Far, far beyond

by Vennesa Subbiah

In my short life, there are many experiences that could qualify as metamorphic. At one time or another, every new experience was the first experience and for good or bad, each instance has altered the trajectory of my life. But none have been as daunting and transformative as the day I walked into my Honors year.

My Honors year is something I like to refer to as a happy accident. You could liken it to the first encounter with your best friend – you don’t exactly like each other but give it a few months and you’re as thick as thieves! Don’t get me wrong! This is not to say I’ve mastered my course work because that would be a blatant lie, but more of an appreciation of how I have come to fall in love with the lessons I have learnt from the pressure and challenges of this year.

Unlike most people, my first day of school wasn’t at all exciting. For starters, I was late to my lecture so that was not a good impression at all. Half the time while I was in that lecture, I was daydreaming because my mind was still on ‘holiday-mode’. I was completely unprepared so naturally I was out of place. I felt this way for the first few weeks of the Honors year and waking up early for lectures was not helping me in any way. I have never been a morning person so you must imagine my pain. I was also not eating properly or taking care of myself because I ‘had’ to keep pushing to meet my deadlines and make sure I was prepared for all my classes. Let’s face it, no one likes to be the student who’s constantly behind. I, for one, aim to always be on top of things. So, when I found myself not having a certain level of control over things, everything seemed to stir into a wild frenzy. For someone who’s always organizing almost every aspect of her life, I found it difficult not being able to manage my time properly. I struggled with this, and I still am but I am also learning to take it easy on myself and try my best without punishing myself for not being able to achieve more than I can at that moment.

In between lectures and reading journal articles and attending meetings, I found myself constantly exhausted. I went from having absolutely all the time in the world to having none at all. Most of the time I had, I spent reading through mandatory journal articles. I enjoyed most of them, but I was often lost in the process which meant I had to go over paragraphs multiple times. I have never despised reading so much in my life until I had to read a journal article. But there was an upside to this because I gained certain critical thinking and analytical skills which enabled me to differentiate between excellent pieces of work to those that aren’t. Having Journal Clubs also enabled me to engage with scientific pieces of work in a thorough manner whilst simultaneously improving my competence in formal presentations and public speaking. So, you see, a challenge presented was a lesson I needed to encounter and learn from.

Overall, I haven’t really been too excited about this year. When we started with General Techniques, I was the most miserable person you could find. Many times, I was not finding the purpose of the lectures or why I had to learn the information in front of me. This isn’t quite what I imagined this degree would be like and I absolutely detested every single moment. I contemplated a lot – whether I had made the right decision to come back to school, whether this degree was the right one for me or if I was doing enough. I was not motivated to learn or engage with the material coupled with the hurdle of not having any people around to actively challenge me. Before the pandemic, I saw my colleagues and friends almost daily and we could exchange ideas on how best to study or what better resources were available to help us excel in our work. Now it’s only me. At first it was unusual, but it was a life-changing moment too because it taught me to be more independent and confident in myself and what I am capable of producing. I am deeply grateful for this moment because in the quiet and absence of the world, I found a great power within myself – the power to believe in myself.

With an adjustment in attitude and the start of the actual modules, I found myself falling back in love with the idea of being in a class and learning. It wasn’t a gradual process as some might expect. I just woke up one morning and realized that this is what I was meant to do. It’s crazy when I think about it because it literally boils down to timing. Timing is so important for any person because when you give yourself room to experience life as it is, you find your passion even in the smallest moments. I was so focused on how well I needed to be performing and how hardworking I should have been from the beginning instead of letting time tell me what to do. Ms. Oprah Winfrey always says one should listen to the whispers of the universe. Sometimes the universe is trying to tell us something, whether it is to slow down, to make an adjustment, to change a habit or to work harder at something. My mistake was not listening to the whispers when the universe told me to be patient with myself and the process. I was quick to rush myself and expect certain things out of the year when it had hardly begun. I learnt the hard way through multiple encountered failures, and I can safely say that it is one thing to have goals and aspirations and another to rush those goals based on where you think you need to be instead of where you are meant to be.

It turns out that life isn’t always what it presents itself as. One moment you have things all figured out then the next it’s all shambles and you’re left to pick up the pieces. But no matter how rocky or rough the path may be, it shouldn’t take away from the splendor and beauty that awaits us at each and every step along the way. Because with each and every challenge we’re faced with, we come out stronger and with a greater set of skills to help us face even bigger challenges in future. Not only that but we acquire a heightened knowledge of ourselves and our abilities and how much more we can reach towards.

I walked into this year feeling quite small and afraid at what lay ahead. I’ve been handed jabs, hooks, uppercuts, you name it. But I’ve learnt to fight back too and stand a little taller. Whatever position and path life may place you in, allow yourself to be present in that moment, taking in everything as it comes and appreciating that knowledge is something we can never fully acquire. So yes, there are times where you will be clueless about everything and that’s perfectly okay. But an inquisitive mind that is willing to learn will take you far, far beyond.

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