Dear Birdie: Coping with pals, programs, and pathogens

Graphic by Yimeng Bian, Graphics Contributor

Dear Birdie: My best friend and I used to hang out all the time in high school, but now that we’re in different programs at UVic, she’s been spending a lot of time with her friends from class who aren’t the nicest people and who don’t seem to like me at all. How can I get my friend to understand that I feel excluded?

—Left-Out Lindsey

In writing this advice column, I have learned that the first step in solving almost every problem is communication, which makes me feel like a harried mom badgering at her twelve-year-old to open up about their feelings. The specifics vary quite a bit after that, but if anyone out there wonders why I repeat myself so often, there’s really no way around such fundamental advice. Talk to her. It’s not fair to begrudge her new friends if you haven’t told her how you feel. Then, if she’s aware of your feelings and still doesn’t make any effort to include you, by all means, seethe your heart away. What’s more likely (unless your best friend has a malicious streak) is she probably doesn’t even realize that you have slipped through the cracks, as cold as that sounds.

Finding friends who share a similar vocation or life goal is very common in university, and can be incredibly thrilling. So I can understand how she might have gotten swept up in the excitement. But her excitement doesn’t mean it’s okay to neglect you or for her new friends to treat you poorly. If you tell your friend how you feel, she will hopefully be more attentive during group hangouts. However, say your friend tries her best to bridge the gap but it doesn’t work out. What then? One thing I’ve learned in university is that your friends don’t all have to belong to the same social circle. Yes, you want to remain a priority in your best friend’s life, but ask yourself, does it really matter if you can’t connect with these new people she’s met? Your friend group will vary drastically throughout your life and that’s normal. Never feel obligated to befriend people who don’t treat you with respect, or who simply don’t get you. It’s just not worth your time.

Dear Birdie: I know it’s super late in the semester to realize this, but I hate my program and I don’t think I’m cut out for science. I tried to stick it out for as long as possible because my siblings are all pre-med, but it’s torture and I’m miserable. How do I explain to my parents that I want to change my degree and also survive an exam season in a program I despise?

—Under-Pressure Paul

Say it with me: THIS IS MY LIFE. No one else’s. So, while I absolutely sympathize with the pressure you feel from your family, this decision really has nothing to do with them. Yes, this gets a lot more complicated if you depend on them for financial support, and my advice would differ a bit in that scenario, but the core of what I’m trying to communicate — the fact that you alone decide what’s going to make you happy in life — would remain the same. When talking to your parents, try to explain, like you say here, that you don’t think you’re cut out for science. Help them understand that it’s not a matter of overcoming the workload, but rather about an incompatibility with the work itself. While you’re at it, maybe throw in some commentary about how you and your siblings are not the same people, and that your interests do not have to coincide.

From the sounds of it, you’ve decided quite definitively that you are not into science. So congratulations, you’ve already narrowed your search for your new program. In the meantime, you still need to get through your exams as well as you can, because the grades you receive this semester will likely transfer to whatever degree you choose later. Hopefully, two and half months of your current program will have taught you how to study your subject matter, even if you hated every second of it. Consult your professors, join study groups, and check out the C.W. Lui Learning Commons for assistance. Even if you’ve resolved not to continue in this line of study, give yourself every advantage in this new chapter of your university life. Don’t worry, we will all crying into our cue cards together.

Dear Birdie: Like just about everyone on campus this time of year, I’m sick. This just so happens to coincide with the busiest time of the school year, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to get any work done. Do you have any tips for staying on top of school while fighting off a nasty illness?

— Nauseous Norman

Whenever I consult the internet with my symptoms (yes, yes, against my better judgment), the advice most frequently listed is “reduce stress,” which basically makes me want to flip my desk. So, in countering that very unhelpful statement, let me present you with my go-to treatment plan: sleep. I know, so ingenious (it may also make you want to flip your desk). But it’s so important!  Students who are bogged down with illness don’t work at the same level of productivity — it’s about the same as when a new season of Stranger Things comes out — which can lead to frustrated all-nighters trying finish that one chapter or that single reading report. If you find yourself in this scenario, go to sleep! Take a break, both mental and physical.

When you’re sick, you can’t do anything at the same level as when you are in full health (obviously). The sooner you treat your body with kindness and accept that things will take more time, the sooner you will get to work and not feel so bad about your so-called ‘inefficiency.’ Ask for extensions when you need them and prioritize your workload so that if you find yourself unable to continue, you’ll only sacrifice two per cent on that assignment instead of 20. I’d also suggest you book an appointment at UVic Health Services to get a flu shot, which is free for students, staff, and faculty. The on-campus clinics have passed, but it’s still the most effective way to prevent further misery in the months to come. If you’re anxious about needles, trick your friends into coming along for moral support and just inoculate your whole social circle.

Got a question for Cassidy? Email it to us at edit@martlet.ca!

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