Humans are creatures of habit. We stick to what we know because itâ€™s safe, comfortable, and give us something to hold onto. Perhaps we donâ€™t even realize how comforting our daily rituals and patterns are until they are no longer there and we have nothing to keep us grounded. But change is one of the many beautiful things about growth, and while it may be difficult, it is also what allows us to learn more deeply about ourselves.
Iâ€™m a student at the University of Toronto and I live in the heart of downtown during the school year. For the past two summers, I always returned home to California working and spending the days with my sister and my best friends. This summer, however, I decided to stay in Toronto so I would be able to spend time with my boyfriend. I knew it would be difficult being away from my sister and my friends for an even longer stretch of time, but I didnâ€™t anticipate the feelings that would accompany this decision. Itâ€™s often easy to let our expectations take over, the montage clip playing out inside our minds of what we envision for ourselves, our fantasies easily carrying us away. I allowed myself to get wrapped up inside my head, and when my fantasy failed to play out the way I expected, I found myself feeling lost.
I failed to anticipate just how difficult it would be to adjust to a completely new environment. My downtown lifestyle fostered a dependence on instant gratification, anything and everything easily within my reach. Transportation was more reliable and convenient, any store imaginable within a short distance of me. In moving to the suburbs, it was more difficult to get around and things were further apart. I was also less familiar with the area, which made it more challenging to explore compared to my downtown environment. However, my biggest adjustment thus far has been the amount of free time I now have.
University is rigorous – it is rare that you have a moment when you are not anticipating an upcoming exam or assignment. At first the freedom from school was invigorating, but as time passed, it began to leave me with a feeling of anxiety. I wasnâ€™t used to the amount of free time and unrealistically expected that I would have found a summer job by now. I think the feelings of anxiety stem from the deeply ingrained notion that we should always be â€śdoing something.â€ť Relaxation and self-care seem to have been dubbed self-indulgent and lazy, and this mentality left me feeling inadequate. I began to feel antsy, wishing and waiting for â€śmy summerâ€ť-the fantasy I had crafted inside my head- to begin.
But through much reflection and sitting with these feelings, I have adopted a new perspective. These moments in life when we arenâ€™t â€śdoing somethingâ€ť donâ€™t have to be considered lazy or unambitious. Sometimes they are exactly what is needed for us to discover what we truly want, or to take the time to reconnect with different parts of ourselves we may have neglected. Life is not linear, not everyoneâ€™s path is going to look the same, and people take different routes to get to where they are. There are going to be moments in life when our normal everyday routines are shifted, whether by choice or not. Not everything is always going to stay the same, nor should it. Change is natural, and though it may be difficult to adjust to a new situation, it often is what allows us to grow and to learn more about our strengths and what we are able to handle. Instead of berating myself for not working right away or interning somewhere, I am trying to just allow myself to appreciate this time. I know that life is just going to keep getting busier, and moments like these, where you have free time, will likely be rare in the future. It can be very challenging to accept these â€śin-betweenâ€ť phases in our lives, but they have the potential to create space for new perspectives, and the ability to rediscover our passions and what we truly care about.
By: Talia Main
Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.