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The Journey Here: Ben King

  • Ben King
  • |
  • Mar 14, 2023
The Journey Here: Ben King

I never thought I’d be here.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – Ben, this is quite cliché. Dare I say even a tad derivative. Surely, as a writer, you can come up with something a bit more inventive. To that, I say–you’re absolutely right. I could sit here, in the comfortable nook of my neighbourhood Starbucks against a backdrop of pleasantries and pastries and think of quite literally a million different ways to start this article. But, this was the first thing that came to mind when reflecting on my journey here, so it’s what I’m sticking with. Let me expand.

It was a Sunday afternoon, with the sun lazily draping its rays across the windshield and a luscious melody melting from the stereo of my dad’s car. We were returning from a routine check-up at our cottage, and the conversation had drifted to university choices. It had come down to Western or UBC, with only a day remaining to pick which school to attend. I finally broke the news to my dad–I was flying out West to pursue my education. Once I had made this decision, I thought the weight would have lifted from my shoulders. Instead, I felt a grueling weight drop onto my chest, crushing the air out of my lungs and pumping my veins with dread. As my dad started to discuss logistics, there was one overwhelming thought in my head; I’ve made the wrong choice. I decided to sleep on it, and when I awoke, I knew my mind had changed. So, I logged onto my computer, clicked “accept” and went downstairs to give my mom the best news she had heard all year–I’d be living in London, Ontario for the next four years. To this day, I’m still unsure of what sparked my change of heart as UBC was where I had wanted to attend university since Grade 9. All I know is ever since I arrived on campus, I haven’t looked back and can confidently announce I had indeed chosen wrong the first time around. I’m right where I want to be.

But–how exactly did I get here? It’s been a long, arduous process filled with uncertainty and apprehension, but it’s through the challenging times that I have learned the most valuable lessons. One of these experiences was becoming Student Council President during a turbulent year filled with lockdowns, fluctuating rules and low morale. I was forced to figure out how to manage eleven other council members and survive with no budget while still expected to plan and pull off major events for the student body. This experience–no matter how difficult at times–was truly invaluable to not only the success of my application but to my (so far) success as a first-year student. Constantly having to adapt to numerous changes served to strengthen my resolve. By the end of the school year, I felt I could accomplish any task thrown my way. This mindset has been particularly helpful entering my first year, as adaptability has been the key to my achievements thus far at this point in the term. The transition from high school to university is an enormous shift for many, with differing expectations and higher stakes marking the daunting expedition. Student Council prepared me for the tribulations I would encounter and gifted me a skillset equipped to handle these changes.

The second experience that shaped my application came from my job at Bath&BodyWorks (BBW). While my sense of smell is now permanently damaged, BBW offered the time to discover what grit and determination truly looked like. I was hired as a seasonal associate, with a slim chance of onboarding to join the full-time team. BBW was the only place that accepted my resumé out of twenty-two (!) places, so the very last thing I wanted to do was endure the painstaking process of rejection yet again. From day one on the job, I made it a priority to go above and beyond to stay with the team. Each day I stepped foot into the palace of perfumes, I donned the blue cloak and got to work, as every single shift was an opportunity to prove myself to my managers. I kept at it until one day in late December, I got a call from my manager, cordially inviting me to join the team full-time. BBW helped to instill a work ethic that has carried forward in all aspects of my life, which is incalculable in its value to my triumphs. Working hard is not a skill you can learn overnight, as it takes a significant investment of time to build up a wealth of perseverance to draw upon in times of despair. Motivation can get you started, but discipline is what keeps you going. SAC and BBW alike taught me the power of discipline and the ripples it creates across your habits.

As a current first-year student, this past year has been transformative. “I’d never thought I’d be here” actually refers to two things–my choice to study at Western University and the relationship I now have with myself. I’ve always struggled deeply with self-confidence and held a profoundly negative perception of what I could offer to the world. Nothing I could do–no matter how impressive–would be able to account for this inherent lack of worth I possessed. I’ve still yet to figure out what changed, but as my first year slowly comes to a close, I’ve realized I’m a strikingly different person than when I first stepped onto campus back in September. Using the foundation I planted in high school, I’ve pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone I’m not even sure where my limit is anymore. With each new endeavour undertaken, my confidence in my abilities increases, which is why I’m so grateful for all of the incredible opportunities that Western has to offer. If I could impart one piece of advice to incoming first year students, it is that this is the best time in your life to grow and truly understand yourself. Embrace change, push yourself to do things that scare you, and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. If you’re thinking, I’ll never get there – know that you can and that you will. All it takes is a little bit of courage, and a whole lot of discipline.