Today I took a little trip to downtown Toronto so I could drop off a few copies of my book at the Ostomy Toronto office. Even though my book was published before I had my surgery, the folks at OT thought that my book might help people get a better understanding of ulcerative colitis. I hope it serves that very purpose.
Once the books were delivered, I decided to go for a walk through the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. I watched students carry boxes into their new dorm buildings. Students toting heavy textbooks in U of T bookstore plastic bags. Professors (I presume) carrying stylish briefcases while striding towards their classes. More students lined up for hot dogs and fries from the food trucks parked on St. George Street. I felt the energy of the students and the faculty and the buildings and the bookstore.
With a new school year comes a chance to learn and grow and make friends and take on challenging work and feel a real sense of promise that you’re on your way to doing great things. At least that’s how I felt every September while I was a student at U of T’s Mississauga campus. I looked forward to going back to school after the Labour Day weekend. I loved university. Being a student, and a pretty good one at that, made me feel as though I had a place in which I truly belonged. It gave me an identity to be proud of – a student double majoring in CCIT (Communication, Culture, and Information Technology) and PWC (Professional Writing and Communication). I got up everyday with purpose and vigor. I looked forward to the 20-minute walk to the bus stop and the hour-long bus ride when I’d often do the crossword in the 24 Hours newspaper. I looked forward to seeing my friends, to attending classes, to doing my readings, to writing essays, to planning projects, to going to the gym.
I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to attend such a wonderful university, and proud of the U of T degree hanging on the wall in my bedroom, but now I wonder just what I really got out of university besides happy memories. I struggled to find full-time work after I graduated. I worked a part-time job I held before I started at U of T, and balanced that with unpaid internships. It took me over a year after graduating to find a full-time job, which I ended up hating and resigning from two weeks before my surgery.
It’s been over two years since I graduated, with high distinction no less, and I’m unemployed and living at home. Yes my poor health has been a major factor in my sad state of affairs, but I sometimes wonder how my colitis would have progressed if I was able to land a proper, full-time job soon after graduating. Maybe I’d still have needed my horrible surgery, but maybe I would be able to take paid sick leave while I recovered, and maybe there would be a job waiting for me when I was ready to resume work. And maybe I’d be living alone in an apartment, away from the annoyances and banalities of living with family.
I’d love to go back to school. Not for job prospects – I already know framed pieces of paper don’t necessarily lead to jobs – but for the feeling of belonging and purpose and promise I so loved when I was a student. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s not so much that I want to be a student again, but I want to go back in time and relive better days. It’s easy to want that when these days are so shitty. And I know I can’t go back. But I’m running out of patience waiting for better days to come around again.