I came to the University of Ottawa for a future. I wasn’t certain what that future would be, but in grade 12 I was sure I could make one. I had almost failed grade 11 biology, so a future in sciences wasn’t in the cards. I was no better at math. But I had skill, I had been writing short stories since I was 13 and had a few published in a youth magazine. As a photographer I’d exhibited my work in local shows, and had even hosted a successful art show. My marks in the humanities and arts were good enough to gain me early acceptance to every school I applied. And so I ran off to pursue a degree in political science.
Now I’m in my third year, and somewhere along the way it all got lost. My grades are still good and sit around the low 80s. That keeps the family from worrying. But that future I had run so certainly towards three years ago seems a youthful pipedream based on only ignorance and small town glories. I keep the writing and the photography up. Friends seek out my photography skills, and I’ve written three novels in my spare time. But I feel now, I fear now, that I am not good at something, at anything. I am a fine writer, even a fine scholar, but I am not truly good at any. At least I do not feel it. I have no reason to think otherwise. My grades are fine, but I could never get a job in academia. My photography, while enjoyable, does not stand out, and my writing… well honestly, that’s my last hope.
This might not seem a problem to you. I know I could get a desk job somewhere, a cubicle and a pension, but that terrifies me. It seems such a vapid existence I would just rather slit my wrists. It’s a first-world problem, but the first world doesn’t want me anymore. Honestly, I would do anything for my life to have meaning, for me to have a future. I’ll pose naked, jump from a bridge, pimp out my mind and body till there’s nothing left for you; if I have to. People say suicide attempts are begging for attention. Well, then give them some bloody attention, because if that’s the only way they see left to get it…
I don’t want to be rich or famous. I don’t want girls, boys, sex, or drugs, and I certainly don’t want to be ‘special.’ I just want to be good at something. I feel like I will end up hating my life, and that terrifies me. I have hated each job I’ve had, be it in a cubicle or stacking shelves. I’ve had frequent panic attacks at each, and I can’t live a life like that. That’s all I want, to feel like I’m making a difference somehow, and to not have panic attacks.
But usually I keep all of this to myself. A few friends get to see small parts of all this anxiety. Mostly I just let them continue being wrapped up in their own fears and dramas. So why send this to the editor of the school newspaper? Because lately, more and more my friends’ fears have come to resemble mine, and I want to tell them it will be OK. I want to explain that they’ve futures of promise doing something they love. I can’t. Instead, I can send this email to the editor, and hope my friends read it, and hope other people in caverns like mine read it. But ‘read it’ is not really what I mean, no, I hope you feel better for it. I hope you know in this suffering you are not unique.
Editor’s note: If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or just need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to talk with someone at the University of Ottawa’s Health Services — there are a number of ways they can support you. You can book an appointment with the U of O’s Health Services through their website or by calling (613) 564-3950.
If you want to speak with someone immediately, you can call Crisis Line Ottawa (613) 722-6914 or 1-866-996-0991, Ottawa Mental Health Crisis Line (613) 722-6914, or the Ottawa Distress Centre (613) 238-3311.