I’ve always hated my birthday. In fact, I still do, despite all of the amazing people and moving parts in my life trying to make it a special day for me. I think that the expectations that come with one sole day that is supposed to be a celebration of my life is overwhelming and to a certain extent, unreasonable. Graduation parties, celebrating a professional milestone, anniversaries of relationships, all make sense to me and all warrant the gathering of friends and family for good food. My birthday is just another day of the year. It’s usually way too cold to do anything enjoyable outside. I never know what to do with my face or eyes or hands when people are singing “Happy Birthday” to me. My parents usually forget to call me and wish me a good day.
Last year, I turned 20. It was the most dreadful and scary and awful thing that I just wanted to be over with. I felt like I was getting old, like I was damaged goods. 20 years old with no solid work experience, no meaningful relationship, and about 30 pounds heavier than I would have liked. I cried for hours on my birthday.
I tried really, really hard to make this year different. So I guess lumping New Years resolutions and goals for my 21st year of life is where I get some relief from the birthday anxiety. The last month has been the most insane emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever been on, and it still feels like I’m trying to recover from it. Setting goals and having something to look forward to has been helpful, but nothing is more helpful than sharing those goals with those who are closest to me, and having them hold me accountable when I start to stray.
This year, I’m vowing to take more risks and put myself out of my comfort zone. Since I started my undergraduate career at the University of Waterloo 2 years ago, I have not taken a break. While most students spent their 4 months of summer working or playing, I was in school. I just really hate living at home, especially after living by myself for so long. Like, why do I have to explain to my mom why I’m going to McDonald’s at midnight? Can’t a girl get her late night Junior Chicken fixed without being questioned? It also was in part because I’m not a co-op student, so internships aren’t mandatory for my degree. While I did try to look for work during the summer, nothing was fruitful, and staying in school seemed like the most productive and least-risky course of action. This has lead to many meltdowns, feeling burnt out, uninspired, and scared. While I was heavily involved in extra-curriculars, I found myself in the same kinds of leadership roles that were primarily coordination and logistics. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunities to contribute to so many great things like Waterloo Orientation and UW Economics Society, but it was definitely my time with Hack the North that has been so so eye-opening.
Hack the North, Canada’s biggest hackathon, began with a group of inspired, ambitious, and keen students, and has developed a strong culture of pushing boundaries and innovation (in true Waterloo fashion, of course), and through its ~4 years of existence, the organization has never lost sight of this culture. This extends to everything we do, but most specifically, the people that we hire. Although my time as an organizer taught me a lot about working in a team, organization, and logistics, the most valuable thing I got was meeting people who inspired me. These were some of the brightest, fearless people that I’ve ever met, who were always more than eager to share their wisdom and advice with everyone.
One thing I learned is that you’ll never experience anything different if you keep doing the same things. This is literally why so many students graduate from university with no idea of what they’re doing and have no job prospects. Of course you’re not going to know what to do after a 4-year undergrad in biology, if all you’ve been doing is studying and working retail during the summer. So, I’m finally going to take 4 months off and try things that make me feel uneasy. And I’m going to do everything I can to rid of the uneasy feeling so that when an exciting opportunity presents itself, I’m equipped to take it. And I’m truly ready to take on my twenties. I’m a young adult now!!!! I can do things. I can be self sufficient. I have many years of learning and experiencing ahead of me. And I want to thank and welcome all of you into the adventure of my attempt at feeling fearless!