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Gratitude for the Here and Now

Monday, February 15, 2016

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Written by Natalie Zidanic

As we settle back into another semester, it can be easy to begin adopting a negative attitude towards school.  With looming deadlines, a plethora of papers and enough readings to last a lifetime, we can really start to hate the monotony of life as a student.  So often, I find myself eagerly anticipating the day when homework will be a thing of the past and I won't have to check my Gryphmail twice a day.  We all have those days when we fantasize about dream jobs, vacations and cookie cutter houses.  While it can be beneficial to keep goals such as these in mind as a driving force behind our hard work, it's important not to get caught up in them and start hating ourselves for choosing to pursue a university education.   

There are a number of ways to approach this:  the easiest thing you can do to change your attitude is to make sure you're enjoying the present.  In high school, our parents and teachers prompted us to get involved in school activities.  That advice is still applicable to university life, but it can become harder to make happen.  Crazy schedules, assignments and commuting to and from campus make getting to club meetings or varsity sports events next to impossible.  I am an advocate of campus involvement.  UoG offers an extensive list of sports and fitness classes as well as competitive sports teams, clubs, student-run groups and volunteer initiatives, to mention a few things.  If these activities aren't your thing, there are places to hang out and study, chill or grab a bite to eat on campus where you can meet people.  I try to make time to see at least one friend each day in whatever free time I have, either to study or de-stress with over coffee.  I find that if I don't see anyone, it's much too easy to avoid human interaction all day.  An easy way to make yourself and someone else feel special is to just strike up a quick conversation - whether it be waiting for your lunch, finding a seat in the library or thanking another student for holding the door.  These little things honestly make my school day that much better and make me realize how great it is to be a Gryphon.

Another way to shake the misery associated with school is to remember why you committed to study in the first place.  Goals change, people change and that's totally okay!  I ask myself almost every day what I'm going to do with my life and that might just be the case with many of you as well.  You really don't have to have an endpoint in mind right now.  If you want to continue your studies in History despite not wanting to pursue any kind of career in that field, let yourself go through with your education if that's what you really want.  Do what makes you happy and remember that this is the path you've chosen right now.  If you change your mind next year, be thankful that you have the opportunity to switch out of your program or choose a variety of other classes.  Even though it feels like school really sucks sometimes, I know that I'd be even more unhappy if I wasn't here right now.

Going off that idea, practicing gratitude can be grounding and motivating.  I'm truly grateful to be a student at the University of Guelph.  I love having the opportunity to grow, to meet new people and to enjoy learning.  Those of us who are privileged enough to be able to attend post-secondary school can all too easily forget that we're not entitled to this opportunity.  None of us were guaranteed a place at this school.  We all worked hard to get accepted and ultimately made the decision to commit to our education at the University of Guelph.  We're all managing to find ways to fund our education while trying to save for the future and eat half-decently.  I'm not denying the stresses of student lifeĀ¾the struggle is real.  Never-ending midterms can make your life seem miserable, but instead of letting them bum you out, allow them to be a reminder that you have the opportunity to pursue a university education.  There are so many students that will never know what it's like to have the privilege of attending post-secondary school or have access to the opportunities that come of it.  Be grateful that you are here.

Gryphons, this semester I'm challenging you to change your outlook on your education.  Instead of ogling sports cars in the back of Rozanski during Econ class, searching Kijiji for job opportunities and wondering how on earth you're going to finish that seven-page essay due at midnight, be grateful that you have the opportunity to grow as an academic.  Keep your goals in sight, enjoy living in the present, remember why you're here and be grateful that you have the opportunity to learn and grow at such a fantastic university.    

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