Hey! My name is Bella Pagotto, and this is my third year being a rep for Happy Human! I am also in my third year at Dalhousie, studying a BSc in Microbiology and Immunology and Gender and Women Studies.
All my life, it has been important to me to experience more than just one thing. Jumping at trying new things played a key role in my confidence in feeling secure in the things I did (or didn’t) like. Through that, I developed a huge respect for important aspects of my life: family, friends, competitive sports, reading, music. One of the most expansive qualities of life that I felt such a groove in was school. Not only was there a routine to school, but there was also promise. The promise of finding out something you never heard of before, to do and be better. It was a way I can flourish and excel but also a way I can reflect on my growth as a person and who I can be for those around me.
Quickly school, and all the expectation it entailed, became the root of extreme worry and anxiousness that extended far beyond the classroom. I found myself beating myself up when I did poorly (even though that is an important part of learning) and never leaving feeling good even when I did well. My performance in school turned into being the foundation of my self-concept- a foundation I was overly harsh and critical over. I started to lose out on the things around me because I was always preoccupied with anxiously overthinking about school in the free time I had outside of doing school itself. This, of course, only got worse the higher I moved up in school with academics getting me into university and STEM being overly competitive with little representation for women or queer people. I felt the pressure to be and do more but worse, a place where I found joy with friends and learning and growing turned sour.
I won’t sit here and write to say I am totally beyond feeling that way about how I am as a student; it is not a simple thing to re-wire how we are programmed to feel in this system. However, I can say I am a million times better with my relationship with it.
You. Are. More. Than. A. Mark.
It took a lot of a self reflection to get there. A lot of telling myself that I can still be intelligent and productive while watching the odd movie occasionally. Life is not just about school, it is about following a passion, being around people you care about who care about you in return, and being unapologetic about who you are, your needs, and your goals. Success is not limited to just outcomes; it can be measured in anything you want really. It sounds like a cliché, but it really did propel me to have mend something within myself that was telling me I was only good if I proved I was (maybe I just always was? Maybe we all are just good at what we do?!). School is still a huge part of me and who I am, but it is not the only part. That, reader, is a pretty lovely (and humbling) start.
Essentially, this is your call for spontaneity, to a study break, to a “let’s go grab a coffee without our laptops”. You are not only doing well, but you also deserve it. We are proud of you.