Dear No One

Dear No One, 

How are you? How has it been? Last I wrote to you, it was summer and I could only guess what being a student of International Studies would be like. Now, it’s a few months later and I have left my first IS semester behind. It’s been an experience, to say the least. Online classes deprived me of the contact and interaction with other first years that I was excited about and it wasn’t long until the monotone quiet of my room started weighing on me. Does saying this make me a pessimist? Maybe. Yet alternatively, I couldn’t ignore the flexibility that online classes provided. Lectures could more easily be watched whenever I desired and I could pause them or play at twice the original speed. I guess this is more of an optimist view. 

I don’t know which of the two mindsets determine my approach towards the second semester. Am I excited at the prospect of attending the several on-campus classes that I enrolled for? Or have the current lockdown restrictions squashed any and all hopes of 

on-campus classes?

The answer is yes. Yes at the first question and yes at the second. My hopes and fears co-exist, neither more persistent than the other, a peaceful balance between the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. 

So what am I, dear No One? Am I an optimist, or a pessimist? 

The answer, in my own humble opinion, is both. Or neither. Because see, I don’t like those words, ‘pessimist’ and ‘optimist’. It makes me feel stuck, as if I can only see the good things, or only the bad things. Isn’t life a mixture of the two? Don’t worry – I am not going to pull a 180 and tell you that the glass is always full, filled with both liquid and gas. I might have enjoyed my science courses in high school, but I’m happily in the humanities now. No, what I mean to say is that regardless of your initial thought, the glass is both half empty and half full – it simply depends on the part, top or bottom of the glass, to which you are referring. 

And another thing – I feel like labelling someone as an ‘optimist’ or a ‘pessimist’ puts emphasis on the future, disregarding any past experiences that someone might have had. And although I agree that dwelling on the past has rarely helped, ignoring history can be just as harmful. Therefore, viewing the glass of water as half full or half empty is largely determined by what it was before. After all, isn’t the prospect of 2021 perceived much more positively primarily because of 2020’s negativity? 

Let’s apply this logic to my changing of semesters. Assuming that last semester, my glass of water was half empty due to its lacking nature in the social contact department, the same glass of water is half full as I enroll for more on-campus classes. However, assuming that last semester, my glass of water was half full due to its relative flexibility to study when I pleased, the same glass of water is considerably emptier as the number of on-campus classes increases. 

Maybe we can conclude that there isn’t even one glass of water. Perhaps there’s two, or three, or perhaps an entire ocean has been divided over glasses. Some glasses only have drops, others are completely filled. Each glass is representative of its respective impacts on your life. There’s a glass for my social contacts and one for my work/study flexibility. There’s a glass for travelling and a glass for excuses to stay at home. The glasses mean that there’s no such thing as “simply pessimist” or “simply optimist”, no such thing as a glass half full or a glass half empty. There’s merely glasses upon glasses, filled with different amounts of water, each of a more pessimist or optimist nature. 

What about your glasses, dear No One? How are they filled? Are you excited at the prospect of finally getting a better taste of IS student life? Or are you still stuck at home and is nothing really changing? Was the last semester difficult and are you afraid that the workload and complexity will only increase? Or are you glad to leave certain courses behind and start focusing on your area? I hope that you can see some positivity, but don’t criticise yourself for taking a more negative stance, too. Enjoy all of your glasses, each with its own empty vs full ratio. Be an optimist, and a pessimist, and everything in between. Be you. 

Love,

Rosalie

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