Earlier this year, I was reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and came to a scene near the end in which the main character, Madrigal, was about to be beheaded for the crime of love, having been betrayed by a close friend.
“To think I wasted diamonds on her,” Madrigal said as she waited for death in her jail cell, to which her father figure, Brimstone, replied, “Never repent your own goodness, child. To stay true in the face of evil is a feat of strength.”
The line stood out to me immediately. I couldn’t quite place why, but I felt that it had summed up something important for me, some personal experience or lesson that had meant a lot. Five months later, during Frosh week, I finally made the connection.
It was the parade, and a group of us were off to the sidelines, shouting “Vic loves (insert name of college or faculty)!” as they passed us. Most would respond similarly, reciprocating our love, but not all. One group in particular upheld their tradition of shouting back insults and arrogant self-praise. We valiantly continued to keep up our loving and supportive chant as they passed.
Had I been on my own, I would have never reacted in that way. I have always been a highly competitive person, not to mention impatient and impulsive when upset. In kindergarten, I would punch kids who butted me in line. While Brimstone’s words might seem obvious to many, their meaning did not come naturally to me.
I was so proud of being a Victorian that day, and as far-fetched as it might sound, I felt I had made a monumental personal breakthrough. In the highly competitive world we live in — in which millions compete for a handful of jobs — it is very easy to adopt a “survival of the fittest” mindset. Nowhere has this been more clear to me that at the University of Toronto, where I have been driven to unprecedented levels of anxiety and inadequacy when I consider all the fantastic things that fellow students are doing around me.
Vic taught me that it is possible to be intelligent, driven, and kind, all at once. It is possible to be genuinely happy for another person’s achievements, even at the expense of your own, because there is no pride in being successful if you are not equally supportive of those around you, and equally cognizant of the privileges that enabled your success and the struggles that impeded others’.
More importantly, Vic taught me that we should never be nice in the hopes of gaining something for ourselves. Before coming to university, I would have thought it weak to not stand up to someone who had wronged me. I would have cursed myself had my kindness led to my own loss. I could not be more fortunate to have landed in a community that has shown me otherwise — fighting malice with malice is not an act of strength. Kindness is its own reward, and as such, everything that stems from it, regardless of the outcome, is something to be proud of.