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In September of 2009 I started my first year as a philosophy student at the University of Toronto. The reason why I chose university, philosophy, and Toronto was never completely clear to me. As I considered my options, this one just “pulled ahead” of the other ones and eventually I just “knew” it was what was right for me to do.
I have to admit, I absolutely loved my first year of university. All I ever wanted to do was study and learn more about philosophy, history, and just thought in general. I would spend my Saturday nights up in the library reading all by myself and I loved it. Does that make me a super nerd? I don’t really know. Whatever the case, I did learn a lot and the more I learned the more I realized how incredibly much there is out there to learn and how much of it I’ll never learn. I’d walk down the aisles and aisles of books at the library and be saddened by the fact that there was no way at all that I could ever read even a small fraction of them in my lifetime.
I was also very pleased to have found an excellent church to go to while I was in Toronto (The Meeting House). The teaching at this church was extremely meaningful to me. I loved how the main speaker (Bruxy Cavey) approached each topic with a candid honesty (even the touchy ones that seem to hardly receive mention in formal church settings) and used frequent historical references in his sermons. I looked forward to church because every Sunday I learned so much about my faith. I’d sometimes go on their website and listen to the sermons from the past because I just wanted to learn more.
All of this, school and church, made me feel more and more confident as a Christian. It seemed every philosopher, even if they didn’t talk about God directly, was talking about God. Even the pointedly anti-Christian/religion philosophies seemed to give evidence for Christianity. I thoroughly enjoyed finding God in these “godless” philosophies. All in all, this year was extremely positive for me. More than ever, Christianity was a meaningful and sensible thing to me.
This positive vibe didn’t seem to carry over into the summer, however. I returned home to work (so I could pay my ridiculous tuition fees) and I noticed my mood gradually decreasing throughout the season. I found myself becoming more and more occupied with things in my past that I viewed as failures. I thought about my behaviour in Grade 12 and the people whom I’d offended. I thought about how I’d lost almost all connection with the people I had gone to school with. I’d never really built strong enough friendships that they lasted past grad. I felt like a social failure. I hated myself for always being argumentative and taking issues with things. I felt like this is what inhibited me from having many close friendships. I felt like I was just a gimmick to people and they would amuse themselves by riling me up with some topic and then watching me go. I felt like I’d screwed up everything by being an introvert for most of my life and then an arrogant jerk for the other part. I wanted to go back and do everything differently.
By the end of summer, as I finished up at my job and flew back to Toronto for another school year, I was somewhat of an emotional wreck. I just felt awful most of the time and no matter what I did, it just came back. Sometimes I would pray and I’d feel better for a while. Then it would come back. So I’d think of this or that thing that I should change. I’d try to tell myself that I was NOT worthless and that God loved me and had created me the way I was for a purpose and I shouldn’t hate myself for my personality type or the mistakes I made in the past. But it just wouldn’t register. I’d try over and over because I truly honestly sincerely believed that God had a plan in all this and that it would pass. I just didn’t know why it was taking so long.
I started the school year completely distracted. Philosophy didn’t seem very interesting anymore. I felt so awful that life just lost all its colour. My head would just ache as I ran through every possible solution in my head for the millionth time. It felt so completely hopeless.
As a result of this feeling of hopelessness (and a little boredom), I made a somewhat rash decision one evening which sent things in a completely unexpected direction…(next post)