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When You Find Yourself Between Two Worlds

When I was about halfway through high school, I started to question what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t that I felt what I had been doing up until that moment was meaningless, but it was that I recognized that it would become meaningless if I didn’t find a passion that did more than pass the time.

I specifically remember a Ted talk called “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” triggering this thought process. All throughout school, I had been good at everything. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but toot-toot I was pretty damn smart. I maybe struggled in history sometimes, but that was mainly because I found they way it taught to be exceedingly boring. When I began to study history on my own through alternative methods of learning, I found that there are much more interesting ways to learn about the past.

So there was my struggle: I liked everything I did in school. All of the subjects I studied offered me different puzzles and challenges of connections. Even today, I love to find ways that bring in outside ideas such as science, quantum mechanics, anthropology, communications, philosophy, etc. into every paper I write. Every day I solve at least one new puzzle and connect it to another. It’s a game of learning that I am sure many are familiar with.

I have found that this game has never ceased to play out in my mind. As much as I would like to “turn off my brain,” the act of not thinking does not relax me. The problem I face now is that these puzzles are not only connecting to each other, but opening doors to opportunities. For the first time in my life, I’ve realized that just because I might succeed in every door I step through doesn’t mean I can step through them all. 

It was somewhat heartbreaking when I fell in love with philosophy at the same time I fell in love with entrepreneurship. Both concepts are puzzles and I find them to be deeply intertwined. However, my desire to study philosophy at university has impaired my ability to be entrepreneurial or gain experience in the work force and vice-versa.

I have written a good amount about my unhappiness with the McGill administration and organization and I will not take anything I said back. I am still not satisfied with the internal workings of the university. However, what I’ve begun to understand is that my education at McGill has offered me a lot of confidence in my abilities. When I attended a philosophy conference and proudly stated my views on determinism to a professor, I didn’t feel constrained by the hierarchy within academia, I felt disconnected from it. Free from it. Free to exist within it without participating in it.

Now I must decide what to do as I have found myself caught between two worlds. In both spheres, I am not the same as the people that exist within them. In academia, I am cast doubtful looks as I mention my desire to abandon school and pursue something made only out of my own will. In the alternative world, I know I am one of the few who do not hold a contempt or doubt for academia. I don’t blame those who do see university systems in such a way. It’s just not a view I can maintain truthfully.

The answer is that I don’t have to chose, but completing both will take more time than just choosing one. Despite this, I know I am up for the task. I would rather take more time to do everything I want than wake up one day regretting a lost opportunity because I was worried about time. I have far too many years before me to even consider allowing such a tragedy to occur. 

This may be a case of “hurry up and wait” but at least I know the next few years of my life won’t be boring. 

Eloragh 

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If There is No Meaning to Life, is That a Bad Thing?

A question that many philosophers shun from is very popular in media and less-academic forms of philosophical discussion – what is the meaning of life?

It’s one of the oldest philosophical questions ever posed and will most likely never be answered in a satisfactory manner. In Susan Wolf’s “Meaning of Lives”, she writes about how the question is inherently flawed from a linguistic point of view. We can answer the question “what does x word mean?” because we have linguistic mapping for how to respond. We don’t have any such mapping to answer a question such as “what is the meaning of life?”

Despite this question being an epistemological let-down, there are ways to dive deeper into the implications without opening debate on the literal question. To go back to Susan Wolf, we don’t necessarily have to think that life, in general, having meaning is the same thing as having a meaningful life.

The two ideas sound very similar, arguably synonymous, but the important difference between them should be observed by everyone. One is big picture and deals with the billions of individual lives on planet earth as one massive being – as “life.” The other, deals with those individuals on a much smaller, more intimate scale. It offers them the option of arguing that perhaps life doesn’t have meaning, but that does not mean I cannot assign my own life meaning.

IC

Imagine if the question was answered one day and the meaning of all life was discovered and decided. What if life did have a meaning and was predetermined before you were even born, even conceived? How would you feel if the only chance you had to exist was dictated by whatever God, whatever universal being or consciousness assigned a meaning to life? Perhaps you wouldn’t know. Perhaps this consciousness made it so that you were born with the inherent desire to follow your meaning. Perhaps that is what passion is. Even if that is the case, you still chose to follow that passion regardless of if you know why you seek it or not.

If it was different, and I was aware that a conscious being had control over my life before I was even a thought in someone’s head, then I would have a serious philosophical and existential problem with my life. I would feel worse knowing what the meaning of life is. I would feel as though my agency was stripped before I was given it.

The concept of meaning is so tricky. What is meaningful to me could be worthless to you, but you might have the understanding of it’s value in my life and vice-versa. In my opinion, the majority of those that seek to find meaning from sources beyond themselves have already found meaning in seeking it or are looking in the wrong places. The nun may find salvation and joy in serving God for her life, but she may never acknowledge that the meaning of her life might have never come out of searching for a higher being. 

IC

So, if life has no inherent meaning, what are we do to? If there is no purpose for us to exist in the first place, who are we to think that assigning purpose to our individual lives means anything either? Well, my answer to that would be who really cares? If there is no meaning then that means 1 of the following 3 options is true: 

  1. There is no God.
  2. There is a God, but they do not see the purpose in giving us a collective meaning of “life.”
  3. There is a God, and they have determined the meaning of your life and all lives around you far before you understood what it meant to search for purpose. 

The answer for the first two happenings will at least be similar, if not the same: If there is no God, then there truly is no one in the world that you absolutely have to prove the value of your life to. The only person who has any say in what you do or don’t do is ultimately yourself. You’re allowed to assign power to whomever you want, but the responsibility for how your life turns out will ultimately fall on your shoulders.

The third option is a little tricky. You could argue that life then becomes a Matrix scenario. That there is some higher power – a God is a good term for them regardless of their supernatural ability or lack there of – that has control and has had control since the beginning of the creation of humanity as you know it. So, now that you know this, what will you do? Will you cease your daily activity? Will the relationships with those you love become invalid because you believe them to be “pre-determined?” Will you loose all sense of what you life was and what you wanted it to become?

You shouldn’t. The Matrix Scenario is a perfect one to cite in this situation because the ultimate consensus on what to do if a Matrix scenario were true is nothing. If we lived in a Matrix, if there was a God that determined what meaning our lives was to have and, therefore, how we were to achieve that, it wouldn’t matter. That would simply be the reality. There would be an argument for an absence of free will, but that, of course, could be contested. The only other difference between this situation and that of a Matrix is that you were somehow made aware of the consciousness controlling you.

Lets loop back to the first two solutions thought. I believe that they are the most probable and the most productive. There could not be a better outcome. If one of these two instances is the truth, then you have the sole choice and responsibility for the outcome of your life. If anything goes wrong, it’s on you, but the same is true if everything goes right. You are free to take full control and accountability for the entire span of your life. What an amazing life it could be, if you so chose to make it.

I didn’t write this to stir up any kind of controversy or to offend anyone who believes in a higher power. I think that religion and the ideas behind it are beautiful in their pure forms. If you are inclined to believe the third position, that there is a God-like being who has determined the meaning for your life, all I ask is that you don’t let it impede your abilities. I like to think that perhaps there is somewhat of an after-life, or a spiritual continuation of our lives after our physical beings have passed. Whether this is found in the energy that our bodies give back to the earth, or to a more religious idea of a heaven, I do not know. I ponder these ideas, but I do not let them impede my every day life. I continue to write, to follow my passions, and to learn as much as I can.

In conclusion, there is no harm in pondering ideas of religion and meaning, but no one should allow such thoughts to intercede with their free will. Determinism and the meaning of life tend to be two peas in a nihilistic pod. I encourage everyone to think about and discuss whatever ideas come to their heads, but don’t allow those ideas to weigh you down in metaphysics and infinite regressions. Allow them to empower them. Watch as they elevate your ability to communicate about the world around you. 

The truth is, until we have evidence of something different, all we can assume is that we are the sole controller of our own lives. Determinism is all bark when it comes to theoretical application. You hold the reigns, you decide the path, you ultimately create the outcome. The meaning of life is what you pull out of it. 

Eloragh 

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The End of Term is The Hardest Part

I’m going to assume that everyone reading this has been to school or is currently in school. Right now, you’re either incredibly excited for Christmas coming up around the corner, or you’re incredibly excited for the end of term. I tend to fall in the latter of those categories.

Christmas is fantastic and every day leading up to the celebration is an excuse to spend time with family and those that you love. However, students will often tell you that the real present is being done with their first semester. It’s akin to four tons of weight being dropped from your shoulders all at once.

University classes are not fun, for the most part. There are a few courses that most colleges will intentionally try to make enjoyable and less soul-crushing, but those are rare and difficult to get in to. Majority of the time, college classes are difficult and unrewarding.

My last two days of classes are December 3rd and 4th. The sun sets incredibly early in Montreal, around 4pm these days. There is certainly a feeling of holiday coziness and warmth, but that feeling creates a desire for home, for comfort. The last week or two of term is the hardest part for both semesters. During the fall, you want to go home for Christmas. During the spring, you want to get out for summer. It’s a waiting game.

This holiday season is full of unknowns for me as I try to figure out how I want to spend the next few years of my life. It seems crazy to try to plan that far ahead, but I like to have some idea of what I want to do or where I want to go. Nothing is set in stone, but there is a picture in my mind of how the path may appear in front of me.

Merry First Day of December.

Eloragh 

Why You Should Seek Criticism

Most students will experience their first job interview between the ages of 14 and 16. They will show up in an ill-fitting but passable professional outfit and hand over a disappointing resume consisting of their GPA, community service credit hours, and honor roll mentions. Their mother will be so proud, and she should be. 

A recent graduate from the entrepreneurial program Praxis gave this fantastic quote about first jobs in a recent podcast:

“Don’t be precious about your first job. Your first job exists for two reasons — to help you learn and to help you make money. That’s it. You don’t have to love it. Adopt a mindset where you’re there to learn. That’s what makes it fun even if you weren’t initially excited about it.”
– Emily Cozzens

Talkin’ ‘Bout Praxis

This piece of advice was something I wish I had heard when going into my first job as a dishwasher at a local bar when I was 16. I remember halfway through their season, it got so hot back in the dish pit that I passed out. I was embarrassed when my dad practically forced his way to my bosses office to demand that I was put in better working conditions. Admittedly, I had been burnt out (literally and figuratively), but there was an immense value in the gritty, exhausting work I did in the back of the kitchen. My parents were definitely proud, but they could never have matched how it made me feel. 

As time has gone on, I’ve found myself seeking jobs that would help me move forward in the career I want to build. Sure, my dishwashing job was fantastic for building my character and giving me confidence in my abilities, but no employer looking for a marketing director will care about it. I was searching for a job that would help me build my resume. That was my first mistake. 

I had an interview today for a position I am incredibly excited about. Regardless of whether or not I get the job, the conversation I had with the interviewer was fantastic, but not in the way you’d think. Towards the end of the call, they began to politely explain what they would have done if they had applied for the position I was aiming at. I had been dreading this since the beginning of the interview because I knew I felt unprepared. School has had me on a tightrope, but that’s no excuse for not doing my homework on the company. 

As the interviewer went on about what I presume to be what I did wrong, I found myself smiling. Once they had said their peace and given me some amazing advice, I knew my chance at the position was fairly slim, but I felt satisfied with ending the call. I wasn’t happy that I hadn’t gotten the position, I was happy that I knew what I did wrong. After applying for internships, part-time jobs, and summer positions for months with no replies, I finally had an idea of my errors. It was as though a weight of ambiguity had been lifted off of me. 

When you seek criticism from those who know what they are looking for, they will all tell you a few of the same things:

  1. Your resume is wrong.
  2. We don’t care about references.
  3. You need to show us that you’re prepared to work before you get the job.

Applying for positions or opportunities is not about how bulky your resume is, or how many references you can gather, or how beautiful your cover letter is, it’s about doing the work for the interviewer. I had heard this concept repeated to me a million times, but it only seemed to click today. Looking for positions that will “add to your resume” is worthless if they don’t also add to the skills you have. What do you think an employer wants? A piece of paper they have to read and then decipher if you’re the best candidate or a piece of work relevant and specific to the job you’re applying for that tells them more efficiently if you’re what they want?

Take the best of everyone’s advice. Take what you want to take. Most people who share thoughts and opinions don’t expect them to make a huge impact. Seek criticism and seek it shamelessly. We are so afraid to admit that we’ve failed, and even more afraid to ask for help. Be humble, but be confident. You’re not worthless because you don’t know how to do something. You’re more valuable when you seek and accept guidance because it allows your mind to exist in an open, flexible state. When you seek criticism, your ability to hear others thoughts, perspectives, opinions, problems, and ideas will expand. Seeking criticism is not about beating yourself up, it’s about being willing to learn.

Traditional schools will tell you that it’s your resume, your references, and your cover letter that will get you through the door. That’s what they’ve told me for years, and as soon as I tried to implement it, I learned how flawed and ineffective it is. Seek criticism from every employer who turns you down. 90% may never respond once they send you a rejection email, but that other 10% are the employers who want to see growth within the skills of the job market. They care about your improvement because you represent the future of your field. Any good business owner will want to ensure their prosperity in the future, which means letting you know how to improve when you apply again.

Criticism is a beautiful part of life. When you can learn to accept and absorb the information others are willing to share with you, you will understand how much empathy and passion comes from those people. The people who are willing to take time, even a small portion of it, to help you with a part of your life that is truly impactful: your career. Value those people, let them know that you have used their advice, appreciated it, and heard it for what it was. Critics are the better educators, for they know what they want and are not afraid to say so.

Eloragh

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Personal Development

Professional development is a concept that used to seem foreign to me. I assumed that I would be participating in seminars, lectures, presentations, etc. of the sort when I was a professional in the career I chose. This past year has opened my eyes to many things, but perhaps one of the most important ideas I have learned is that professional development is possible at any age, skill level, or educational background.

“Professional development?” you ask, “Isn’t this blog titled ‘Personal Development?'” There lies an issues of semantics. The two processes do not need to be different. There is a case to be made for separating your professional life from your personal life – don’t spend 12 hours in the office, have things you enjoy doing outside of work, make time for those you love who aren’t directly involved in the day to day humdrum of your career – but there are many ways to make your personal and professional life overlap in a healthy manner. 

Recently, I wrote about my week-long “hate-break” that helped me cool down and renew my passion for writing. I mentioned in this blog that I felt as though I had yet to see any major progress in my writing. This was one of the main reasons I found it to be so difficult to write every day. I very selfishly want my writing to take me places because I spend time pouring my mind out into my laptop. However, I also acknowledge that just because I give my effortS to this cause, no publisher or organization owes me the privilege of hiring me. It just means I need to improve my capabilities as a writer while growing my audience.

After coming back to Montreal from AynRandCon, I had gathered an immense amount of literature thanks to ARI. I had attempted to break into Atlas Shrugged two or three times but found myself intimidated by the sheer size of the novel. I picked up The Fountainhead in Atlanta and had a much easier time diving into the story. Perhaps I also felt as though I existed in a TV box of literature. The readings offered to me at McGill didn’t necessarily appeal to my morals or perspective.

The best two things any writer can do to improve are to write more and to read more. Reading the work of other authors is the single best thing (besides actually writing) that a writer can do to improve and advance their skills. Diversify what you read, take notes if it helps, and don’t be afraid of books like Atlas Shrugged. The only way to be able to read and write in a more advanced way is to challenge how you approach both.

Eloragh

What is a hate-break?

There are people in this world who are so passionately in love with what they do that they begin to hate it. It’s not an uncommon or unreasonable fate that artists of any sort often fall into. Think about it – you find your passion, work at it every day, see very few early results, get frustrated, and throw it all away because you “don’t have what it takes.”

Maybe this name is only truly valuable for shock value, but this is when I would advise someone to take a “hate-break.” A hate-break is determined by each person who decides to utilize the term and is, essentially, a break from something you love because it’s slowly becoming something you hate. 

This happened to me recently. I love writing, probably more than I love ballet. However, I have felt as though my writing is not reaching as far or as fast as I want. I am also having trouble seeing progress in my skills as a writer, which is equally as frustrating. When I did get feedback or comments on my writing, it was constructive at best. I felt as though I was losing my voice while yelling my ideas at a brick wall.

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So, I looked at my timeline. My dad came to visit me on October 28th, my boyfriend came on November 13th, and they both left today (it’s been a shitty day in that regard, but nonetheless.) I decided that the period of November 12th through November 18th would be a good time for me to take a rest.

As I mentioned earlier, this concept of a “hate-break” is incredibly flexible. This period of time worked for me because it gave me the time I needed to rest, but it also didn’t make me become used to not writing. I needed to miss it enough that I wanted to start blogging again, but not let it go so long that it would become a different kind of chore. The chore of starting anew.

Writing, just as any art, can be exhausting. An author has to show their soul, their ideas, their values, and their knowledge to the world in the hopes that someone will read it and appreciate it. Some have the power and confidence to write simply for themselves, but others, such as myself, want to know that all of our work has made somewhat of a difference.

Eloragh  

Bad Grades

I’m not failing any of my classes, but for the first time in my life, I’m not excelling in them either. It feels like shit.

I have C’s in most of my classes right now. Yesterday, I wrote about how exhausted I was. Part of that exhaustion comes from the fact that I am putting in 110% to these classes and I am barely passing them.

Sometimes I wonder if our professors are setting us up for failure. All I hear about is how freshmen are not expected to get good grades. The exams and quizzes are not relevant to the content we are learning. I’m so tired of studying and reading exhausting academic papers that are so dense and filled with unnecessary words.

It’s hard not to feel like an idiot in this environment. When I question every day why I am studying, why I am working so hard, why I am putting my sanity on the line for teachers who don’t seem to care if I fail or not. I’m paying out the ass for this school and being told that I should be grateful towards McGill as well.

Bad grades are hard to deal with. Being screwed out of thousands of dollars and being told to say “thank you” is a recipe for a breakdown.

Eloragh