Slice of Life: Overexpectations

What happened to stopping to smell the roses?

Higher education is a privilege not everyone has access to, and we’re all extremely fortunate for the learning opportunities at Concordia, but crap is it ever tiring. After three full years spent in Montreal either working my butt off at school, or working my butt off to pay for school, I’m just about done (realistically I still have a year or so left, though—whoop-dee-doo). But it’s not the prospect of hard work that leaves me feeling discouraged; it’s the feeling that I’m not doing enough. The feeling that being in school full-time, working for The Concordian part-time (read: full-time), and trying to pick up whatever photography gigs I can still isn’t enough.

Just the other week, I was talking with my roommate about how I want to spend this summer. Working outdoors is something I fell in love with in 2015, before moving to Montreal, when I worked as a canoe trip counselor in Algonquin Park, a provincial park in southeastern Ontario. Getting outside and into nature is something I’ve been itching to do every summer since then, for my own sanity. Yet, when having this conversation with my roommate, I found myself bringing up my degree, the benefit of staying in Montreal for another summer to take extra classes, maybe pick up an internship; all to get ahead. But of what? Of who?

I’m not sure what makes me more upset: the fact that I have this competitive desire to finish my degree quickly and move on, or the fact that I’m probably going to end up taking classes and whatever internship I think will boost my CV the most. There was one semester, one blissful (yes, blissful) few months in fall 2017, when I thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes. Not only that, but I was proud of the work I was accomplishing, both in and outside the lecture hall. But toward the end of post-secondary education, professors start encouraging students to envision how their degrees fit into their career paths. While this isn’t inherently negative, the insane pressure many of us feel to find that career path early on and pursue every available opportunity within that field, to differentiate ourselves and come out on top is kind of negative (cheers, capitalism), no?

What happened to stopping and smelling the roses? Enjoying the journey, and not the destination? I’ve had one-too-many conversations with students already working full-time in their final years of university who only show up to classes on mandatory attendance days or to hand in assignments because they’re simply done with school. Or students who are in school full-time, pursuing a full-time internship, and also trying to work part-time who have absolutely no time for themselves.

The constant pressure to go above and beyond comes from the overexpectations we all feel, and it really friggin’ sucks. It translates to us constantly focusing on the next stage of our lives, as opposed to drawing value from our current place in life and really growing as individuals.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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