As students returned to class after the longest college strike in Ontario’s history, little optimism could be found.
I was one of some 500,000 students who spent five weeks in uncertainty feeling anxious about my education while being lobbied back and forth by union reps and college executives.
After two weeks of distracting myself with partying and sleeping in, I decided to make my indefinite time off from school productive.
While I had no control over the fate of the strike, I did have control over where I could focus my energy and time.
I put constant pressure on achieving the highest of marks and cut myself very little slack, if any. Before the strike, my mentality towards school gave me constant anxiety. It was nothing too overwhelming, but it was always present.
I overexerted myself daily, pushing myself too far mentally and physically at school and the gym. Weekends filled with heavy partying to forget about school stress would follow. By Sunday, I was burnt out and felt overstressed about the week ahead.
It was a continuous cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat.
As is with many college students, this began to take a toll on my mental and physical health.
This toxic weekly routine needed serious adjustment. I faced this harsh reality when my semester was stopped in its tracks on Oct. 16.
Without the work stoppage freezing my assignment deadlines, I would’ve continued down a path that was quickly wearing me down.
Of course, I wasn’t without anxiety or stress while my semester was held in limbo.
There were times where I considered everything from dropping out to doing as many assignments as I could despite not having the guidance of my professors, a part of my education I highly value.
But, with the hindsight I gained, I learned new strategies to combat the anxiety brought on by the strike. It was these new strategies that helped me become a more laid-back student and person overall.
I learned how to be OK with doing absolutely nothing. In turn, I am better equipped to know when and where to direct my energy. The unsolvable questions like what my mark will be on a certain assignment or whether or not I’d get a good night sleep that kept me up at night hardly cross my mind anymore. When they do, I can easily get myself back to a calm, focused state of mind.
Even though my Netflix binges and sleep-ins are the only things that stick out during my time off, I still know I accomplished things I put off throughout the start of the semester.
Things like reading leisurely and not for class, seeing old friends from high school and learning new music were all activities I ignored during my first few stressful weeks of first semester.
Though somewhat trivial compared to my college diploma, these simple things are rewarding experiences I robbed myself of because of my school-only mentality.
I am disappointed that I missed so much time in the classroom with my professors and my Christmas break is shorter than planned, but the self-improvement I gained from the strike is far more valuable in the long run.
While we as students were in no way responsible for the strike and the outcome that followed, we are responsible for how we handle ourselves in the midst of unforeseen circumstances.
It’s our responsibility to do the best we can in ensuring our goals are not compromised, even if that means adjusting those goals and reprioritizing how we see an unfortunate reality like the five-week strike, we, the students, never asked for.