I was rather lost when I started Ask Natalie.
I had just started second year. The structure and the forced community of first-year residence did wonders for me after I moved across the country to start at UBC. Without that structure I found that I was fumbling around in the darkness, looking for some group, some activity to engage with to keep me active, to stop me from crumbling into boredom.
My then-boyfriend had been writing for The Ubyssey since first year, and when he became an editor I starting hanging out with the crew. I legitimately bought my way into their good graces through baked goods. Of course they terrified me — the editors were all smart and accomplished and knew what they were doing — and I was, well, me.
By the end of September, I had reached out to the-then opinion editor, Austen, who for some reason I still don’t really understand, hired me as The Ubyssey’s advice columnist.
Ask Natalie was the name and advice was the game.
This is my fourth year as Ask Natalie, and today I pen my final column.
In this, my swansong, I won’t be answering questions about almond milk or drunken misadventures, but I still have advice for you. Not for the big things — the fights, the lovers, the grades — but for what falls between those. The days where you fight to get out of bed and the days that are so routine that you can’t remember a single thing that happened.
I’m graduating this year, and looking back on my undergrad, joining The Ubyssey has been the single greatest choice I could have made. If my first-year self could see me now, what would she think? Would she like my choice of major? Would she be thrilled that I went on exchange? Would she like that I became an editor for the paper? Would she care about the hook-ups and break-ups? Would she wonder about the seasons of depression, weeks of heartbreak or the countless gallons of tears I shed?
The point is, she wouldn’t know. Every experience builds who you are. Every moment where I thought I failed has made me stronger for the next fight. Every time I felt defeated taught me that it took more than that to knock me down. Every joy and aced test showed that my hard work will produce results. Every moment that I thought was good or bad or messy or sad shaped me into the person I am.
It’s hard to put into words what giving advice every second week for years does to you. How can you explain how telling other people how to run their lives makes you put agency in yourself? It’s not a question of being stoic, because my friends know how much I lean on them. It’s about knowing that there’s usually something — anything — you can do to work towards the future you want and that sometimes, there’s nothing you can do at all.
Take every day as a challenge to be better. Be a better friend. Be a better partner. Be a better student. Be a better person.
Sometimes, when you can’t even force yourself to go to class, knowing that it doesn’t make you a worse person or a broken person can be immensely helpful. When you have a great day and everything seems to be working in your favour, knowing that it won’t always be the case and accepting that will make you stronger on the days where nothing goes right.
Everything you do — the attitude you have, the people you become friends with, the jobs you take, the actions you make — they all shape who you are. They are all pieces of the puzzle that forms you. Work to make all the pieces form a picture you like.
Don’t compare yourself to others because it’s useless. Those editors I saw in second-year who scared the shit out of me? As an editor now I can say the picture I saw them as was nothing more than what I thought they should be. Everyone is human, which means everyone goes through ups and downs, just like me and you.
So, as my final piece of advice to you is to work to be a version of you that you like. It seems simple and silly, but accepting yourself for all your flaws and all your bumps and cracks makes you into a stronger and a better person. Because even if you don’t believe it, people love you the way you are and so should you.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to my editors over the years who have turned my first drafts into passable articles, Austen, Jack, Bailey and Emma. Thank you to everyone who invited me into their lives by reading this column or submitting questions. Thank you to The Ubyssey for being a place that accepted me for who I am. Thank you to my friends who have given me the advice I didn’t want to hear and have always called me on my bullshit. Thank you to second-year Natalie for actually pressing the send button on that email in 2014.
The Ubyssey is looking for a new advice columnist. If you are interested, please go to our Facebook page to apply.