This third edition of Featured Advocates Month blog posts is written by Aidan Bonner. Aidan is a recent high school graduate and is heading to Dalhousie University this fall to pursue his passions in Commerce and Political Science. Aidan is a proud supporter of mental health and has been on Step Above Stigma’s executive team since the beginning in 2017, serving as the Vice President of Online Services.
At 11:59 PM on December 31, 2019, myself and many others did two critical things; firstly, they reflected on what type of year they had in 2019, and secondly, they considered what 2020 may have in store for them. What milestones will you hit? What are you looking forward to? What are you dreading? Who will you bring into your life? Who will you leave in the past?
For myself, my envisioned 2020 focused on upcoming life moments. Semi-formal, prom, March Break, graduation, university acceptances, accepting a university and spending my last summer with my friends before we all move onto the next chapter of our lives.
As you can probably guess, those events I had envisioned for this year were either cancelled, altered, or postponed. Never in a million years would I have imagined my semi-formal being cancelled, my March Break travel being shortened because the borders were closing, my graduation being held virtually on my TV, my university being held completely online and my friends and I all spending time with each other at six feet distance. Never in a million years I would have imagined myself writing a blog post reflecting on how suddenly my life changed because of a worldwide pandemic. But here we are.
Sure, it’s easy to respond to all of this with a simple “c’est la vie”, but for myself and many others, it has been hard to just roll with the punches that 2020 has brought upon us and as an eighteen year old, I feel like this year has taught me more about life than anything else has.
So as I sit here on my deck that overlooks a public park which usually fills the air with laughter and voices on a sunny August afternoon but is now quiet and eerie, I have collected my thoughts into five dot-jots of what I have personally learned about life at just eighteen years old.
1. Cherish every moment. You never know when your last moment with a person or at a place will be, so always treat every moment like your last. As a now graduated high school student, I have reflected on my “last” day at my school, Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 before school was turned virtual for the remainder of the year. I often dwell on that day and how now looking back I had no idea that was going to be my last day walking down those halls, walking to the front of school to meet my friends, stressing about Calculus assignments and upcoming projects. That’s the thing about life: we all get so caught up in what our daily lives bring upon us that we never get to stop, look around and take everything in. It sounds very cliché of myself, but I would do anything to go back to that day, to be able to go back and say thank you to my teachers once last time, take in the hustle of all the students cramming those narrow hallways and getting one last sense of that crazy high school atmosphere that we all took for granted.
2. Life is like a wave. You can either ride the current or you can crash under the waves. Try and be adaptive to what waves are thrown at you. Or in other words, don’t plan your life. Let life plan it for you and enjoy the ride. Funny enough, I feel like a hypocrite writing this dot-jot. I have always been a planner; I love to plan ahead, know what’s coming up and what I can look forward to, but after living through this pandemic, I already know that this part of me will outstandingly change. My early months of 2020 were full of the typical high school senior stress of grades, university acceptances, and planning ahead for my first year as a university student at Dalhousie University. Now in August, I can tell you that I will be staying home in Ontario and doing courses from my laptop virtually. This is just one (of many, trust me) examples of how you really can never plan your life. Things are always going to change and adapt around you, whether you like it or not, so it is better to have an idea of what you want to happen and let the rest fall in place for you. This ideology applies to anything though; education, work, personal life, or professional life. Always try and let life plan for you and just enjoy the ride.
3. Take every opportunity you can. Yes, this one seems a bit predictable because I am a recent high school graduate, but making sure you take every opportunity that is brought to your attention is crucial to make the most of your time. As the school years went on, I found that I personally felt more inclined to use this approach, not only for opportunities to speak upon for my university applications later, but also to try and make the most of my years in high school. Whether it was joining new clubs, trying out competitions, applying for executive positions within extracurriculars, going for lunch with friends as much as possible, or making the extra effort to reach out to friends and classmates, these were ways to make sure that I was capitalizing on my time. As I have talked to many friends during the pandemic, the one thing I have heard most is that because our senior year got cut short in March, most of my friends were looking forward to taking those opportunities between April and June, but 2020 had other ideas in store. This is evidence that you can’t always wait for those upcoming opportunities; you must look around present day, see what’s available for you and take those opportunities. I guarantee in twenty years when you look back at things, those sporadic opportunities you took will be more meaningful to you then the things that were planned for you.
4. Be authentically you. Life is too short to worry about what others think. For myself, this one is personal. For years I would worry about what others thought and would say, I would be a reserved version of myself and limit my social media presence because of this. In one of my proudest self-development moments, I quickly realized that people are going to always say something about you or always have an opinion on what you’re doing, so why not do life your way? Why be afraid to say what you think? Why be afraid to post that picture on Instagram because you’re worried what others may think about it? These are common questions at age 18 in 2020, but they are an opportunity to talk about the bigger picture being simply, “why do we care?”. We are all on this earth for a short amount of time, we need to do what makes the authentic version of yourself happy, not what others want you to do.
5. Reach out. Make that phone call. Text that person. Reach out to those you love and care about and tell them how you feel. In unprecedented times like this during a pandemic, the opportunity to sit down and reflect on your life, those in your life and how they impact your life is so important. This pandemic has taught me that although we are all distanced right now, making those efforts to reach out to those you love and care about makes everyone feel closer during tough times like these.
This pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone. One of the only “positives” of this entire situation is that we have been forced to reflect on everything; our last few months, the last few years, our current life statuses, relationships, friendships. Personally, this reflection has allowed me to grow as a person but also allowed me to sit here today and write these life lessons for you all today. Don’t get me wrong; life is tough, but we are all tougher. We will overcome this pandemic and the rest of what the year throws at us and be stronger at the end of the day.
Read our blog posts about personal experiences and stories with regards to mental health. Posts written by our team or those passionate about mental health.