Five things I wish my younger self knew

COU President and CEO Bonnie M. Patterson at Women in Leadership Conference

University was not on my radar screen when I was in high school. Having left home at 16, I was focused on my part-time job, paying my room and board, and finding a full-time job after high school. A teacher who took me under her wing, and into her home, asked that critically important question of me as I went into my final year – what university are you thinking about attending? Not whether I should go, but where.

That made me pause.

It dared me to dream.

Today, I’d be called a “first generation” student like so many in university today – the first in my family to attend university. It was the best decision of my life.

My university experiences – both inside and outside the classroom – provided me with choices in my life that I would not otherwise have had. My degree gave me choice and opportunity. It allowed me to fail, to discover, to learn, to excel and quite frankly, to figure out what was important to me.

But as I thought then about what I would do after university – about my choices – I admit I was anxious. What career will I choose? Will I find a footing that will open doors? Once opened to a contract position, would it lead to a permanent job? Will I make enough money to pay the bills? Where will I live?

And I realize that many students launching their university careers today have some of the same questions.

But I want to reassure you that everything will become clear. Keep your mind open –embrace the journey. Know that investing in yourself now will pay off with skills and knowledge that is productive, resilient, transformational, and life-long.

It’s a new year and a new chance to make a difference. To help you along the way, here are five things I know now that I wish my 20-something self knew:

  1. Relationships matter. Cultivate a network of friends and mentors and manage them well, with respect and integrity.
  2. Challenge yourself to work outside your comfort zone. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can learn and do.
  3. Find your passion. Where there’s passion, there is happiness and excellence will emerge.
  4. Remember the Wizard of Oz – you have a heart, a brain and courage – all the attributes of emotional intelligence are in you to apply.

And finally,

  1. Don’t worry too much about the destination. It’s more about the journey.

Best of luck to all of those embarking on a year of study at an Ontario university this year. Your education will take you where you want to go.