The Wave of Life

Oh, the joys of University. A place with much potential, yet so many problems. It’s a place where you can learn new things, but then forget them in a heartbeat in the next semester; it’s a place that encourages persistence, determination and hours and hours of effort and stress, all for one final grade. It’s a paradox, really. You might be wondering, “will I ever get my social life back?” or “does life get any easier?” I can speculate about the former, but sadly, I only know the true answer for the latter – NO. Life is hard and it will keep being hard. That doesn’t ever change. Let me use the logic of high school math to explain why.

sinusoidal-sin-excel-powerpoint

You see this graph? Yeah, you’ll probably remember it from your grade 10 and 11 math classes. It’s a sine wave. Remember how it was the easiest of all the waves to understand how to calculate? Think of this wave as the wave of life. Sometimes you’re at the top of the wave, riding it like a surfer in a California competition (your family is cheering you on from the sand and the judges are encouraging you to keep going on the loudspeaker). Sometimes you’re at the bottom end of the wave, still surfing the waves, but you lost your surfboard in the heavy blue waves, and you have to tread water, while, in addition, trying not to get eaten by sharks in the water (and let me tell you, those sharks can be vicious). Remember how you thought you’d never need high school math again? Perhaps you thought it was a waste of time? Well, I just used a math analogy and it worked wonders – the sine wave has become the wave of life. By the way, in case you were wondering, I don’t surf, nor do I enjoy the company of sharks – those jaws, man…

So, this wave of life can take you up, down, and all around, and it will keep doing it until the day you no longer ride the wave (…I thought that was less morbid than saying “until the day you die”). The point I’m trying to make here is that the ups and downs won’t change, but your attitude and perception of them CAN change. For example, us humans (we’re funny, aren’t we?) tend to dwell on the negatives and our minds refuse to see the positives until we retrain our neural connections to think differently. Think of it this way: you just failed an exam. You studied for 20 hours, you knew everything by heart, you memorized all that you could, and you did your very best…and yet, you still failed. The first thing you’re going to think of is “oh crap, I just failed a University exam” and you won’t think of all of the amazing effort you put into it and all that you’ve accomplished to date. After dwelling on the negative for some time, you have a choice: option one – keep studying, talk to the teacher, go to some tutorials or office hours, and focus on doing better on the next one OR option two – think to yourself that you aren’t good enough and that you’ll never pass the course. You’d be surprised how many people pick option two. It’s much easier to sit back after putting in so much effort and getting nowhere. In the end, though, your choice is your own – you can either dwell on the negative, or you can train yourself to think a bit more positively about your capabilities. Reading this, you might be thinking, “well, fine, I can easily pick the more positive route,” but sometimes it isn’t that easy. On paper, telling yourself to think more positive is easy. However, retraining the mind is harder than that, especially if you have a predisposition to anxiety, depression or any other mental health matter.

Now, why is all this important? Why are the math sine wave of life and the dualism of positive/negative choices important in the grand scheme of things? How is this related to life and to your career and to your current studies? Here’s my answer: your perception of your life is EVERYTHING. Your willpower to keep going is EVERYTHING. Challenging your thoughts to create more positive connections is EVERYTHING. In University and out there in the real world, it’s the same difficulty – life’s challenges don’t change, but you do. Only you have the power to change your attitude. Something’s not going right? Choose not to dwell on it for too long. Focus on what you can do to improve your mindset. You’re going through something? Go through it. Go through it knowing you’ll get out of it. Go through it and get through the tunnel of pain. The pain will come, but it will lessen over time. Time is essential. Whatever you are facing, whether it is school related, or whether it involves career choices to make in the near future, you always have the choice to change your perspective in this ridiculous, but wonderful, mysterious wave of life.

Like I said, it’s not easy. Life is hard. It’s unfair and it’s hard. And yet, we keep going. We keep on keepin’ on. There will be times when you really just want things to slow down because the future is so overwhelming. There will also be times when you want things to speed up because you don’t want to handle the present anymore. It’s all about perspective. Your fight is your own. No one person’s advice can help you feel better. Inner perspective, as I always say, is the only place you can practice the fight of life.

PastPresentFuture

Sometimes you just have to sit and listen to Ed Sheeran for a few hours before you can feel better. Sometimes you need to have a run on the treadmill to get a bit of a dopamine neurotransmitter boost. Sometimes that five-dollar mocha coffee at Starbucks or Second Cup makes all the difference. And, sometimes, maybe a good cry can also help. Maybe doing nothing is your thing! Who knows? You do. It’s all about you. You do you – do what you need to do to feel better. Feeling better (whatever “better” means to you) doesn’t come immediately, and sometimes you have to work for days, months, sometimes years, before you can develop strong mental habits. And, it’ll never be perfect. It’s ALL about perspective. But, it starts and ends with you.

So, keep on ridin’ that wave of life, with your head high, and strike a pose every time a storm hits. I can’t tell you everything will be OK. I can’t reassure you that things will work out the way you want them to. But, no matter what happens, you always have a choice. Dwell? Or accept the situation and act accordingly. The choice is always yours.

-Emily Maye Sweer

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