A Letter to First-Year M.

A Western notebook on a table with a pen nearbyWritten by: M. Bettencourt, 5th Year History 

Photo by: M. Bettencourt

Dear First-Year M,

Hi. It’s me. Well, it’s you, but from 4 years in the future. I’m about to enter my fifth and final year here at Western—more on that later. But enough about me. I’m here to talk about you.

You’ve just finished high school, and I know you’re excited for the university life. You’ve bought a new backpack, computer, and stationary, and are feeling as prepared as you possibly can be to start the newest chapter in your life. Let me tell you, no amount of pens or notebooks will truly prepare you for the world you are about to step into.

Before I go any further, I thought I should give you a quick rundown of how the next 4 years are going to go:

  • On your first day of school, you’re going to meet a fellow first-year and become fast friends. She will leave UWO, but your friendship will grow into something amazing. Hold on to her; she is the sister you’ve always wanted. 4 years later, you’ll be planning vacations and matching tattoos with her.
  • Most of your high school friend group won’t last. But you never expected it to. Instead, you will connect with a new group of friends. People who love, inspire, and encourage you. They will be the first people you come out to, and they will congratulate and support you. They are your 2nd family—a beautiful and eclectic collection of misfit toys.
  • You’ll come out to mom, too. She will tell you how much she loves you, and how she honestly had been expecting your coming-out for a while. You’re going to breathe a sigh of relief when you hear that.
  • Your criminology degree won’t work out. But I think you already know it won’t. You’ll find your passion soon enough. You’ll know when you’ve found it.
  • You’re going to move out. Your new bedroom will be cluttered in the perfectly chaotic way that you have mastered, and you will flourish in the freedom of living on your own.
  • Not everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows though. Your life won’t be without tragedy or pain. You will end up taking a term off in your third year. But you will come back stronger, more passionate, and ready to learn.

Now, I am not writing this letter to act as a crystal ball and show you every little detail of your life for the next four years. I am writing to give you some advice that I wish I had received when I started at Western.

Progress, both in life and academia, isn’t linear. Take your time and try and figure out what is best for you. Your health and happiness are what matter most—don’t compromise them for the sake of satisfying some perceived notion of success. Take 5 years to do that degree. You have no one to impress except yourself.

Be open to change. There is a reason big trees snap in hurricanes, yet the small ones survive—flexibility. Changes will come in many forms over the next 4 years, and your flexibility and adaptability will be what save you. Bend, don’t break.

Be yourself. Don’t hide who you are because of fear that your peers won’t understand or like you. No one cares, M. Be passionate. Be loud. Don’t stifle the spirit inside of you. Your eccentricities are a part of who you are, and they are part of what makes you amazing.

You’re going to do great, and I am so proud of who you are going to become.

Cheers to the next chapter in your life,

Fifth-Year M.

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