I was unstoppable. The kind of girl who was always busy: getting straight A’s, volunteering, working, and making art. Between the scholarships I racked up, the proud smiles of my friends and family, and the encouraging words of my teachers, I felt a sense of purpose. I was important to the world because of my success.

I come from a small town on Vancouver Island. I graduated with about 30 other people, only half of which pursued a higher education right out of high school. Many of these people I had known since I was five years old. For as long as I could remember, I was the “smart girl.” I was the spelling-bee winner, the one who had her hand up in class so often that she became a permanent part of the classroom cartography, and the overachiever. That was how I identified. That was who I was.

When I made the decision to come to UVic, I was told by a well-meaning adult that I should consider going to a smaller school first. “You’re used to being a big fish in a small pond,” they told me. “But big schools are full of overachievers. It will be too much of a culture shock.”

Needless to say, I didn’t listen.

My first year in the Theatre program was hard. I certainly wasn’t the best at anything, and despite being in a relatively small department, it seemed that nobody even knew my name. Many of my classmates had went to high schools with large drama programs and opportunities for pseudo-professional training. My school nearly cut the drama program every year due to a lack of funding and qualified staff. Professors forgot about me, classmates talked over me, and I was overcome with so much anxiety that the idea of going to parties or signing up for clubs and other extracurricular activities was terrifying. I was no longer “the smart girl.” I rarely spoke up in class, I went straight back to my dorm at the end of the day, and I never stood up for myself when others upset me.

It was so easy to blame other people and to feel sorry for myself. I spent the better part of two years being so angry at the cards I had been dealt that I refused to play them at all. I had been a big fish in a small pond, and now I was just another fish swimming aimlessly in the ocean. I was beginning to think that was all I’d ever be.

And then, something changed. The perfect combination of new circumstances and new people made me realize that all my negativity was getting me nowhere. I wanted to change. I wanted to be happy.

I have been seeing a counselor for almost a year now, and it has changed my life. Dealing with my anxiety was like clearing a fog that had been obscuring my vision for so long. I am now able to see the love people have for me, instead of feeling as though everyone is against me. I can now see where I’m going instead of feeling shame and hopelessness about where I come from. Most importantly, I can see that so many people are just like me. Fish who thought they were big and strong until they arrived in the ocean. And now, I can reach out to help them.

If anyone out there feels like they were a big fish in a small pond, remember that that is not true. We are all just fish, trying to find our way through the water. Size is relative. If you feel small, it’s time for a change of perspective.

Thanks for reading,


The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.