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Not a College Student

When I started this year at McGill, I knew there would be bumps in the road. I had a complicated personal life and huge unruly ambitions that I was unwilling to tame. I wanted to do more than be a college student, so I knew that defining myself as such would mean that my life would revolve around school, instead of the opposite.

I’m not a college student. I have chosen to enroll at a university with the intention of making it fit into what I want my life to look like for the next three years. I wanted to move somewhere else and experience different climates. I wanted to have a part-time job in alternative education. I wanted to continue my side projects. I wanted to exercise and keep my mind and body healthy. School had to fit into all of that.

I worked tirelessly this semester, making university fit into my life. I asked for a lot of exceptions and did the work to make sure I got them. McGill has been great, but only because I showed that I was on top of my game and willing to do anything to get some flexibility for my program.

I realized that it would be impossible for me to be a defined as a college student, because adapting the lifestyle of a typical student would mean that all of my other dreams would fade away.

To people that do define themselves as college students, it’s an accurate description. University is a big part of their life for three to five years. I don’t think I could say the same. I work on school just about as much as I work on other things in my life. I do not have a 4.0 GPA like I did in high school, but I don’t need one anymore. Keeping my GPA above average is more than enough for me to feel successful, especially with everything else I have on my plate.

So labeling myself as a college student wouldn’t have ever really worked for me. It would have been a strategy that got in the way of my ambitions and goals. I knew that to be taken seriously inside and out of the academic world, I would have to show that I was on par with my professors and the entrepreneurs I wanted to work with. I don’t know if I have quite reached that level, but I have made every effort to show the strides I’m making to get there.

University fit in with my life because I made it so. I’m more proud of myself now with a 3.25 GPA and an amazing life outside of school than I ever was as the valedictorian in high school. Having priorities outside of academia have helped me to appreciate my classes more, but they’ve also forced me to drill down on my time management and define what is really important to me.

You can go to school and work on your career while doing so. It’s been difficult, but it’s been a good time for growth and self-improvement. I love school now that it is not the sun that I orbit. I’ve realized that I cannot exist with one priority, but that I thrive off of a diverse set of projects. It’s an unorthodox strategy, but I am learning that those tend to be the most successful.

Eloragh

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Take Every Achievement

I haven’t been sick since early February. I am not surprised that I caught a cold the weekend before my last week of term. Whether it’s karma for pushing myself so hard in March, or my own fault for refusing to wait to ask my sick professor a question, it’s here.

Yesterday, I ordered takeout. I like UberEats, but I’ve found that there are only a few restaurants that I really enjoy. The one I ordered from yesterday was just ok, but definitely not worth the $30 it cost me. I refused to order again today and forced myself to the grocery store.

Just the effort of balancing my body on the metro exhausted me. The grocery store I go to is small and always busy, so I felt a little claustrophobic and guilty for going to such a public place while sick. I did my best to keep my mouth covered and not cough. I got out as fast as possible.

There have been days during this term that have been downright miserable, but there have also been days where I felt like I could take on the world. I have pushed myself far, but it’s been worth it. I’m stronger mentally and physically and my performance in classes has gone up. I knew that my hard work would pay off, but stressing my mind and body always comes with consequences.

I take the big achievements with the small ones. My acceptance to UNC as an exchange student was a big achievement. Going to the grocery story today was a small one. Both made me happy and added something to my life, like not having to order expensive, crappy take out again.

We should take what we can get. There will always be opportunities for bigger and better things on the horizon. If you body or mind is telling you to slow down for a moment, acknowledge it. You don’t have to rest forever, but you do have to rest eventually.

Eloragh

The Decline of Nihilism

I remember about a year ago when I was on Spring Break, I joined a Socratic session online. In response to a question, I proudly pronounced myself as a nihilist and a narcissist. I was truly ignorant to what those two ideas meant, so I forgive my younger self for using them incorrectly, even though I still cringe at it.

The truth was, I did believe I was a nihilist. It was very easy to hide behind the idea of “we are all going to die, so nothing we do matters anyway” but my actions were very much contradictory. I was a 4.0 AP student who studied for the ACT every night, ran a food pantry for my peers, and graduated as valedictorian. It was quite clear that I held myself to a high standard and wanted others to do the same. I did care. I cared a lot.

During that Socratic, my current-but-then-future boyfriend struck down my claim that I was both a narcissist and a nihilist. “You cannot love yourself like a narcissist and think about your own death so casually at the same time. One has to give or your life is a paradox.” He was right. I couldn’t claim to be someone so incredibly self-centered yet uninterested and unconcerned about my own death. Those were two parallel lines of thought that couldn’t meet.

Ever since then, I’ve always been careful to label myself philosophically. I would rather take the risk of existing without labels than make a complete ass of myself and associate with the wrong people.

Today, a few friends and I went to a coffee shop to get some work done. One of them commented on a young singer that she disliked because she was “using the fact that she is so unconcerned and doesn’t care about anything to seem cool.” I agreed with her. I remembered a time when I thought it was mysterious and cool to be disengaged with the world around me. I though the fact that everyone was so “connected” and emotionally attached to events meant that I had to be the opposite to be cool. To be interesting, I had to be numb. Two more parallel lines that will never meet.

Although it’s clear by now that my 17 year old self was not the smartest at truly decoding what my own beliefs meant, I don’t blame myself for wanting to distance myself. It’s hard to have ideas and opinions when you are young, it’s even harder to watch them get crushed in seminars and discussions. “Nihilism” was a way for me to avoid the embarrassment that came with being proven wrong.

I believe this generation is different. I don’t participate in protests, but there are many people my age and younger who do. I see a new passion in younger generations that wasn’t there for me when I was growing up. I’m grateful that nihilism is on the decline, because it’s not a fun way to live. After spending so much time disengaged, I found it hard to integrate myself back into reality. I was mean spirited, negative, and not a great person to be around. Nihilism can do that to people.

I think it’s important to value your own life above all us. If you can’t do that, it will be hard to value anything else that may come your way. I’m glad that my boyfriend knocked some sense into me when he had the chance. I’m glad I listened and reconsidered my stance on life and how to interact with reality. I’m glad that students and young people are passionate about things they believe in and that they show it. I’m glad that we are all present in our lives.

Best,

Eloragh

A Mind for Equations

I was determined to be a mathematics major when I first came to university. All throughout high school, I was in love with numbers and the pure simplicity I found in their rules. I had this feeling that my mind was built to calculate integrals and fill chalkboards with equations. I didn’t want to be an engineer or a finance major or anything that used mathematics as a means to an end. I wanted to be a mathematician.

Then I sat in my first week of Calculus III and dropped the course. The professor was older and barely turned around to check on us during class. He spoke so much while looking at the blackboard that I barely caught half of what he said in class anyway. I realized that I didn’t want to suffer my first semester of college and left.

In January, I declared my major as Linguistics. It wasn’t a surprise to my family or friends. I had always been a good communicator, regardless of the subject or people I found myself with. Linguistics felt natural for me. It was a blissful combination of connecting through languages while deconstructing them and finding the math that lay between the words.

Still, I find that math and equations pervade little areas of my life and haunt me like a ghost. I’m in the middle of writing a paper on Zeno’s Motion Paradox. There were 9 other prompts I could have chosen from, but I decided to write about my long lost love, mathematics.

Writing about philosophical mathematics has made me reconsider my approach to how I see the world of pure math. Even when I was deeply impassioned by my work with numbers, I felt a disconnect from reality. Integrals somehow seemed made-up, fake, like a type-A fairy tale. Everything was perfect, orderly, and didn’t deviate from the rules. It didn’t seem to fit with the way the rest of the world worked.

Zeno’s motion paradox made me feel even more so. Although there is significant theoretical evidence to show that Zeno was correct and that we really can’t travel over anything because everything has an infinite amount of points, this doesn’t line up with reality. There is friction and motion and coextension in this world that says otherwise. Zeno’s math is contrary to appearances, yet true in it’s most pure state.

There were two options for me to take when contemplating this idea. Either math is somehow not fully in touch with reality, or everything I know to be true in my conscious self has always and will always be wrong. I couldn’t reconcile the two in a way that satisfied me. It felt like math was only a potential, only a possible perfect truth in a world of definite imperfect realities.

I know that my mind works in too many ways to be perfect for one thing. My thoughts carry me from one idea to another, probably contradicting the former. I can’t seem to maintain only one course of action, I always find that there is more to do. At a time, I found beauty and peace in the ease of math. Follow the rules, perform the calculations, rinse and repeat until you get the right answer. I don’t find peace in the same monotony anymore. Life has proven to be too amazingly tumultuous for me to engage in such a fairy tale so blindly.

Eloragh

Have a Good Week

Good days are like March sun in Montreal. They are admired, coveted, something to bask in while they last. Both daylight savings and the events of the past seven days have reignited my desire to work hard. It’s a good feeling, especially when you’ve been working hard with no motivation for so long.

Daylight savings marks a big shift for me. Montreal winters are cold and dark, with the sun setting around 4:00 (sometimes 3:45) in the peak of the season. When I went to Charleston for Spring Break in early March, I knew I would return to a different city.

Wearing sneakers outside and ditching the leggings I had to wear under my jeans to keep warm have made my mornings easier. I started waking up early to go to morning classes at my local gym. I’m enjoying the renewed sense of passion and determination.

School has taken a turn for the best. The first half of this semester was difficult. The only good thing about a bad grade is the fire it lights under you. I studied for three weeks for one midterm. I got an 83.

I don’t like to say that I am affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, because I’m really not. I’m just as productive during the winter as I am during the other months. I think the difference is that I find it hard to push through rough times in the winter, and I’m sure some of you can relate. You don’t have to label yourself with a scary mental health issue to acknowledge that sometimes cold, uninviting weather can make things seem a little worse.

That being said, whether or not the winter months bring you down, enjoy the new Spring. Jump on new opportunities, take your passions seriously, and use those extra hours of sunlight to do something amazing. Daylight savings has been the best reminder that we really do have more time than we think.

Have a good week.

Eloragh

Becoming a Listener

The other night, I was having a conversation with my boyfriend about a topic that we disagreed on. After a little while, he stopped me and said “can I finish a sentence?”

That was when I realized something that had been in the back of my mind for a while: I had lost a lot of my listening skills. Training in a socratic program is a great way to learn how to truly listen and absorb the information that others offer you, but after less than a year away from one, I had lost four years of practice.

The idea of listening rather than waiting to speak is one that has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. I am definitely guilty of just waiting my turn, nodding my head, and keeping my mouth shut until it’s my turn to speak. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more aware of what exactly my conversational partner is trying to express and how I can acknowledge that in what I say next.

I had a call yesterday where I worked to remind myself of this as much as possible. I wanted to focus on the message they were sharing and offer something in return that clearly and concisely conveyed information that I thought was relevant. It was no longer about trying to shout from the rooftops everything I have accomplished and am capable of, it was about really truly understanding what they were trying to tell me.

I left that call with a better sense of their mission than I could have imagined. I felt relieved that my listening skills were not completely gone. There is still a lot of hope in my mind that I will become as good of a listener as I was when practicing socratic. It will just take a more conscious effort to be mindful.

The idea of being a listener rather than a conversationist is important in every aspect of communication. More often than not, people do not want solutions or advice thrown at them. They want to be heard and to feel as though someone empathizes or understands their situation. They want their frustration or hard work or achievements to be acknowledged.

Challenge yourself to be the listener to those around you. I am sure that you will find that you are one of a few people that want to hear and not to speak. Be willing to stay silent and patient and supportive of the person you listen to. Offer them relevant information when it is appropriate, but try to not make the conversation “about you” if it doesn’t add to the narrative they are expressing.

You will be surprised at how your relationships grow and change.

Best,

Eloragh

The Desire to Be Busy

I used to think I was really cool when I would send all of my friends Google Calendar invites for movie or coffee dates. Productivity apps like Scheduly, Asana, Slack, etc. used to make me feel like my day to day life had more importance that I needed to assign to it. I had an intense desire to always be busy.

In reality, I look back on the time that I unnecessarily used Google Calendar and yearn for it. These days, if I don’t put something on my Calendar, there is a very high chance I will just forget about it. I had to put two alerts for every notification, one that reminded me two hours before an event and one that reminded me 30 minutes before an event, because sometimes two hours would pass and I would forget.

My high school desire to be busy has come true, but I am fully aware that I should have been much more careful in what I wished for. This week is probably the busiest week I will experience this year at McGill. Instead of meticulously planning my studying, exercise, and sleep schedules, I actually find myself pencilling in time to read books that I’m almost done with and get tea with friends.

It seems incredibly counterintuitive. I have three quizzes, an essay, class questions, and a midterm exam all between Monday and Friday. Despite being aware that these should be and are my first priorities, I no longer find myself glorifying late nights spent in the library or canceled plans with friends. I find myself basking in leaving my laptop at home, going to strange new places with my friends, and indulging every self-loving piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

Being busy is not something I should have ever desired in the first place. A good life is not one created by jam packing our schedules to prove our professional or academic worth. It’s a life created by flexibility and balance. I have yet to find those two things since beginning my education at McGill, but I think this blog will bring me one step further.

I only get to be 19 for a year. I can’t allow myself to feel guilty for not going out with friends or not studying enough or not getting enough sleep or missing too many classes or, in general, not pleasing other people.

I was foolish to glamorize a busy life. I am learning to savor the slow moments where my calendar is empty and my to-do list is complete or non existent. I don’t blame my younger self, but I do appreciate that I am now able to recognize and learn from the mistakes I made in the past. I know now that I never wanted a “busy” life in the true sense of the word, but a more meaningful one.

Make your to-do list one item shorter tomorrow. Go do something fun instead.

Best,

Eloragh

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