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How to Grow Up

How to Grow Up

Here’s some wisdom from a 32-year-old on a second round as a university student:

It’s really hard.

Not exactly a revelation, I know, but hear me out. Completing assignments, keeping up with readings, and managing time – we all know how challenging this can be. What I want to highlight instead is that the hard work isn’t always the hardest part. For me, trying to figure out how to get to bed early enough, how to wake up and make it to class on time, how to keep my bedroom from looking like a junkyard, and how to resist daily temptations is really hard. While others seem to be worrying about making time for self-care between classes and work, I’m sprinting to class only to find I forgot my notebook. Sometimes it’s the stuff that is supposed to be simple that ends up being really— you guessed it— hard.

It can feel like there isn’t much sympathy out there for those of us who struggle with the day-to-day stuff. If someone hasn’t done laundry in two weeks, it’s easier for people to judge and label them lazy than it is to try to understand why they find it difficult. We’re all guilty of passing quick judgment – and this has its consequences. In my case, people often presume I’m either carefree or careless. A friend told me years back that it seemed like I have no passion. It felt awful to be seen that way. For a decade I almost believed that story about myself. I often felt like a let down, both to myself and to the world. I worried I’d never grow up to be someone I could respect. None of that was true.

The First Round

With that mindset, completing my first degree somehow seemed like both a miracle and barely an accomplishment. I didn’t find the schoolwork very difficult. I loved learning, I made it to class, I paid attention, and for the most part, I got good grades. But I spent the majority of my six years as an undergrad (that’s right, six) procrastinating. I wish I could say I spent all my time partying and enjoying myself. Mostly I agonized about how much work I had to do instead of just doing it, or I beat myself up because I didn’t feel I was trying hard enough. I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t seem to do it. I always felt like I could do better, or like I never gave it all I had. At graduation I knew I was smart enough to be handed that degree but somehow I felt like I hadn’t earned it. Now upon reflection, I see I gave it everything I had at the time. I earned that degree Sinatra-style— I did it my way.

We rarely hear this sort of student story. Ever notice in the movies how college students always look like they’re having the greatest time of their lives? They’re winning trophies, getting laid, and going on spring break holidays. How do they make time to have all this fun? They’re never studying, working their asses off to afford tuition, or staying in because they can’t afford to party. The message is that our college years are supposed to be all fun all the time. I’ve done it twice now, and I call bullshit! If you can relate, you’re not alone. I’d say we’re the silent majority.

The Second Round

This time it’s different. The same simple stuff I found difficult ten years ago is still hard and it probably won’t ever be easy for me. I have grown though. I’ve slowly adopted some better life skills (so much more to go), a lot of patience with myself, and the pièce de résistance, I’ve developed a who-gives-a-shit swagger – a gift of confidence that seemed to arrive right around the time I turned 30. Much to my partner’s chagrin, my room is still a pig stye, and I still struggle to hand papers in on time. But my world isn’t collapsing around me. I’m imperfect, and that’s fine. There are a lot of us!

These days I juggle a job, classes and a co-op position. I never thought I’d be able to do that much at once. For the first time in my adult life, people say, “Wow! That must be so hard to manage!” about my life. The irony is, in a lot of ways, it used to be harder. It’s harder to wake up in the morning when you have three or four chapters to read on your own time, two assignments due in a week, and instead of doing any homework the night before, you smoked a joint with your roommate and stayed up watching cartoons. That is stressful. That life is never free from the anxiety of having too much shit to do. Now, waking up groggy to get to my co-op placement after a late night at work is easy in comparison. It would be even easier if I could just decide to go to bed earlier, but at least I have a better excuse for being late.

What’s Next?

Each of us struggles with different aspects of the transition into adulthood. Moving toward my mid-30s now, I realize that the development period is actually never finished. You never wake up to find you’re all done building yourself. But you do get better at it.

I wanted to write all this because I wish people had recognized and acknowledged ten years ago that even when I didn’t look like it, I really cared. To everyone living in that eternal awkward phase, I’m right there with you. I know you care. Keep at it and take all the time you need.

How To Consider If You Have An Eating Disorder

How To Consider If You Have An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can reveal themselves in not-so-obvious ways. We have created a list of some of the things to look out for to see if you might be struggling with an eating disorder.

You’re obsessed with counting calories

You look at the fat and calorie content of everything and you might even have nutritional information memorized because you’ve been doing this for so long. You set a calorie limit for yourself and won’t allow yourself to go over that amount. You might not even eat something unless you know the exact amount of calories the food has, and you like to keep track of how many calories and fat you’re consuming by recording it.

You eat in secret and avoid social situations that involve food

You are embarrassed to eat in front of others because you think they are judging you for what and how much you’re eating. You may avoid social activities altogether because you either don’t want to let on that you aren’t eating enough, or you’re afraid you’ll lose control over the amount of food you’ll end up eating. Buffets especially can be a nightmare.

You eat a lot all at once

You feel out of control because you can’t stop yourself from eating too much food all in one sitting, even when you’re not hungry. You notice you’re not even enjoying the food you’re eating because you are eating it quickly. You have intense feelings of regret, shame, and guilt after eating so much and might even try to compensate for the excessive food intake by skipping meals, exercising, or throwing up.

You weigh yourself constantly

You weigh yourself multiple times a day and base what your next meal will be on how much you weigh. You find the number you see on the scale can really affect your mood and how much you will allow yourself to eat that day.

You cook elaborate meals (for others, not yourself)

You obsess over cookbooks and cooking recipes. You enjoy cooking elaborate meals for others but do not eat them yourself and get great satisfaction watching others eat the food you make, almost living vicariously through them.

You freak out if you can’t exercise

Exercising becomes an obsessive ritual. You plan your day around exercising, set exercising goals (i.e., hours you spend at the gym, kilometres you have to run), and become anxious when you miss a day of exercise or aren’t able to reach the exercising goal you had set out to do. To compensate for the missed exercise, you might begin to limit your food intake to account for the fact that you didn’t burn off as many calories as you would have liked that day.

You engage in negative self-talk about your body

You constantly call yourself “fat” and can spend hours in front of a mirror, sizing up every detail about your body and perceived flaw. You have become overly critical of yourself and engage in regular body shaming episodes. This negative self-talk might also be affecting your mood and desire to go out with friends. You isolate yourself and this can intensify the above behaviours!

If you or someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone and there is help available.