Monday, 12 January 2015

On to the Next Chapter

It seems cliche to talk about new beginnings in the new year, but that's exactly what I'm in store for. Last year was full of highs and lows, and 2015 began with a monumental triumph for me. I passed organic chemistry. Now to those who have never taken the course before or know someone who has, this class is a killer. Countless students have not only failed multiple times, but have changed their program entirely to avoid repeating once more. I was one of those students.

I'm in the Honours Neuropsychology program at Brock University, and the journey has been anything but smooth. It seemed that every year there was some personal tragedy or obstacle keeping me from being truly successful. I've been in my undergraduate program for longer than I'd care to admit, but the rocky experience has been invaluable to me.

I've been through break ups, numerous changes of address, the stress of poverty, bouts of insomnia, the death of my father, the mental breakdown of my brother, and recently I lost my best friend of over 15 years last November... all while fighting tooth and nail to maintain my academic status. It's been a constant struggle, but the truth is that the hardship has taught me a thing or two that I'd like to share with all of you.

The first lesson is that natural talent is fantastic, but determination in the face of failure is the key. I'm passionate about human behaviour (especially abnormal psychology, what's the fun in normality?!), but some of the compulsory courses I had to take were less than appealing to me. Physics, calculus, statistics, and the killer organic chemistry were not my cup of tea, those courses were more like a cup of cyanide to me. Despite failing miserable on a few assignments and tests, I knew that I had to pass these courses in order to do what I truly loved. Without determination I would never have been able to pursue my true passions.

The second lesson was to relish in the small successes, and use those little accomplishments to motivate myself to achieve greater ones. Long term goals are important when mapping out where you'd like to be, but sometimes the bigger picture can overshadow the smaller moments. My Dad used to say to me, "Focus on now" whenever I was getting overwhelmed with the lack of progress I was making. So slowly but surely I began to move away from the catastrophic thinking and realized that I may not be following the timeline I had initially planned, but I was moving forward.

The last important lesson was to surround myself with a strong support system and focus on the positive. Humans are social creatures who require the love, support, and friendship of others to flourish. No one ever becomes all that they dream to be alone. Besides, success is so much better when shared.

So what is the point? Well, for the first time in nearly 5 years I feel secure and confident in myself and my abilities and I owe this feeling in part to the countless moments of weakness, failure, and down right depression I experienced. I will be graduating this June, and then after that I'm not sure where my degree will take me but I'm looking forward to the journey. If there is just one piece of advice I could give to another student struggling with their course load, a daughter watching cancer tear her family apart, a friend attending a funeral that came to soon, or any person feeling deflated it would be this: you are stronger than you realize, and with enough determination and courage to carry on you will end up exactly where you are meant to be.

Sincerely yours,
Cassandra Jones

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