A note to the exhausted anthropology student

A note to the exhausted anthropology student

It’s the end of the term. You’ve handed in your papers, you’ve written your last exams. You’ve put the last few months behind you, and hopefully you’re able to spend time with kindred folks over the holidays — be they friends, family, or kin of any other configuration.

Take this time to do the things you need to do to nurture yourself.

As someone who struggled immensely in my undergraduate, I want to tell you that you can do this. I want you to know that you are brilliant, bold, and badass. As a tenure-track professor, I can also assure you that you can come back from failing courses or struggling in your undergraduate degree. You can switch majors. You can screw up. Sometimes it takes time to find your footing. Sometimes you are working two jobs and volunteering on top of your full course load. There are many roads forward.

Academia is not the only measure of your worth. You are undoubtedly contributing to networks around you that are made brilliant and electric because of your presence. There are people around you who are in awe of your existence. Your GPA is but one small facet of your time on this earth. The pressures on undergraduate students today continue to accumulate — with rising debt loads, more precarious housing situations, and myriad other challenges that you face, you are doing incredible things.

I see you in my classes and I’m so proud of you. I’m proud of you for committing to tending to the world around you when so many things are in flux. I’m proud of you for challenging the orthodoxy of the structures of the academy. I’m proud of you for tackling theory and praxis and bringing your own thinking to bear on unwieldy discourses inside and outside the classroom.

There are many things I wish someone had counseled me while I was working my way, imperfectly, through those difficult years of my first degree. I wish someone had told me that it’s important to tend to reciprocal relationships in all that I do. I wish someone had told me that it’s not so much about ego as it is about learning to work effectively with others towards common goals. I wish someone had told me that it’s ok to imagine your most audacious dreams for the world and to try and manifest them.

I wish someone had told me that there’s so much more to thinking, acting, and being than the fleeting external validation that academia dangles in front of us. I hope that somewhere along the road towards your degree you find things that really excite you, that really drive you to do the most exhilarating, brave, and hopeful work you can muster. I hope that somewhere along the way you really find the things that make you happy.

And I hope we, as teachers and researchers in the field, can mentor and model those audacious possibilities in the most inspiring and ethical ways. Because hopefully some day, you’ll be mentoring peers and colleagues of your own, in whichever amazing career path you choose. We’ll be so lucky to get to witness what you bring to the world.

So, keep going. You’ve got this.

Zoe Todd (Métis/otipemisiw) is from amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), Alberta, Canada. She writes about fish, art, Métis legal traditions, the Anthropocene, extinction, and decolonization in urban and prairie contexts. She also studies human-animal relations, colonialism and environmental change in north/western Canada. She holds a BSc (Biological Sciences) and MSc (Rural Sociology) from the University of Alberta and a PhD (Social Anthropology) from Aberdeen University. She is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She was a 2011 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar.

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