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2007-10-05 - 9:46 a.m.

Iím two days away from my 4-year anniversary of writing here! Oh and I turn 35 this Tuesday. Maybe thatís why I find myself reflecting on the past today; on the bus I found myself thinking about grad school. The fact is, I hated grad school. Iím glad to have my M.Sc. for two reasons:

1) Itís undeniably opened a lot of doors for me, and
2) I sort of regard it as a badge of honour; proof that I stuck it out.

But if I were to go back in time Iíd tell myself to do something else. Zoot and Marilyn both recently wrote letters to their younger selves. I might say something different if I was writing to me in junior high like they did, but I donít feel the need to go back that far. If I could, Iíd write just a short note to me in the last year of undergrad and say to not even apply for the sort of program I went into. But if I missed that window, Iíd write to the me that was all bright and shiny with expectation a week or two before the start of my first fall semester of grad school.


Dear me at 22,

I know youíre all excited at going for your Masterís in a couple of weeks. Youíve found a place to live, the campus is beautiful and your supervisor seems awesome. Youíre proud at being able to say youíre going into this program. Youíve even said to your boyfriend something along the lines of,
ďIn a couple of weeks Iíll have a whole different life! Iíll have new friends and be doing new stuff and itíll feel new but like Iíve been there for ages. Itíll be awesome!Ē

I donít mean to scare you but it wonít be awesome. I know, I know, youíre used to making friends very easily. You think of yourself as outgoing. You adapt well to change and new social situations. Youíre used to getting along with everyone and being able to form a core group of friends quickly. You love the world and think it loves you back.

But your expectations are about to be very dashed: youíll hate your roommates and itíll be mutual; itíll take forever to pick a thesis and it wonít really interest you; hardest of all to believe, you wonít make any new friends at this university. Youíll get along with a few people but after you leave you will never hear from them again. Your supervisor will be awesome and youíll respect him very muchÖ and thatíll only make it harder on you when you hate your new school because youíll feel like youíre letting him down.

You and your boyfriend will break up and it will be sad but not the end of the world. You will find a new boyfriend and fall madly, mutually in love, despite the fact that you clash badly with his lifestyle and a lot of his friends, and youíre really a bad match and it will end in flames years later (but thatís for a different letter). You will cling to this new relationship as if it is saving your life, and maybe it is, because you will be deeply unhappy with almost every other aspect of your life. You will feel isolated and like youíre a failure for not loving every moment of this great opportunity you worked so hard to attain. Your weight will plummet.

You will escape into fiction books in your cold apartment, huddled under the covers for hours and, at least once, days on end. Your weight will balloon.

You will spend too much time with your close friend D, who is himself clinically depressed. You will spend hours trying to convince him to not kill himself and a chunk of that time youíll also be trying to convince him not to enact the scene he runs in his head every night of going on a shooting spree at your old and much loved undergrad university. You will not know whether to believe that he has the shotgun heís claimed to have, and you will not know whether to call any authorities on him: whether youíd be putting him in even more danger to himself or whether youíd be saving him. The fresh scars on his wrists are certainly real.

I know this all sounds bleak. Iíd say get out now, before youíve even begun, but if youíre determined to stay the course, if you canít believe itíll be as bad as I portend, Iíll admit that there are glimmers of light in the darkness. You will always believe, deep down, that you saved Dís life that summer and you will always suspect that you saved the lives of the potential victims of the killing spree he rehearsed daily in his mindís eye. You will feel that the bleakness you experienced dealing with the situation was more than balanced by alleviating the potential loss of life and emotional scars that others would have borne.

You will discover that youíre stronger than you thought you were; that your determination to get through will, in fact, be enough to finish your degree. Through your lab TAíing, you will discover that you love to teach others. When you start to gain weight, you will get tired of sedentary reading and discover a hitherto unknown love of exercise, and youíll defy all your expectations and keep going to the gym for years to come. You will make one life-long friend: not a fellow student, but the woman who swaps apartments with your neighbour during the week.

After you finish grad school the difficult times wonít be over, and youíll still make mistakes along the path your life takes Ė some of them whoppers Ė but eventually youíll start to find yourself, and the cloud you are just starting to live under will disperse. It will take several years, but it will get better. Youíll find your passion for home design and construction. Youíll find a decent job. Youíll find your soul mate Ė a good man and one of the best people youíve ever met Ė and marry him and have at least one child with him. Life will still throw some obstacles in your path and you will probably continue to make mistakes, but that is because you are human and life will, on the whole, be good. When you stand on the threshold of your 30s, youíll be glad to leave your tumultuous 20s behind and you wonít hesitate to step forward and embrace the future.



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