SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

The room was empty, vacant of all objects except for a wooden desk and a bed, both of which were broken — stuck at their hinges for time eternal. It was a nice spring day. Sunlight bathed the walls over my head and brightened my outfit: blue jeans, a blue button-up, and blue pleather shoes matched with a blue jacket.

I scanned the room’s figure one final time. For eight months, I had built up my dorm, covered it in French art, philosophy books, and coordinating sheets. It was home. But as May 1 came and went, so would my access to the building.

When I moved into residence, university was unknown. Although scared of being alone and innocent, I was anxious for a new start, and it seemed as if there was a bounty of opportunities for one. I diligently chose coffee cups, slaved over course selection, and awaited move-in day like a horse before a race. Facts could not yet impede my imagination which told me that there was perfection ahead.

From existence comes expectations of essence. Humans like to envision a world where ideals are attainable. We live in one moment, yet look forward to the next in order to create the ‘good life.’ Thus, when expectations of university are not met, students can become forlorn and feel obliged to live amongst the debris of our dreams. Or that’s what happened to me, at least. I had to tackle feelings of disappointment after the school year ended.  

I found myself looking out the window of my kitchen. The house felt stiff. Its red bricks weathered by the hot summers and long winters. I saw straight green trees, black planters, blue spruces, and baby grass. And I thought that this had always been the way — the trees, the house, the pool — nothing had changed, but something was missing. I wasn’t a new person.  

It’s from there that I had to look into myself, and truly distinguish that which I desired and that which I am.  

At the AGO, there is a piece comprising of five white canvases taped onto the back of a cardboard-like material. Its description is “finding the artist’s presence in absence.” The idea that deficiency isn’t negative strikes me quite well, and it’s important for incoming first years in my experience.

In the time ahead, you are going to hold preconceived notions about what university life is supposed to be like. These ideas are never going to conform with what your reality presents, so find presence in their absence. Learn to carve meaning from every moment, whether it’s ideal or not. Releasing the notion of ‘what I desire to be’ is a process, but it’s helping me to recognize all the good around me. I’m letting myself grow in between the broken pieces of my expectations — to feel bliss, and not disappointment. If you can accept that there is nothing controllable or definitive in your existence, the year will be great.

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