“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein
University can be a symbol of hope for the future, a chance at a better life, the possibility of realizing a dream. But it can also be a time of anxiety, debt, and potential family conflict. Particularly, if you have chosen a career in the arts and humanities.
There can be so much emotion as you go through the highs and lows of college life. You may start to feel anxious nearing graduation, realizing your career path may not be as clearly laid out as those of some your non-”artsy” classmates. In Canada the average debt load for college students is over $20,000. Caregivers or parents might express fears about how a career in the arts will look like in the “real world”, leaving you feeling pressure to know all the answers before you’ve even left school. As the end of school looms, you may find your idealism shifting into cynicism.
If you are struggling with any of these issues, keeping yourself grounded and focused on building your dream, can help manage some of the existential anxiety that comes from choosing “the road less travelled.”
Here are 5 survival tips to get you through University:
1. Develop a non-negotiable self care routine. A useful self care plan incorporates activities and practices that help you be at your best. Your daily routine might include specific hours of rest, reminding yourself to eat healthy nourishing foods, engaging in movement that you actually like doing, and time to connect meaningfully with others. Your caring for self routine should work for you, not someone else. If you need 9 hours of sleep, and your favourite movement is the lindyhop-then do it.
2. Practice assertive communication with self and others. University is a great time to build your assertiveness muscle. So practice listening to yourself and expressing what you want. Remember, it never hurts to ask for what you want respectfully. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Be honest with yourself about what you really want and practice not using “that’s fine” or “okay” as your go-to answer.
3. Connect-socialize with others, within reason. If you have gravitated towards the arts or humanities, you may find you crave deep, meaningful conversation with people in your life. Your hunger to learn, your creativity, and your curiosity about life are very possibly what led to pursue your passion in the first place. So don’t be afraid to make space for deeper conversations with friends. Stay up late every once in while, sit in a cafe for hours, and engage in dialogue that sparks you up.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Really. Just stop. Each of you are on your own unique journey to self-hood. Embrace your uniqueness, your strengths, your sweetly human flaws, your vision, the heartbreaking moments in your life as well as the triumphs. Imagine being a snowflake and comparing yourself to another snowflake. There is a kind of absurdity to the exercise, because each is a completely distinctive creation of nature. As are you.
5. Practice encouraging versus discouraging self talk. All of us have an inner running commentary that can either give us the courage to move forward or take away our courage. (you might notice something like this: inner critic )
When you notice yourself feeling down, performance anxiety blocking you, or feeling stressed out, ask yourself what you were thinking. Was the self talk playing a “you can’t do this, if you fail then (fill in the blank), you will never find/be able to (fill in the blank), what’s wrong with you, why can’t you just (fill in the blank) loop.
When you notice this critical commentary, be kind to yourself, then try saying to yourself, “maybe you can do this, if you fail you will learn something new, you might be able to (fill in the blank) if you try, what’s right with you, what will help you get through this.”
You are allowed to make mistakes, and learn, and grow. As you develop your craft and your artistic vision, keep nourishing yourself.