As I approach university graduation, I can see how much I’ve grown towards maturity. Stepping cautiously into adulthood, I can see a huge change in me in the past four years, the combined effect of time away from home, more freedom as an adult, learning to manage my time, and so many experiences with interesting new people. I’ve been challenged to deepen my sense of respect for others and for myself. I have new perspectives on the challenges and rewards of earning and giving respect, and have strengthened the foundation I developed in high school, through my involvement with Girls’ Respect Groups. The teamwork, acceptance, and openness I found in GRG have given me a positive, capable perspective, grounded in respect for myself and others. I realize even more, now that I’m out from under the sheltering wing of home and high school, the deep strengthening influence GRG has had on me.
Looking back, here are some of the valuable lessons I learned while in university:
Have the confidence in yourself and others to speak up and support respect. The times I most regret in the last four years were the instances where I let myself — and others — down by not speaking up about something that I knew was important. Little put-downs and injustices can be stopped early and prevented from causing relationship problems if we can find the courage to speak up when (or just before) the line has been crossed.
Politely taking someone aside, in the early stages of a problem, and honestly speaking to them about something that upset me, has had long-lasting benefits, both for me as a human being and for my friendships. In retrospect, I regret the time consumed by fitful gossip, resentful pettiness, and uncomfortable situations, from the classroom to the bar counter, when no one was willing to say, “Hey, I think we crossed the line here.” Almost all my friendships have grown stronger and richer from mutual honesty, and the two relationships I lost turned out to be for the best.
Gratitude and apology bring enormous benefits. Paying attention to the good things people do for us is one of the easiest ways to feel better about life. A smile, a simple “thank you”, or a genuine compliment brighten the day of friends and strangers, and helps me keep tiny annoyances (like a person blocking the subway doors) in perspective.
At the end of each school term, I thanked my favourite professors with a quick note about how their knowledge affected me. Each time they reacted with surprise (surprisingly!). Offering that small thank you has gained me permanent faculty-friends on campus.
Taking a deep breath and apologizing when a mistake has been made shows the people around us that we care enough about our own behavior and about them to take responsibility for the mistakes we make. It’s tough at first – seems we’ve all learned to resist apologizing. With practice, it’s easy to be accountable for our missteps, and learning to offer an apology when owed has helped me more with being an adult than anything else.
University has been an amazing experience, and has taught me much about myself and others. The knowledge I’ve gained, both from books and my peers, will stand me in good stead for a lifetime. And don’t worry — college really is a lot better than high school!
– submitted by a former GRG teen leader
photo credit: istockphoto.com