This week’s post has three main components: the Ontario Universities’ Fair, a striking moment of self-realisation, and most importantly, hair-dye.
This was my first year attending the Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF). I had no need to go as a high-school student because I decided where I wanted to do post-secondary studies very early on. (Spoiler alert; it was Glendon.) Representing Glendon at the OUF this year as a student ambassador was an honour, on top of being an incredibly valuable experience. I got to talk to so many bright young people who were filled to the brim with the anticipation of choosing their future school. I watched many pairs of eyes go starry as I spoke about our amazing programs, leadership opportunities, and the community that’s become the center of my world.
One particular mother was chatting to myself and another student ambassador when she confessed to us that she was concerned for her daughter because she was painfully shy. How could they assure that she’d be able to have a great university experience without getting overwhelmed? Should she live in residence or commute to meet more people? How would she make friends?? Was Glendon a good option for someone like her daughter?!?
She wasn’t the only parent to ask these particular questions this weekend at OUF, but she was the first one to ask me. A fellow student ambassador, who is a friend, motioned that I should take the question, laughingly saying “Britney would know”. And I did, I do.
Like the daughter in question, I am a shy, anxious person. Ridiculously so. It’s kind of the hallmark of my personality.
Don’t believe me?
Picture, if you would, a seventh grade classroom. A younger Britney puts up her hand up to answer a question, not at length, just a mere sentence or two. The boy she has a crush on turns to look at her, yells “Holy cow, she speaks!” and then leads the entire class into a raucous round of applause to acknowledge this rare, momentous occasion. That’s a thing that happened to me.
(The teacher joined in, just for the record.)
I got better over the years, out of necessity and a lot of hard work, but it wasn’t until now, it wasn’t until Glendon, that I would ever even dare to think of myself as a confident person. It wasn’t until I was asked that question that I even realized how far I’ve come. I stood there, talking to a complete stranger with absolutely no fear in my heart, happy to be there. Not only that but I was doing all of it with bright pink hair curling around my face. (Even writing that sentence it’s hard not to think “who even am I anymore?”) I used to fall in love with outfits only to put them back on the rack for being too eye-catching. Most of my wardrobe is grey because for years that was the only colour I felt comfortable in. And now I have pink hair. People stare at it, and I just smile.
So, as I told that mother and many other parents and students, Glendon is not kidding when they tell you that they are focused on giving their students leadership skills. I was given opportunity after opportunity to step out of my comfort zone little by little in a community that I felt safe in, until I had made so much progress without even noticing. It’s hard not to grow when you have so many support systems on campus that want you to be the best you; from counselling to peer mentors, from academic services to the Lion’s Den, from professors to your peers.
I’m still quiet, I’m still a nervous person, but I’m also no longer ashamed of those qualities, which honestly makes all the difference. I’ll never be an extrovert, but I’m learning to have confidence in myself where it’s been earned, and how to be my strangest, most-authentic self even if it means people might look at me.
So Glendon was the right choice for this shy, anxious student, and I’ll never stop recommending the campus to everyone, quiet or loud. I’m a work-in-progress that is progressing in directions new and scary, but I have the support of an entire community behind me, and that’s all kinds of cool. I can only hope that every student I talked to at the OUF ends up with the same support from their chosen school.