It’s amazing sometimes what happens when you start doing some casual searching for someone from your past and it inevitably ends up relaying you to a whole whackload of folks you dealt with in various points in your time at Queen’s. Some people I look back on with fond memories, trying to recall whether my dorkiness was endearing (or annoying, depended on the day or which year it was).
I admire some people from my “past life” at Queen’s and the stuff they’ve done. But there are some people from my “past life” that really disliked me, and sometimes I can admit it wasn’t entirely undeserved. Besides, you can’t win them all over.
Now that I can look back on things in hindsight, I can freely admit I was way too deep into the gamesmanship of student politics sometimes (keyword: sometimes). I missed the point of it; if there’s one thing Queen’s students dislike more than anything, it was (and still is) the blind pursuit of a goal. I saw that a lot at Queen’s and a lot of people got burned for it. Rumours, gossip and backstabbing happened a lot more than it should have. The point is this: when you get involved in politics (student politics, real politics, et al), you can never be doing it exclusively for yourself. People can smell that motive a mile away. Ambition is fine, but when you combine that with self-interest, you’re toast.
I really do respect and appreciate my alma mater. It was a great transformative experience for me and I learned a lot out of it. But perhaps the best thing Queen’s gave me was building a greater sense of self-awareness. The Queen’s student culture can be exceptionally unforgiving when you make a mistake. In this way, Queen’s does have correlation to real life. When you accomplish a lot and try to do things for the right reasons, people sometimes tend to *find* reasons to tear you down. They can’t help it – they have genuine animosity towards you, they’re jealous, they don’t “get” you, whatever. They just do it because they can, not because they’re bad people. So in this case, I don’t harbour anger towards anyone, because who among us is perfect?
I guess one of my regrets (and come on, everyone has them) from my time at Queen’s was the fact how naive I was sometimes. I was so unaware of the broader picture at times. Queen’s is a small place and hopefully, as time wears on, more of the proverbial “water-under-the-bridge” thing will happen.
All this being said, I’m also the first to say that for every smart, engaging, funny person I met at Queen’s, I also met an equal number of narrow-minded, cruel people that based their opinions on “what-so-and-so-said.” Some people never grow up or learn. Others got way, way too comfortable in their own “group.” It’s human nature to dwell on the negative about someone before the positive, I’m afraid to say, because it’s just easier than being nice sometimes. I don’t care how many times I was told Queen’s was and is full of the best and brightest – as Stephen Hawking once said, even the smartest can also be the most childish. So in this way, I don’t feel bad about how certain people may have perceived me anymore, because it isn’t worth my time. All I have is my actions, not words.
The proof lies in my time at King’s. I didn’t set out with the explicit goal of being a student leader. I initially went into the program thinking it was just going to be me working away on a graduate degree program, no extracurriculars required. But I got into it again, mostly because I don’t see extracurriculars as a burden. I became class representative because I wanted the job, as I did for other stuff at King’s. I like being involved.
I organized events and did stuff because I learned how to do these things well at Queen’s. That’s fine, though. I’m cool with that. My actions speak for themselves.
I guess one thing I’m more certain of than ever is that life isn’t about shading people into very clear distinctions of “black versus white, good versus evil.” That might sound trite, but it’s true: judging someone and holding onto a grudge is incredibly childish. No one is perfect or without fault, and for this reason, I hope I can move forward knowing that no matter how you do things, no matter what your intentions are, there will always be a diversity of opinion on you so broad you just take the good stuff in and learning from those who’s opinions matter to you.