The backpack effect

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Media-related topics tend to be the main themes of my column each week because there are few other areas in which I feel well-versed enough to try and sound like I know what I’m talking about, but recently I have been realizing more and more that I can also give sage advice in (few) other areas as well, particularly, how to deal with life after being a student.

I did two undergraduate degrees at the University of Waterloo and at a certain point I decided to become a career student. I didn’t know how I would survive life as anything but a student; it was an excuse for wearing sweatpants every day, it was an excuse for being poor, and it was an excuse for making less than savoury life decisions. But eventually and begrudgingly, I graduated.

For some time after that, I used the recent grad card for a lot of things, including not knowing what I was going to do with my life, quitting my first job out of university, and being, well, kind of a bitch.

I’m now at the point in my life where I can no longer use being a recent grad as an excuse for anything. I’m, like, super officially an adult. Super officially.

So the advice I’m about to give may not apply to you now, but one day you’ll be in your late mid-20s like me, and you’ll be glad you know what I’m about to tell you.

My first piece of wisdom? Eliminate the terms early, mid, and late from your vocabulary. You’re in your 20s? Well, that makes you younger than someone in their 30s and at one point in your 20s, that’s all that will matter to you. So start early, don’t rub your early 20s in everyone else’s faces, the 29-year-old you will thank you for it.

Have you ever heard of the backpack effect? No? Good. Because I made it up. The backpack effect is something I’ve discovered during my time as a paid employee on campus. I bought myself a new, adult-looking backpack for my treks from the distant parking lots to the SLC. Well guess what? There’s no such thing as an adult-looking backpack. If you’re just on the border of looking like you could still potentially be a student and you’re having difficulty not being considered a “youth” anymore, throw on a backpack and enjoy the several years it takes off your perceived age.

Another important thing I’ve learned in the last couple years is to meet people and make friends regardless of age. I learned this primarily from a dream I had where Betty White and I were total besties, hitting the town together on a nightly basis. She was a great friend and we had a lot of fun. But seriously, in the last few years, I’ve had great friends that were 10 to 20 years older than me and I’ve had equally wonderful friends my own age. When you’re young, an age gap like that is unheard of amongst friends. But the older you get, the less age really matters. Embrace this pattern; explore the world without consideration of age. 

Lastly, when you graduate, don’t limit yourself. Just because you’ve set yourself up for a very specific career path or area of employment, doesn’t mean that’s what you need to stick yourself with for the rest of your life. Getting a science degree doesn’t mean you have to be a scientist. In those four years, you have learned how to organize your time, fulfill requests, bullshit, get through stressful times, and plenty of other helpful life skills. Use those skills, try different things, and be prepared to switch careers many, many times.