5 Things I learned from the best semester of my life

With the end of another semester, I always get the feeling of relief.

I’m happy to pack away the stress, the assignments, and the readings I will probably never touch again.

But this semester is really bittersweet. And I can say this with certainty: it was an incredible semester.

All the things I was able to learn, all the people I was able to draw closer to, all of the things that challenged me – it made each passing day of this semester so incredible.

This semester was a bit of a dark horse for me because it was the first time that I took 16 credits. I didn’t necessarily have to take so many at one time, but I think for the sake of impending graduation (!!!) I decided to do it.

I was worried. I was stressed. I kept telling myself that there was no way that I could do it, that I would crash and burn super quick, and would probably die halfway.

And truthfully, there were some moments where I was lying awake at night, asking myself why I put myself in the situation that I did.

But I’m pleased to say that it passed, and I am here on the other side, writing this to you at midnight. While I will probably never do this again, I wanted to share a few things that I learned while going through this semester:

1. However way you cope – find it. Use it. Take advantage of it.

One of the biggest victories for me, and one of the things that I still marvel at to this day, is who I was a year ago. A year ago I was having panic attacks almost daily and I had no sense of direction. While I was going to counselling to find ways to cope with my stress and anxiety, unfortunately nothing was sticking at the time. But getting through one of the darkest days of my life has shown me that everyone has their own way to cope, and that finding those ways to channel whatever stressors are in your life is crucial. For me, it was poetry. I write a lot of it – in books and online. I’ve been sharing some to this blog, and you can find way more here on this dandy little site

2. Make time for recreation/friends/fun – guilt free.

There is this doom and gloom that happens around week 3 of the semester that lasts until pretty much the end of exam period. We cast aside fun things in favour of studying and work and stuff. And I’m not saying that this is a bad thing – we have priorities! You need to get your ducks in a row! Obviously, don’t blow off your responsibilities to party every night and pray that by the tim wake up, your essay will be all written out for you.

There is a time and a place to put your head down and get some work done. But for the sake of balance, your mental well-being, and happiness, be sure to arrange social events for yourself – whether it’s a dinner with a friend, a board game night with a group of friends, or just taking some time to catch up on your favourite show – schedule that time in for you. 

3. It’s okay to say no.

My ability to make it through this semester hinged on a bunch of different things, but I think the biggest thing was my schedule. In order to make it work, I had to step back from a lot of things that I really had a hard time saying no to. How do you say no to things and people who you have said yes to for so long? I get it – I am the epitome of the yes girl. Sometimes I say yes without even thinking about it. But I wanted to remind you that saying yes may not necessarily be the right thing sometimes.

We have to say yes and actually be capable. If other things – schedule, physical/mental ability, conflict of interest, etc. – gets in the way of us doing a great job and giving 100%, we’re not able to truly complete the favours or tasks asked of us. For me, pride was a huge thing for me. I wanted to say yes so that people would trust me with important things and in turn see me as important. But ultimately, you know what works best for you. Take the time to reassess from time to time and see what works, and what doesn’t. From there, you can optimize your time to be your best self.

4. Forgiving yourself is the best gift that you can give yourself.

Earlier on in the semester, I was facing another challenge where I knew I had screwed up big time, and this screw up almost cost me an amazing friend. But aside from being angry at the entire situation and at my friend, I was also fiercely angry at myself for being naive, selfish, and someone who hadn’t learned from their mistakes. It’s easy for me to get angry, throw in the towel, and walk away from the person. But the reality is that sometimes, people mean so much to you that you can’t possibly bear the thought of leaving.

It took me a while, but in this situation, I needed to learn to forgive and move on. More specifically, I needed to learn how to forgive myself. I was so caught up in this negative view of myself that I wasn’t capable of love and that I wasn’t capable of loving anyone else – a really deep cutting lie that I have encountered time and time again. But I had to recognize that I am only human, and that as a human, I will fall short and fail time and time again. By vowing to do better, and forgiving myself, I took the power and agency away from these lies. We should never fear failure, but complacency.

5. At the end of it all, time still passes.

It’s a more bleak realization, but also a happy thought that tough times won’t last forever. Time will continue to pass whether we like it or not, it is up to us to make the best use of it. Each day is a gift and an opportunity to grow, learn, and prosper. I’ve begun to realize more and more that life is short and it passes in an instant. So be bold, take risks, and face those challenges head on. Tell people that you love them instead of playing it cool. Be responsible and give your 110%. Remember all the good blessings that you have been given, and remember the people who have helped you from day one.

To all of you studying hard, finishing up your final assignments and writing exams, I am sending you all my good vibes and praying for you all. Your struggle may feel long, but I promise that your reward is just around the corner.