Final Thoughts: University improved my social well-being

by | Jan 21, 2016 | Opinions | 0 comments

When I decided to write a piece on social wellness, I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be so hard. I expected it to be pretty sequential: I summarize my pitiful high school years, and then I talk about my wonderful time at MacEwan University. Compare, contrast; condemn, praise. Easy, right?

No, actually. It’s proven to be pretty difficult. Thinking about where I am now versus where I was then — that is, three or four years ago — is nerve- wracking, unpleasant, and outright terrifying at times.

Why do I even have to think about my pre-MacEwan life? Why can’t I just focus on the first day of first year onward? Why? Because being at MacEwan really changed things for me, and it would be disingenuous to act like my social wellbeing was particularly good before I got here.

In Grade 10, I was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Now, my friends and my peers accepted this just fine. However, the staff at my school wasn’t as receptive. Some teachers brushed off my anxiety as a phase; some staff denied me my exam accommodations. A few staff members were decent, but a lot of them did things that were hurtful.

One thing that sticks out is the way that some of them suggested I couldn’t be a journalist. It hurt. I felt attacked. The way I was being treated made me more anxious, which just brought on greater condemnations. Again, some teachers were actually helpful, but there were enough of them who weren’t.

So, what did I do? I did what I had to do to survive. I abandoned myself in their dance. The people in power typed me as “not right,” so I went along and accepted it. With certain teachers, I would sometimes push back against the typing, but that would end the moment they threatened to bring in the administration.

Let me tell you something: that is absolutely no way to live your life. You should never have to lose yourself at the hands of others to make it through life. It sucks. Even if you

know who you are, you won’t really feel like you. And it’ll suck.

So, when I finished my final diploma exam in Grade 12, I got out. When I stepped out of that building as a student for the last time, a weird sensation washed over me. I was… happy.

Now, happiness is good. Emotional wellness is good. Nobody’s bashing happiness here. That said, emotional wellness alone isn’t enough to make it by. Even though I was emotionally well, I still had to deal with entering a new academic institution. Socially speaking, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Fortunately, MacEwan’s been a great space. Most of the professors here are respectful, and Services to Students with Disabilities is honestly an amazing advocate for my rights as a disabled student. These two elements alone have made me feel less anxious and more like myself.

That’s not all, though. There’s also the griff. I still remember when I got my first story as a volunteer. A list of pitches had been sent out to the mailing list, and I saw one — about hashtags — that I thought would be interesting to write.

Of course, this required emailing an editor I had never met. I was really nervous, but I managed to send the editor a brief message to request the pitch. The editor replied and gave it to me. This was the first of many significant social steps I would take through the griff.

Over the past two years, I’ve gone from being an insecure volunteer to being the copy editor. During that time, I’ve stepped out of my social comfort zone many times, be it to interview someone for a story or to discuss a piece with an editor.

I’ve also grown surprisingly close to my fellow writers and editors.
I work with incredibly wonderful people. They’re talented, cool, and compassionate, and they actually seem to like me. The same can be said of most of my classmates — they seem to appreciate who I really am.

There are no words to describe how grateful I am for that. My social world is so much healthier than it was a few years ago.

Ana Holleman

The Griff


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