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[re:tell] Moving Mountains

[re:tell] Moving Mountains

Living with family while studying can be a little like riding a roller coaster. You never know what’s going to come next.

For me, it’s a struggle day in and day out. From my home, I commute at least two hours each way to and from school in downtown Toronto! I usually start my day at 6 am and don’t finish until midnight, if I’m lucky. Every jam-packed day, I push myself to commute, attend class, do homework, keep up my social life, then mentally prepare myself to come home to chaos. On any given evening, my younger brother is being yelled atturn off your video games! go study! stop making a mess! etc, etc. My mom’s busy with chores, cleaning the house and coordinating with my dad who won’t be home until late because he’s still out running the family business. 


When you live at home as a student, you have to wear many hats. You’re pushed not only to be aware of your own life and what you have to do to succeed at school, but you also have to manage your time so you can be there for your siblings, parents and friends. No day is like another. 


Each morning there’s a new set of circumstances that will define my day and I have to figure out how to navigate the terrain in front of me. What happens when my brother is late for school and we need to get to college at the same time but only one car is available? I take one for the team and make sure he gets to school and is hopefully learning away before I rush to catch my train downtown and apologize profusely to my professor. I am constantly being pulled left and right and every direction. My life is a full-blown operation that I share with the immediate people I live with. 


First year was the hardest. I had just been introduced to a new world of college, commuting and higher expectations than ever before. There were days I would come home fuming with frustration. Despite my best attempts to make each day a good one, I would have to divert my plans to include managing carpooling with my brothers, helping my dad with admin for the business, participating in extracurricular activities, and explaining to group members who lived close to school how working on a group project in the library into the wee hours of the night was just not possible for me. 


I felt like I was both failing and being stripped of an authentic college experience. No matter what I tried to do to ease the stress and pressure by planning in advance and staying organized, my arms were being stretched until I could barely hold it all. I pushed myself to a point where I genuinely hoped I could stay awake for 24 hours. The constant struggle to find enough time to share my day with everybody made me more aggressive, frustrated and simply stressed out. I was running out of time to study and do my best in school trying to stay active and involved with the people who needed me at home. 


Now that I’ve given you a taste of the rollercoaster ride that is my life, allow me to share some of the positive elements to living at home. While I have to sacrifice when it comes to my social life and going out with my downtown friends, there is a special feeling of warmth I get that can only be found at home. The saying “there’s no place like home” could not be truer. When I come home after a bad test or a fight with group mates, I always find people who love me waiting at the dinner table ready to hear all about my day and distract me from the constant chaos that is post-secondary education. Family may not always understand what it’s like for me to juggle all of this while I’m still developing my own identity, they are always there for me when I need to escape after a nightmare week. 


Living at home is an experience. You’ll cry, you’ll feel like you’re losing a battle with time, but you’ll also find a lot to appreciate. It’s the little things like sharing family dinners, getting help with washing dishes and doing laundry, and having a clean, safe space that feels like home. You never forget that you’re not alone when there is always someone there by your side.

 Himanshu Luthra is a degree student at George Brown College. Check him out

This blog is part of our re:tell series that showcases stories from Canadian postsecondary students.

[re:tell] From Addict to Law Student

[re:tell] From Addict to Law Student

The term “mature student” has always made me chuckle. While I wouldn’t choose “mature” to describe myself, I do find myself now with a second chance to study and I do view it as a new beginning in my life journey.


To understand why I consider this a second chance, I need to tell you a little about my history. Let’s step back in time to when I was fresh meat in high school, ready to be chewed up and swallowed by the system.


Society tells young women how they should be and I wasn’t it. I wore male clothes and had classmates questioning my gender. I made a friend named Steve who would tell me it was okay to be whoever I want to be. If I wanted to wear boy clothes, why not? Steve was a little rough around the edges, his parents smoked and drank a lot and he had a reputation as a wild child. I looked up to him and his strength. I started to drink with him. I could get drunk but still excel in school, which made me confident I could balance my bad habit.


In 10th grade, Steve and I had a falling out. Soon after, he moved away and we lost touch. His “I don’t care” attitude stayed with me though. I got a part-time job where I had my first hit of a joint. Soon after I started to skip class to get high. My marks started to deteriorate. In 11th grade, a classmate introduced me to a drug called ketamine and I was instantly hooked. I started to find connections to buy through classmates. I’d cut lines in the café. I felt untouchable because nobody noticed and I was still passing my classes.


I finished high school and went off to college. I lived in a dorm on campus and “fortunately” there was a pub attached to my building. My drinking escalated. I would go home on weekends to pick up enough ketamine to keep me stable throughout the week. Two years later, I left with a diploma in hand and a full-blown addiction, but I wouldn’t admit it at the time. I started working full time and just like that I was a “member of society,” but with a white nose.


In 2012, I got word Steve had taken his own life. I couldn’t understand why. I felt guilty that I hadn’t kept in touch. In 2013, another high school friend of mine, Sasha, took her own life, as well. My friends were disappearing off the map and I believed I was doomed, too. My drug use increased. I started living in a drug house. I still worked to fund my habit, but it was never enough. At this point, I finally admitted I was an addict, but I felt okay because I was functional.


By 2014, I was fed up with my life. I was self-harming, chasing highs and barely surviving lows. I had absolutely no hope that I would get out of the destructive cycle. I was sick of myself and sick of being a slave to a drug. I wanted out and I needed to take action. I did a lot of self-reflection and came out as bisexual. I told my parents, who were very supportive. I also started a smoking cessation program with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. After a year, I quit smoking cigarettes and self-harming, but I was still snorting ketamine and I’d even added cocaine to my drug resume.


I slowly began to value myself more. By being true to myself, drugs started to slip from being my top priority. My life gradually morphed into one of self-care and self-respect. I started to see a social worker and she walked me through the basic areas I needed to tackle. I started to transform my dependent relationship with drugs into an occasional one until one day, I just stopped. I threw myself into work and was quickly promoted.


At a certain point, I knew I needed more resources to help me maintain my sobriety. It was mentally draining to do it by myself. I became a client at Addiction Services of York Region and started cognitive-behavioural therapy. It was rough. It resurrected the emotions of past traumas that I had kept hidden away. I started to self-harm again. My counsellor admitted me to the hospital where the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I started taking medication that helped my thoughts become more focused. Before, it had felt like a million voices shouting at once.


At work, I reached a point where I peaked. The challenge was no longer there and I wanted more. I decided to go back to school—sober this time—to see what I could achieve without addiction holding me back.


Now, here I am. With a clear mind, I’m setting goals and taking action to make them a reality. Where I used to feel shame and remorse, now I feel pride in my growth and evolution. I’m still a client at Addiction Services of York Region, though I recently switched to a new counsellor for therapy more specific to BPD. I also the Maple app through Seneca to assist me in times of need. I am using all the support I have through Seneca. I am now achieving 90% in most of my classes, and I am in a great relationship with a supportive girlfriend. After walking a winding path with many ups and downs, I can finally—and proudly—say, I am stable.


Some days when I am walking through the hallways, I stop in awe. I’m happy where I am. I hope to keep making new goals and achieving them.

This blog is part of our re:tell series that showcases stories from Canadian postsecondary students.