by Kathy Dobson

In this special issue, we present a collection of deeply personal essays that share the common theme of self-discovery and empowerment amidst challenging circumstances. In these four articles, we learn about the transformative journeys of four students who grappled with some of life’s biggest challenges, including their own insecurities, fears, and the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each essay delves into the unique experiences of these individuals as they navigated their way through adversity, including bigotry, ultimately finding resilience, strength, and renewed purpose.

Despite the diverse topics covered in each article, a powerful and unified theme emerges: empowerment through adversity. Each narrative showcases how these young individuals grappled with personal challenges and external circumstances, ultimately finding the strength to confront their fears, embrace their true selves, and cultivate resilience. The stories serve as a testament to the human spirit’s ability to thrive and grow even in the most challenging of times.

As readers embark on this captivating journey through the essays, we hope that the profound experiences shared by these individuals will inspire empathy, understanding, and introspection. May this special journal issue serve as a reminder that even during the darkest of days, the light of self-discovery and empowerment can lead us towards a brighter and more resilient future.

The first article, My Hijab, My Choice by Mauhiba Mollah, revolves around a young woman’s poignant exploration of the stigma and bigotry felt by many Muslim women for their choice to wear the hijab. This introspective account touches upon the societal pressures and misconceptions Mauhiba encountered while staying true to her beliefs and cultural heritage. Through her narrative, we witness her courage, self-confidence and personal convictions as she triumphs over prejudice, breaking free from the shackles of judgment, and embracing her true identity.

The next article, A Completely Unremarkable Essay by Sadie Louri Weise, delves into the journey of a young woman who grapples with the detrimental habit of comparing herself to others and shares her resentment around having been labelled “a pleasure to have in class” as a young student. As she unravels her inner struggles, we accompany her on a voyage of self-discovery, where she learns to appreciate her unique strengths and talents. Amidst the sea of societal pressures and unrealistic standards, she finds the courage to embrace her individuality, realizing that her worth is not defined by external validation, and comes to recognize how truly remarkable she, in fact, is.

In One of the “lucky” ones: The silent struggle faced by the graduating class of 2023, Emma Cole writes about her feelings of guilt around feeling sad about having missed out on so many university experiences because of the pandemic, and how being constantly reminded that “it could be worse,” despite her real struggles to cope with some of the harsh realities that included being confined to home for nearly two years, only compounded those feelings of guilt. Her article shifts our focus to the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically within a university setting. We delve into the impact on this student’s experiences as she grappled with prolonged periods of isolation, limited social interactions, and a lack of the typical ‘student life’ she had envisioned. Through this lens, we gain insight into the resilience of the student community as they adapted, finding alternative means of connection and support.

The fourth article, I was always an anxious person but being locked inside all day sleeping made my anxiety skyrocket by Jack Drummond, adds a unique perspective to the pandemic narrative, focusing on an individual who found unexpected liberation from social anxiety amidst the restrictions. Forced to confront their fear of socializing, Jack embarked on a transformative journey of self-awareness and, as they recognized the detrimental effects of excessive isolation, learned to navigate towards healthier coping mechanisms, eventually embracing social connections as a means of growth and healing.