A love story.

This is my fourth re-write of my post-Orientation reflection. I tried to write one with the central theme of “growing up”, another as a reflective with social media widgets and add-ons, and another one that just plain-old didn’t work.

This post only really started to bloom when I wrote it about it as a love story, which is, of course, what my relationship to Orientation is really built on. Let me tell you how:

Orientation gave me a love for my faculty and a love for my school when I most needed it.

At 2A, lost and very directionless, 600 kilometers from everything that I had previously known and loved, my insides were churning with uncertainty. After having applied to transfer to UOttawa during 1B, I made the life-changing decision to remain at Waterloo, agonizing all the while whether I’d made the right one.

Orientation rolled around, I threw myself into it, and I came out of the other end with a profound realization that there was a strong and vibrant community here the entire time that I just hadn’t noticed. Without it, I never would have gotten as involved as I had, never would have built the networks that I had, never would have passionately found the direction that I did.

Orientation gave me some of my most cherished, beloved people in my life.

I met people who I would become very close with, and I met people who would bring me to people I would become very close with. I met people who would become central figures in my life, people with wide, vast dreams that make my heart race and push me to widen the horizons of my own. I can trace the lines of my future and see exactly where their influence has changed some of its paths and winding roads. They tell you, always, to surround yourself with people who push you to be better, faster, stronger, and I am so fortunate every single day that I have friends and loved ones who do that for me.

Orientation helped me see clearly. 

I am a different person at the end of this heart-stopping, stressful, wild 11-month roller coaster that was FOC. It was everything: working a demanding 9-5 job, finding new sides to human relationships, thinking actively about my future, and realizing important truths to who I was and how I worked. This period in my life has been one of transformation and foundation-building for the rest of my adult life. Hidden in the loud, blaring music of stress and grind were hope & hard work, intention & purpose in the matrix of the vinyl.

Also, I have such an enormous gratefulness & appreciation for the people I worked with over the last 11 months:
  • My amazing, wonderful, passionate, smart, engaged leaders, without whom Arts Orientation 2016 would never have been successful.
  • The rest of my FOC team for all of their hard work and teamwork, and without whom we never would’ve been able to get #uwow16 off the ground;
  • My Coordinators, for being absolutely amazing throughout the entire planning process and even more spectacular throughout the actual week;
  • The rest of the FOC (especially #shitpostcommittee) for many, many laughs, even more memes, and lots of excellent teamwork & support;
  • My OA for being so understanding and accommodating while I was 60kms away in Mississauga for 8 months and giving the right advice when needed; and
  • The rest of the Central team, for humouring my awful jokes and shitpost-y ways, but also for keeping all of the subcommittee action moving.

And I have to give an additional shout-out my #hololenstrinity at co-op, for sitting with me for hours in the firehouse-red booths in the cafeteria, at the wheeled tables and chairs in the 3rd floor commons, at Starbucks across the street, anywhere from dusk to midnight in my car, listening to me complain and agonize for four months.

At the very tail-end of my FOC experience, during the first of our Yellow Jacket training dates, the Orientation Advisor team invited a counselor from Mental Health Services. It made a lot of sense– they wanted to empower us with the knowledge to support ourselves, each other, our leaders and our first years in any mental health issues we may ever encounter.

It was a good session: the counselor and the graduate student with her flipped through the slides, we answered questions about what mental health was, I secretly worried I’d joked too lightly about the creation of numerous death pacts… the usual. But we neared the end of her presentation and she began engaging us in strategies of how to support other people. We answered as student leaders do, hands eager and raised, giving numerous suggestions, citing volumes of resources.

“And,” she paused, smiled at us, “It’s important to have hope for them. Sometimes those we help may not always have hope for themselves, or in themselves so sometimes, you, as support, needs to have hope for them that they will recover.”

And I was so suddenly breathless, for reasons I didn’t and couldn’t entirely comprehend that day. This was August 30th: I was shaky, barely sleeping, barely eating, stressed about all of the contents of my house in Mississauga to Waterloo in the span of two car rides, about to end a long and emotionally tumultuous workterm at one of the largest tech companies in the world, on the cusp of the execution of a project I’d worked on for 10 months of my life (that had, realistically, been a part of my life for 4+ years), standing on the cliff’s edge, staring at and about to step into the canyon that was the final  year of my undergraduate degree– 

And I was breathless at a single line in one presentation.

During Orientation, I thought of her words often, and in the first week of class, they were a constant presence at the back of my mind: they were there as I trekked across campus running errands, as I sat in my thesis class with my back straight, as I began to revisit, remember and return to my old haunts on campus.

I think I know what it was that made it catch in my throat: it was hope. Love and hope for others, for the future, for advancement, for society and the places in which we live– while not entirely the type of hope she was referring to, it was an arrow to the heart at exactly the right time and place. This was after months of getting bogged down with the details, working with my head down and ignoring the light at the end of the tunnel, lots of personal reflection about my own self. I’d forgotten to stand up and actually look to see where I was going, how so much of what I was gunning for in my life was hope for a better future.

Those lines, which everyone else and the presenter have probably forgotten already, brought everything back into focus for me– just like swimming without your glasses on and getting water in your eyes to find, suddenly, that everything is back into focus. I took a breath, stood up and looked forward into the future and while I don’t know the exact details, the exact paths, or the exact timing,  I feel… purposeful. Intentional. I thought hard about the pillars and the truths most integral to myself and built a plan for my last year and the years beyond.

If I had told myself, first day of first year, all of the things that would happen and change me as a result of Orientation, I never would have believed myself. But maybe that’s for the better– the truly meaningful things in life (the people, places and times with which we accidentally fall in love and the moments that change & define us) tend to happen when we least expect it.



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