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Here’s to a new way of life

By Alex Mandarino

I was never big on New Year’s resolutions.  Not because they aren’t meaningful, or that they’re silly, but more so for the fact that I was never able to consistently stick to whatever high standard I set for myself in one aspect of my life.

One of the first resolutions I clearly remember making was to attend the gym more often (we all know where this story is going). That first week is pedal to the metal, the energy and enthusiasm is at an all-time high! And then you forget your cousin’s wedding is next weekend, followed by the Super Bowl, March break or reading week, and all of a sudden that eight-pack of abs or the toned legs are simply a pipe dream.

My resolution for last year was to try and talk to one new person a week. My goal was to open doors to be more sociable, to gain more perspective by listening to different ways of life, maybe make a true new friend who shares my affinity for disc golf in ways that not many other people can. I thought that after years of trying to set high goals for myself each January 1, I had finally found a unique and manageable goal. Little did I know I’d be working remotely for 10 and a half months of the year, and I didn’t have the capacity nor the strength to try and many make new connections.

You’d think my recent lack of success would deter me from making a resolution for 2021. In a way, that would be a correct assumption. I certainly prefer not to set an unrealistic target for my life, something that I know might not make be comfortable or force me to act in ways that is out of character. But in the grand scheme of things, the idea that I wouldn’t set a new goal for myself would be off the mark. This year, my true resolution is to find the ability to go to bed each day, proud of the person I am.

This is certainly not an easy resolution to keep. When I was undergoing cancer treatment while simultaneously attending university, there were days where I wasn’t confident in myself. I didn’t think I was smart, I didn’t think I was social or that I had many friends. Quite often I would show up to class right on time, and be one of the first to leave, so I could head back to my house with my roommates. In my fifth and final year of university, my mom would drive an hour from her home to Hamilton, Ontario, drive me to class, wait in the city for hours until I finished my day, and took me back home to Brampton, Ontario, to which I would repeat the same thing the next day. I certainly didn’t like this version of me.

Interestingly enough, on some of those rides from my university house to home, I would reflect on my initial diagnosis and the fact that I chose to attend school through treatment, and wait a second, I was actually doing it! Woah, look at me go! My roommates, family and friends expressed how proud of me they were, and that the courage I was displaying was infectious. I’d often find I had a smile most nights, knowing that I was making the decision that I felt best for me.

On January 9, I moved to downtown Toronto, officially moving out of my house, on my own for the first time since university. This was a move that was in the works for years, and I’ve finally put myself in a position to which I feel confident and ready to start a new chapter in my life. But I cried the first night away from my parents. I was extremely anxious the first Monday morning I had to work from home in the new apartment. My roommate is the best, but sometimes I feel really lonely, and the dark days of January can be tough.

But I know in my heart that this is the right decision for me. I know that it’s time to take a new step towards happiness, and grow and learn and explore. I’m a cancer thriver, damn it, this is nothing! I’ve dealt with a lot of trauma and difficult emotions to last a lifetime, and I think it’s time to truly be happy.

So my resolution can be a really tricky one to navigate, but it’s certainly one I recommend trying. I won’t say that every day has been a breeze, especially if you have a bad day at work or you feel alone. But we can all find one, just one thing that we can be proud of ourselves for each day. When I first came home from my initial three weeks of induction treatment, my proud moment was shuffling from my bedroom to the bathroom and back. It was scoring a 7.0 mmol/L or below blood sugar level. Now it’s making a new lemon chicken pasta recipe!

I’ve loved the person I am every time my head hits the pillow, because I’ve resolved to find at least one thing to be proud of myself for. Trust me when I say, there is always one reason to be happy you are you.

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