There is something decidedly different about Western this year. I say this with some degree of caution because it is impossible for me to know whether this sense of difference is related to a change in Western or merely the result of a change in who I am. I think there is something universal about the process of leaving UWO for a summer and returning a changed person after a four month summer. Whether we physically leave campus or just merely check out of our regular routine, something changes about each of us by the time September roles around again. There is something surreal about returning to a place (UWO) full of people who have changed, but on some level expect you to be the same as when you left for the summer. I think that it takes each of us a few days to grow accustomed to how the new you fits into a place that seemed so familiar just four months prior.
Let’s assume for a second that part of the change I notice in Western has something to do with a change in how I see the place and that part of it is an actual change in the mood on campus. Admittedly I was fairly self-absorbed in my attempt to balance academics and the HUCSC last year and I honestly wonder whether this may have caused me to look right past some of the great things happening on campus. More importantly I wonder, if at times, I looked right past the people who make up the fabric of a Western that ‘cares’.
I have always known that there are people at Western, Huron, Brescia and Kings that are incredibly passionate about the communities that they live and educate themselves in. But I don’t think that I always took the time to evaluate and appreciate the depth of commitment that people on this campus have to the things that they care about. There is more to these people than just what they do. It’s the why, the motivation, the story and the journey that leave me in awe of the caring that one can find if you look hard enough at UWO. It’s one thing to be committed to representing a cause, but it is another thing entirely to invest your heart and soul into the personal journey found within the desire to make a difference.
Two experiences have changed the way that I look at the University of Western Ontario. One experience was the One Love Rally during this year’s Orientation Week. Most people didn’t know quite what to expect from the event, but within minutes of the opening lines from Lieutenant Choi and moments after the final notes of Steven Page’s moving performance I knew that I had just witnessed a game-changer. I don’t want to overrepresent the impact One Love, but I do think that it was a special event for the way that it broadened the scope of Orientation Week. Sometimes we search for complicated ways to let people know that we care about them, yet sometimes all we need to do is remember that One Love is enough and that we just have to say it. Whether One Love really is the start of something new at Western is for all of us to decide, but the very idea that each person in the audience left feeling like they were somebody is something to build on.
The second event that got me thinking about the idea of Western starting to care about one another was the re-opening of the USC Support Services Centre. For those who haven’t had a chance to visit the Centre, make sure to take time to visit Room 38 in the UCC Basement. It is an incredible space to hang out and meet great people. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Support Services Centre last year and went to the re-opening on a bit of a whim. To be honest I felt a little bit apprehensive about putting myself out there to meet the commissioner, coordinators, execs and employees that form the backbone of the USC Support Services, but after spending the better part of two hours in the Centre I realized that my apprehension had been replaced by a true sense of acceptance. The people that I met in the Centre conveyed such genuine passion for the things that they were involved in that I couldn’t help but talk to them about it. I stopped feeling out of place and started to talk about the things that I care about. I mentioned earlier that it’s not so much about what these people do and that its almost more about the why and the journey. The sense I get from this group of people is that the things that the Support Services do are about becoming part of the journey each person at Western has to go through to find out who they are and want to be.
Maybe I’m reading too much into my first two weeks back at Western, but I’d like to think that this is the start, or at the very least, the continuation of becoming a campus that cares.