Ten, five and three years later

A post looking back at my graduations.

I’ve always been good at school. School for me involves quite a bit of structure which in the last few years I’ve come to realize I thrive on. Ironically, the past few years I have worked in jobs that don’t actually provide much structure, but that’s helped me grow in the (cheese alert!) school of life.

I find graduations are the doorway to an interesting dichotomy: things get easier and harder, sometimes at the same time. Easier because the more you do it, the more practice you get. Harder because most people I talk to feel as though they don’t know what’s next — and that can be scary.

As thousands of students across the province graduate, I wanted to do my own sort of throwback. It’s been ten years since I graduated high school, five since graduating from SFU, and three since I escaped with my diploma from BCIT.

High school: class of 2008

I look back at my time in high school and I laugh because those days were so simple: I wrote more (one of my favourite courses was creative writing 12), played more badminton (these days I die walking up the hill to our apartment from the SkyTrain station), and participated in just about every single extra curricular activity I could. This included Students’ Council, the social justice club, choir groups, peer tutoring and mentoring — and whatever else worked with my schedule.

While I don’t maintain a lot of friendships with people from high school, I have one classmate I still talk to quite regularly. She is one of my loveliest friends and I had the opportunity to watch her get married. It’s also nice to see all of her successes — many of which have happened outside of Canada — and they do not surprise me. I’ve also kept in touch with a number of teachers, namely through conversations over coffee, emails, or Facebook, as well as with a number of people who were not in the same graduating year I was in.

One thing I wish I had done was given myself more permission to make mistakes or “fail.” (I don’t like using the word “fail” and prefer to refer to these events as learning opportunities, which you can read more about here.) Time in elementary and high school should allow students to try new things. At the time there was so much pressure to make sure your grades were good enough for scholarships, so there was never room to play around with courses. Yes, I graduated with a GPA that opened doors to a lot of financial help, but perhaps I would have cultivated more experiences experimenting in the STEM fields. I wish I had tried harder in math instead of just passing Principles 11 with the C+ graduation requirement. I wish I hadn’t dropped my Biology 12 class (though this one was a little tougher because of a scheduling conflict). If there was one piece of advice I could offer to high school students, it would be to “try everything.”

We’re not having an official 10-year reunion as far as I know, since I’ve never heard anything about a formal event. Even if there was one, I’m not sure I would have gone. I like where everything has ended up, but I do wish I’d given myself room for a little more variety back then.

Simon Fraser University, Arts & Social Sciences: Class of 2013

University was a massive screw up I only managed to salvage in my final 18 months. First and foremost, I should have never pressured myself to attend school right away. I regret not taking time off to get to know myself a little bit better, and really hash out my beliefs and build upon that. I went to university right away because everyone else did, and I didn’t want to get left behind. The fact of the matter is: it’s not a race. Don’t feel pressured to go to school as soon as possible. There are deferrals available for scholarships and acceptances, so take them if you need them.

University was also when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I chose to dive head first into my school work to avoid addressing my own issues with depression and anxiety. I wish I had asked for more help. This will always be a work-in-progress, but these days I am reaching out.

I also became quite isolated in the first two years; naturally being an introvert was part of the problem, but I was always so afraid to put myself out there. By the third year, I hit my stride and realized you can’t please everyone. If you find people you get along with in lectures or tutorials, cultivate those relationships. I’m so glad I did as I have kept in touch with a number of people I met in my later years at SFU, and they are awesome.

BCIT: Broadcasting & Online Journalism, Class of 2015

My time at BCIT has changed my life. It was great being part of a smaller class and learning with a lot of like-minded people. I also got a radio job in my first year, and met my future husband here. The skills I picked up in the program eventually led me to the job I’m in today.

Nerds. #throwback #jschool #radiolife #radiokids #bcitbroadcasting #se10

A post shared by Ria Marie Hall💍 (@theriamarie) on

I also learned to question everything, and I learned not to put up with a lot of nonsense. It was while taking this program where I learned it’s okay to agree to disagree; everyone has an opinion and their own way of doing things. Acquiring the skill to try and diffuse situations before they turn into a headbutting session has served me well.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to school, but if I do, I look forward to adding another chance to graduate to this list!

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