Hi. My name is Isabelle Chénier. I am completing my last year of my undergraduate program. Big surprise, I do not know what I am going to do with my degree after I leave school. But fret not, friends, it is going to be okay. Let me explain seemingly unfounded optimism…
I entered university intent upon studying biochemistry, seeing it as good leverage for admittance into medical school in the future. This year was possibly the worst year of my life. I discovered that sleeping 35 hours a week on average was a hard price to pay to achieve my goal—a price I deemed more detrimental than favourable to my sanity. I could have easily been cast as a zombie in the TV series The Walking Dead without even needing any makeup to fully embody such a character. Moreover, when I realized that having 30% in tests was becoming a casual thing for me–and don’t get me wrong, I studied really hard for those tests– I began to understand that science would do just fine without me. It would be a lie if I pretend that it was not a slap in the face. Having to reconsider your career plan, your source of stability for the future, failing in the one thing that you have been dedicating yourself to so rigorously, is a hard pill to swallow. However, without this year of struggling, crying, and panic attacks I would never have known that I am highly functional human who is capable of spending what felt like the longest day of my life reconstructing DNA (why? Don’t ask me) in a laboratory while being 24 hours sleep deprived. On a more serious note, I realized even though circumstance had led me away from my initial goal, it then redirected me towards what suited me best: communication and politics. This undergraduate program truly provided the resources and environment for me bloom. This being said, I am now a 22-year-old “fully grown tulip” that sincerely has no clue as to what I am going to do with my life. Does it stress me out? Not to a degree that it may have previously. Let’s be real: assuming you know where you are going to be in 10 years is lying to yourself unless you are Raven Baxter and you have psychic powers. In which case, hats off to you.
My experience in biochemistry taught me that failure is natural and necessary. I am not in fear of failing as much as I was before. For a long time, I felt that being a simple or “average” human being was not an option. I grew up in an environment where every kid was introduced into this world as young prodigies. I had to play piano like Glenn Gould, practice gymnastics like Nadia Comaneci, and think like Socrates.
Social media further feeds this common misconception that you should excel in any project you undertake. It tells us that in order to succeed in life, you must be phenomenal, profoundly different, and a tier above the rest. How many times have you heard parents tell their children that they were soooo special? This mind-set only serves to undermine the capacity to self-analyze and increase the “BUT…WHY ME???” mode when facing difficulties. Failure should not be a surprise to anyone. Breaking news: it is going to happen! If you fail, it shows that you have tried.
One of my resolutions from the past year was to do things that scare the hell out of me. In pursuit of this goal, I participated in my home university’s radio station, I decided to spend a year abroad, and I offered up my pieces of writing for the qmunicate magazine even though I have never written in English before. I told inappropriate jokes on the radio. I have said beyond awkward things to strangers in an attempt to make some new friends. I have realized that speaking and writing in English is utterly frustrating and challenging. Even though my pride has taken a hit on several occasions, those adventures were opportunities for introspection and to live in the present moment.
Life is too damn short to go through it comfortably. I do not know for certain where or what I will be in future, but I do not want to deny myself the glorious opportunity to grow and learn and live and end up with “ragrets.” If it means that I have to face-plant a couple of times to achieve personal goals, I will take that chance. I will venture forward as fierce as Beyoncé on stage with wind artificially blowing my hair and drying my teeth (looking like a fabulous smiling llama) as I look head-on the crowd so that I can fight for what makes me happy.