I’ve been procrastinating lately by watching Gilmore Girls—the original episodes, not the new ones, which I also of course watched and did not like very much. I just finished the episode when Rory moves into her dorm room at Yale, and tonight as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about my own experience moving away from home and starting at the University of Victoria. Looking back, what kind of advice would I have given eighteen-year-old me? What do I know now that I wish I’d known then?
The pieces of wisdom that come to mind are nothing ground-breaking or original. Try harder to meet new people, I might have told myself, even if it’s a little scary and you’re a little shy. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Find some sort of balance between life and school, because if you spend all your time in the library, you might get good grades but you’ll miss important learning opportunities you won’t get from books.
I thought about all the things I’d say to awkward, anxious, over-studied eighteen-year-old me, and then I really couldn’t sleep, because I realized that those pieces of advice are probably exactly as relevant to me now in my first year of grad school as they were seven years ago. I’m still sometimes a little shy, still comparing myself to others, still studying at the expense of all else. I’ve grown up a lot and had all kinds of life experiences since my first year at UVic. Have I learned nothing?
Maybe I’m just really thick. Or maybe, the process of learning and growth is not always a linear one; maybe we have to learn the same lesson several times over before it sticks, and maybe we have to unlearn some other lessons we thought we knew. It’s not the neat and tidy narrative of most stories of personal achievement we hear, but it’s probably a little bit closer to real life to have moments where you’re taking one step forwards, two steps back—and then a shuffle sideways.
I used to joke (if only to myself) as every new school year came around, I’d be “Sasha 2.0,” “Sasha 5.0,” determined to be better than I was the year before. Part of that, I think, is a good quality to have: holding oneself to a high standard and always striving for improvement. But humans are not computer operating systems, and if you compare yourself to one, you might find it hard to cope when you find a bug in version 5.0. Humans get to make mistakes, to fail at things, and to go halfway down a path before deciding to turn around.
Except maybe re-evaluate your choices if you’re a self-entitled Yale-educated 32-year-old with no job prospects who’s just moved back into your mom’s house. I mean, come on, Rory.