Why I only spend time at Vic if I’m in a good mood

 

Hi. It’s me, an average Vic student. I have a great group of friends, love my classes, and do most of my readings (sometimes). I don’t sleep during exam season, I procrastinate on papers, and I’m trying my best to navigate the emotional and hormonal roller coaster that is young adulthood. Most of the time I’m pretty good at it, but sometimes, the stress gets the better of me.

Let me introduce you to Victoria College: It’s tucked away in the Northeast corner of campus, it’s welcoming, positive, and inclusive, and it has the best weekly pancake brunches at UofT. Vic prides itself on this positivity and inclusivity. It tries to be—even sees itself as—this pretty, shiny, happy place. And it succeeds. Wherever you walk, you’re met with bubbly smiles and chirpy hellos, which is amazing, unless you’re a) introverted, b) exhausted, or c) just not having a good day. It’s great, until it’s not.

The issue with Vic’s hyperpositivity is straightforward: if you’re not feeling it yourself, you’ve got a problem. Vic doesn’t let you be unhappy. If you walk through the Goldring Student Centre with any semblance of a frown on your face, you’ll find that you’re met—almost instantly—with an overwhelming inundation of resources, advice, support systems, suggestions, etc: all ways to make you stop feeling the way you’re feeling, and as quickly as possible. This can be a good thing, when you need it, but often it does more harm than good. Vic treats negative emotion as a problem that needs to just disappear, and does so without acknowledging that, sometimes, the best way to heal is through accepting feelings, validating them, and honestly working through them.

Sometimes I don’t want to be happy; I want to feel sadness or anger or confusion and have those feelings accepted. At Vic, that just doesn’t happen. To have anything you’re feeling treated as something you shouldn’t be feeling is, quite frankly, really awful. Instead of just assuming my negativity should dissolve, I’d much rather have someone ask me what kind of support I want, or be willing to be there for me in a way that told me my feelings were valid.

This problem isn’t necessarily easy to fix; in my opinion, it stems largely from the general mindset at Vic, specifically from the administration’s perception of students. Any real change will most likely require a shift in the way students are thought of—they need to be seen as young adults, not adolescents, with any concerns they bring to the table being legitimately entertained. During Orientation Week, the executives put a huge focus on mental health and self-care, which was a step in the right direction. Not only did they prioritize self-care, but they worked to destigmatize mental health in general—a process, in my opinion, that should be a primary focus at Vic in the future. More actions like this need to be taken in order for any real change to happen, and it needs to be multilateral—coming from students, dons, and administration. University is where you’re supposed to learn to be a Real Adult, and if the way Vic teaches you to deal with negative emotions is to just pretend they don’t exist, it’s not doing the job it should be in preparing you for the rest of your life.

Vic is a happy place, it’s a place you can call home. But what if you’re not happy? Do you not belong? If you’re not feeling bubbly or like you can walk into a room with a smile on your face, you feel unwelcome in the Cat’s Eye or Burwash Hall. By virtue of the way Vic sees itself, to be angry or unhappy is to feel alienated from the community. For any student under the pressures of university, stress and negative emotion are going to be part of the deal, and to expect otherwise is just unrealistic. I love Vic and spend a lot of time here, but I need to feel like I can feel when I’m on campus.