by Christiane LaFleche PLA team leader
Ahhh! I am breathing a deep sigh of relief as I start my LAST semester here at Queen’s. It is funny, I spent my whole time here being dissatisfied and feeling trapped in my education. I did not know where I was going, most of the time I could not get into the classes I wanted to take due to schedule conflicts or just being too late in my registration. It was so frustrating. Now that I am almost done, it seems like my perspective has changed. I feel more motivated to do all the things I wanted to do. I want to help out my profs, I am SO excited to do projects and go to class! Yesterday, I was so excited that I wanted to scream in class! But I thought that might be a bit much, so I kept it inside and told myself I would have a dance off in my room later on that day :P.
So, why am I telling you this? How did I get so happy? To be honest, I think it is partly the fact that I am in fourth year. But that does not mean this cannot be achieved earlier. I think what was missing before was self-direction. I felt stuck because I was always being TOLD what to do. Now, I feel more freedom. I have connected with my professors; they know me, I know them. I connect with them emotionally. How did I get to this point? Well, I switched programs to a place where my intelligence and thoughts would be more appreciated. How do you know if you should switch and change programs, or make any change at all? If you feel like everything is a task, like you are not actually helping the world, if you feel like you are a rat in an experiment going through this pointless maze…. well, you are probably not in the right space! If this is your case, there are two things you can do: change your mindset, or change your environment. If you, as I had, have tried time and time again to be optimistic, to change your perspective, to get help from the resources at the university, and STILL, you just feel so small and meaningless in your program, know that it is OKAY to say, I am going to take control and make a change. This is when your life can really blossom.
Here are the steps I used:
1. Question yourself: Why am I doing this?
Many theories in education suggest that we do better when we are judging ourselves and when we are self-directed in our learning. From the ages of 17-24, I think we are struggling to change from doing things for our family, parents, friends, to doing things for ourselves. It is difficult sometimes to distinguish between the two. You may be doing something to prove something to your parents or yourself and not even be consciously aware of it. So remember to inquire about this. Be thoughtful. Why am I doing something that is making me miserable, or less then happy. Is it just that my mindset has created a negative perspective of my situation (which is often the case), and/or, is my environment not really what I want. Sometimes it is both, and sometimes and changes from one to the other. But check, was there a course or a place where I was happier? If so, would it be moving forward if I went back permanently to that place? Or would I be being fearful, and avoiding challenge and growth if I went back?
2. Make a change when it is needed
I know for me, being a psychology major was my thing when I came here. When I got in the program and participated fully in it for 2 yrs and a half before I finally decided that it was not for me. I was happier in my gender studies courses. Since I have switched to a medial, I am so much happier! I was in psyc for the wrong reasons. I was there because I wanted to show people that I could be smart and I was there because I thought it would get me a job, and also because I wanted to help people. When I realized that that is not what the program was giving me, I switched to something where I felt intelligent without anyone’s interpretation of my intelligence, where I WAS actively, everyday helping to change the world, and also where I could build relationships with peers and profs.
3. Find a balance
Remember to always find a balance between challenging yourself and being hard on yourself, vs being lazy, and taking the easy road. It is not a simple task, but it gets you on the right path. Don’t make a change out of fear, self-doubt, lack of confidence. NO. Rather, make a change out of empowerment, rebelling against your fears and your silly comparisons, and out of self-appreciation. Finally, throughout all of this, have self-compassion and if you are going to judge yourself, let it be positive judgement. 🙂
All my love and luck to you all.