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A letter to my first-year self

A man and his dog. (Photo by Natalia Silchenko)
A man and his dog. (Photo by Natalia Silchenko)

Dear Chris,

It’s a couple weeks until I graduate from university, and so I thought I would write a letter to you, my first-year self. In this letter, I hope to communicate to you the wisdom and experience I’ve acquired over the past six years.

Six years, you ask? Am I graduating from a master’s program? I’m not, but this brings me to my first point.

The road is going to be rocky and the stars won’t always align. The next six years will leave you broke, tired, and asking yourself if there’s a point to any of it. You’ll try your best to justify pulling all-nighters, sitting through endless lectures, and accruing nearly $50,000 of debt.
Chris, slow down. You’re always in a rush to describe your goals, to plan your actions, and to complete the task. You plan to finish your degree in four years; therefore, it’s discouraging to hear that it will take you six years. Don’t be distracted by social norms. Stop viewing your life in steps and endpoints. Live in the present. Stop conceptualizing. Enjoy the journey and experience new things. These experiences will allow you to venture out of your comfort zone, which will be expanded with each new experience.

Don’t ever regret an experience. After spending countless hours trying to justify what you’re doing, you’ll realize that everything you’ve done will ultimately make you who you are; it will strengthen you.

At your lowest point, a stranger will ask you if you let your grades define you. You won’t know how to respond, and so you’ll think about it for a few days, but when you realize what she was getting at, everything will come together. You’ll realize that you do let your grades define you. Your definition of success depends only on grades and achievements.

Change that. Don’t let your grades define you. Be defined by your actions, your treatment of others, and your passion for what you do. Be defined by your values.

Study consistently and hand things in early. Don’t take notes in class. Instead, bring a recorder and a notepad. Enjoy the lecture. Take in everything the professor has to offer. Pay attention not only to the content, but also to the professor’s mannerisms, style, and approach to teaching. You’ll learn a lot in the process, both about yourself and others.

It’s illegal to download torrents of your textbooks. Do it anyway. Remember the $50,000 of debt I mentioned? Let’s prevent that.

While the rest of your friends are on Sunwing’s Ultimate Spring Break Tour, you’ll be in New Brunswick writing papers. Don’t feel bad for yourself. In the end, you are better for it. Spending time with lifelong friends and eating dinner with your family are humbling experiences; they will keep you grounded. Be patient. Your time for fun will come.

Stop arguing. I understand why you do it—you’re afraid of being wrong. Embrace being wrong and admit when you are. Take the opportunity to learn from others. In the process, you’ll learn more than you ever will by arguing, and you’ll also earn the respect of others.

Stay in residence for a year, maybe even two, but leave before it makes you soft.

You often lie and are good at it. Don’t ever lie again. More specifically, don’t ever lie to your professors. Even if they would believe you, don’t do it. Being honest is the easiest way to stay true both to yourself and to others. People appreciate honesty, and some will reward you for it.

Don’t ever say, “I know.” You don’t know. You don’t know shit.

And so I end this letter saying exactly that. I don’t know shit. This letter means nothing, and regardless of what you choose to do over the next six years, you’ll be alright.

Good luck,


P.S. I want you to know that you will one day own a great amount of camera gear, and if you choose to leave it unattended in your office, you will no longer own a great amount of camera gear. Save yourself from having to forgive those who stole it and keep an eye on your property.

Chris Parent
Chris Parent
Chris was the Gazette's Photo Manager for Volumes 145 and 146. You can check out more of Chris’ work at

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