonetheless, I really thought I would like it; my sister was there and many of my friends were going to UofG as well. When choosing my university, the most important factor I considered was the program. I believed that if I enjoyed my program, that would make me happiest no matter where I was. Although this could be true for some, it wasn’t so for me.

In my arts and science program I studied half science and half arts courses, so I took courses like chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology. I originally thought this was the perfect combination of disciplines for me, but I was wrong. After spending the year in Guelph and despite various personal events impacting my mental health, I realized that I wasn’t truly happy there. I completely underestimated the importance my environment has on my happiness.

So first, my biggest piece of advice when entering ANY new experience is to strongly consider how happy you will be in your environment. Of course, this is a very generalized statement that can be influenced by various factors such as your adaptability and comfort with change, the people within the environment and what it can offer to you and your lifestyle. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is one of the most vital aspects to consider upon entering any new venture that will become a stable part of your future.

The second point I want to touch upon is about making change when you’re unhappy. Of course, you can only realize you’re unhappy when you assess your life, environment and everything within it. So, after spending the year in Guelph, I realized that I simply was not happy there and I decided I wasn’t going to return in the fall of 2017. It seems simple, but the decision wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Not returning to university would mean I would be a year behind all my classmates, I wouldn’t be learning and working towards a degree like everyone else; being the organized, determined and driven person I like to think I am, this wasn’t easy for me to accept. I had to channel my most introspective self to recognize the source of my unhappiness not only to come to the decision of not returning to UofG but also to accept the reality of taking a year off and how it conflicted with my personality and beliefs.

Even though I am planning on continuing my undergraduate degree in the city next fall (September 2018), accepting the difficulties mentioned above with taking a year off, and the fact that I don’t have a sense of academic achievement for the upcoming school year is still something I’m working on. Although along the way, there are a few ideas I’ve continuously reminded myself of in order to persevere through this new journey of mine.

One of the most key ideas I’m currently exploring is the importance of taking time for yourself. I’m aware that this can sound selfish, but I believe that often we’re selfish in the wrong ways. Simple examples like not sharing or not thinking of others when making plans are negative ways to be selfish; however, when it comes to being selfish to achieve self-happiness, its manifestation is much different.

For me, someone who can be high-strung, always busy doing something or thinking about what I’m going to do next, part of being selfish was taking advantage of the fact that this year, I wouldn’t be constantly distracted by school work as my main priority. By doing so, I’m left with a lot more time to think about what makes me happiest, to try new things and to discover how to be content with my life and myself -without school. From the age of 4 school is all I’ve ever known, I have never “selfishly”, -and I use this term lightly, taken so much time for myself. Already having made this decision, clarity has come to me regarding which environment I’m happiest in and who I want within it, including the friends and family I value most.

Do I know EXACTLY what I’m going to do with this new-found time? No, I don’t, but I’m excited to take a step back, breathe, assess and just live in the moment to do what makes me happiest.

Ps: I’m making it sound like I wake up every day with nothing to do, this isn’t true, but if you’re in any post-secondary institution, you can imagine how much EXTRA time you would have without school work.

Anyway, by no means am I inferring that taking this year off will be dramatically life-changing and I will be the very best version of myself after experiencing it (because I believe for as long as we live we can continue to grow, learn and better ourselves) but I think that living my life without school for a while will allow me the opportunity to grow stronger and happier without it, so that I can ultimately be ready for my next academic challenge in the fall of 2018.

After all, how am I supposed to succeed as best I can academically if I haven’t given myself the chance to succeed on my own?

On that note, I’m going to conclude this post with that. This is where I am now. If you know me at all, you know that I overthink much too often and I love to plan. So yes this “chill” “go with the flow” attitude is a little strange for me, but I’m going with it as optimistically and as best I can. I’m not going to pretend it’s all going to be great because my decision to take the year off has presented its own challenges and will continue to do so, but hey, I’ve got time and I’m going to embrace them with open arms.

Stay happy.