These days, everybody has become obsessed with the game (and Instagram account), “We’re Not Really Strangers.” The game poses questions – insanely deep and reflective questions – and the goal is to get vulnerable with your partner. By the end of the game, you and the person you’re playing with should be emotionally naked, and from what I’ve seen, at least one of you should be crying. I’ve never played, but I have spent hours on their Instagram page, reading the questions on the cards and specifically reading what people wrote in the comments. I was amazed at how willing people were to lay themselves bare, how willing they were to highlight the highs and terrible lows they’ve gone through. How willing they were to reveal their darkest parts to the world. The honesty, the vulnerability, and that sense of community were so moving for me.
Sitting in my apartment in Vancouver, struggling to finish all my readings but loving my first year of law school so far. (Amy Kaustinen, Commerce)
I see myself thriving in my dream job. My goal is to be a certified life coach so that I can help others thrive and succeed. I am optimistic that coaching will provide other incredible opportunities as well. I see myself reconnecting with friends, doing more activities, and feeling overall happier. (Hailey Rodgers, Commerce)
I wanted to do something similar for the Class of 2021. This year has been a year of physical and emotional distance. It has been a year of waiting, a year of longing. We, the Class of 2021, have missed out on many of the moments that make our last year at Queen’s worth remembering. And so, a few weeks ago, I sent out some questions to the graduating class that were meant to be just as introspective as the ones from WNRS. You’ll see the questions – and some of the responses – scattered throughout this piece. I designed the questions to get people thinking about the past four years while simultaneously looking ahead to the future. Where did they see themselves this time a year from now? What were they excited for? What were they nervous about?
I hoped that reading the honest words and musings of others in the same year would bring each graduate a little bit of hope and comfort. It has not been an easy year, and the year ahead –our life ahead – may not get that much easier. I hope that by reading this piece and some of the responses, we’ll sleep a little better knowing that the worries we hold are shared by others, too and that despite the trials and tribulations we may face, there is still so much to look forward to out there. A big thank you goes out to everybody who filled out the survey.
“Being financially stable.” (Anonymous)
“Not finding a job because of Covid. Finding a job after graduation was already a terrifying concept, now I have to account for the fact that many places aren’t going to be hiring. I want to be able to find work that I enjoy and am passionate about. (Anonymous)
“Losing touch with my friends from Queen’s” (Anonymous)
As I was going through the responses, my main thought was: We’re all going to be doing wildly different things after graduation. People talked about law school, grad school, becoming a life coach. Some are staying in Ontario; others are moving across the country.
I was having this conversation with a friend a few months ago, too. Over the past four years, it seems that most of us have found our niche, the space that we want to occupy inthis world. Maybe that’s what they mean when they talk about how your four years at university are a time of self-exploration. Perhaps everything – the fuck-ups, the wrong turns we took, the tears we shed – were all meant to get us closer to finding our niche. I see it when I look around at what people in my year are doing with their time now. I see people who now see their camera as an extension of their arm. I see people who turned their quarantine business into something they want to continue with full-time. I see people who unapologetically switched majors or careers (even this past year!), knowing that it was a better fit for them. I hope that we’re all leaving Queen’s feeling a bit more self-assured about who we are as people in this life today and who we still want and need to become.
“Starting a new chapter in my life and growing into the woman I’ve always wanted to be” (Sarah Ellman, Commerce)
All the opportunities that are available to me. Most undergrads follow structured, standardized plans to fulfill our degree requirements. Still, the post-grad possibilities are truly endless, whether we take on employment related to our degree, continue our education, or ultimately try something new. (CeCe Li, Arts/Psychology)
In my mind, it’s honestly crazy how much change occurred over the past four years. It’s crazy how this time, in our little Kingston bubble, shaped us into who we are today. I don’t think I know anybody in our year, leaving Queen’s as the same person they were four years ago. It is crazy how much we grew into ourselves, supported by our friends, the professors we hated and the ones we couldn’t bear to leave, and most importantly, our own drive and determination to be better. To do better. No matter where each of us ends up going after we split up, I hope that we’ll be in a place that we love, a place where we can be ourselves. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of the past four years in Kingston? GPA, friendships, and the bars aside, wasn’t the point to figure out the place we wanted to carve out for ourselves? I think if you asked me, “Where do you want to be in 4 years?” back in first year, I would have said that that was what I came to Queen’s to figure out.
“Life has a funny way of figuring itself out once you’ve figured yourself out.” (Anonymous)
“Not to place my self-esteem in others or the accomplishment of professional goals. (Arlette Ibrahim, ArtSci)
Follow your curiosity and create your own path because learning becomes far more rewarding when it connects to your passions. (Amy Kaustinen, Commerce)
Every time I see the phrase “the past four years,” I feel anxiety bubbling up inside of me. The idea of reflecting on my undergrad and these four years at Queen’s is daunting. I think it’s because it’s hard to believe that it’s been four years. I think it’s because there’s too much to wrap my head around, and when I think back to something that happened, I either feel like it didn’t occur to me, or it feels like it took place in a different lifetime. “How was that four years ago?” is what I find myself asking when I think back to all the memories in first year. Maybe I’m just not ready to admit that it’s over yet.
The other day, I watched that Parks and Recreation episode (my latest lockdown binge) where Leslie Knope reflects on her past year as Councilwoman for the City of Pawnee. She holds a town forum and encourages all the citizens to ask themselves, “Am I better off now than one year ago?” to get them to continue supporting her as their Councilwoman. I liked the question that she posed – it seemed simple but entirely a loaded question. It seemed to make the process of reflection less of a burden. Less daunting.
Maybe, that’s what we – the Class of 2021 – should be asking ourselves instead, as we wrap up our degrees and say our goodbyes:
“Am I better off now compared to when I first came to Queen’s in 2017?”
I assume that most of us will nod our heads here and say yes. It’d be pretty tough to swallow a “no” after having paid an insane amount of tuition money over the years.
So, maybe we should reflect more and go deeper.
Am I surrounded by a better group of people today than I was in my first year?
Am I happier with my quality of life compared to first year?
Do I feel more intelligent?
“Nights I spent with my friends. Nights when I’d have to force myself to stop laughing and pause and think about how valuable true friendship is and how fortunate I was to have found it.” (Anonymous)
At the very least, ask yourself if you’re wiser compared to first year. I remember in first year, I used to look at the fourth-year students in my program and think that they were insanely mature. I used to believe that they couldn’t possibly be only three years my senior. So now that we, the graduating class, now find ourselves in this position, how do we feel? Am I better off now compared to first year? Am I leaving Queen’s in a better position than when I first stepped foot on campus?
We’re all going to be doing wildly different things, in different places and at different times in our life. As we go our separate ways, I hope to continue to forge ahead with the path that we’ve picked for ourselves. I hope that, as we did throughout the past four years, we can continue to discover our niche in life. It will change. You will change. But it is so exciting to think about all the ways this change can occur.
My mother used to say to me, growing up, that I should always be thinking about the last time I felt like a fool. She used to say that the more recent that time period was, the better. “That means you’re growing and becoming a better version of yourself,” she’d say to me. I’ll remember that always.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: WE AREN’T REALLY STRANGERS
Author: Julia Sun, MUSE’ings Print Editor.