A Publication

I wrote my first “big” philosophy paper this semester and decided that I wanted to publish it. I used ResearchGate in the hopes that I might get some feedback or peer review. If you would like to read it, it is right here.

This is an academic paper, so the writing is dense and meant to educate, not necessarily entertain. If you’re coming from my blog, you will find that it is nothing like what I write there.

Eloragh

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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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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

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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How to Go on an Exchange

Step 1: Get your shit together.

There’s no joke intended here. I thought I was an organized person before I started the process for an exchange, but I found out the hard way that I wasn’t that prepared. You need to have all your ducks in a row; that means your paperwork, your official transcript, your letter or statement of intent, the courses you intend to take at the institutions you are applying to, etc. etc. etc.

If you think you might need a piece of information or paperwork for your application, have it ready. Even if you end up not needing it, it is so much better to be over prepared than scrambling to find what you need at the last moment.

Step 2: Be a decent student

Most universities have a minimum GPA that you have to meet to be eligble to apply for an exchange. Plan ahead during the years and semesters before you apply for an exchange. Make sure you’re focused enough in your courses that you’re able to meet that minimum when the time comes.

Step 3: Do some research on the schools

When you have to write your statement of intent, you will appreciate having done some research on your schools. Your home university doesn’t want to hear that you want to go to Germany because you think it’s cool and want to meet hot German people. They want to hear that you have academic, cultural, and professional reasons for attending this university and how it will benefit you and your degree.

It doesn’t take a lot to impress people. I’m sure we would all be surprised at the amount of people who write less than lackluster statements of intent. Put some effort into this and it’ll payoff.

Step 4: Meet with your department advisor

I’m a Linguistics major. The school I go to has a course equivalency database which shows us what courses at other exchange schools are equivalent. It lets you know what courses you can take while on exchange and get credit for when you come back. This is very important if you want to graduate on time.

The best way to know if certain courses meet your department, faculty, or universities requirements is to meet with your department advisors. They can help you look at how you want your degree to be completed, in what time frame, and how to make that possible while still going on an exchange.

They can even help you apply for equivalency if you don’t find a certain course in your school’s database. Your department advisor is invaluable. Utilize their expertise and experience as much as possible.

Step 5: Write, write, write. Plan, plan, plan.

You’re going to need to prepare a lot of documents. Transcript, passport, degree planning sheet, statement of intent, courses you want to take, etc.

When I originally started planning for my exchange I thought “Paperwork, I do this everyday, no big deal.” Well, I was wrong, again. It’s a lot more than paperwork, it’s math, bureaucrats, persuasive writing, research, meetings, emails, and phone calls. It’s a hell of a lot of work. Please start before the application month comes, unlike I did.

Step 6: Be gracious towards those who help you.

My advisors, the faculty counselors, and the professors at both my home university and my exchange school have all been incredible. They’ve given me their time, their advice, their syllabi, and their support. So many of them have gone to bat and advocated for me. For all the shitty teachers I have had in my life, the Linguistics professors at McGill University have shown me the power and kindness that educators who care can give.

Be grateful and recognize their hard work as much as yours. Sending a kid off to a different country takes a village. Don’t forget to remember those that helped you along the way.

Good luck on your exchange.

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

The Worst People at Academic Conferences

AynRandCon has been over for less than 12 hours, but I wanted to give you a run-down of what I thought were the worst types of people I met during the conference. I don’t want to burn any bridges here (although I highly doubt anyone looked into me deep enough to find this site) so I’m not going to name names. If someone from the conference does stumble upon this and thinks that one of my references is about you, I promise you it probably isn’t.

Bad Conference Person #1: The Researcher

During most student conferences or academic conferences, there will be an opportunity to speak to people in academia, in finance, law, economics, tech, etc. It really depends on what the conference is based on, but just know that there will most likely be a chance for the student participants to talk to people that they find important or valuable.

In any given group of students that attend these conferences, there will be several that I categorize as “researchers.” They do their homework on these mentors and professors, usually in hopes of seeming intelligent or as though they care more than the rest of the people who didn’t do the work they did. Their questions usually start with “I was reading your thesis last night…” or “I noticed in your dissertation…” or “I found an article that you published…” and so on.

When this happened today at the conference I was attending, the professor laughed and said: “why would you do that to yourself?” Which I found absolutely hilarious for a few reasons. First of all, it completely undermines what the researcher thought they were going to get out of doing all of that work. Secondly, it is an acknowledgment from someone whose life revolves around academics and academic writing that academic language is dense garbage that is painful to read.

I don’t want to name names, but that professor was one of my favorite speakers of the entire event.

Bad Conference Person #2: The Questioner

Here’s how it went down at AynRandCon (and what I presume goes down at most academic conferences): we listen to professors and intellectuals speak on the subject that the conference is about for around 30 minutes and then there is a 10 to 15 minute Q&A session where the students can get up and ask the speakers to elaborate on their ideas or offer their thoughts on other related subjects.

There will be four or five students who are determined to ask as many questions as possible. Maybe I’m not doing these students justice, maybe their minds are just that complex and ever-thinking, but I find it hard to believe that they thought they had genuinely productive questions to ask every single speaker. Call me crazy.

Many of these students are the most confident or charismatic of the bunch, which tend to be their better qualities. They have the ability to draw people to them or together into groups and make connections with ease. You’re probably going to find them irritating during the lecture sessions, but when you get to speak with them in person you’ll most likely appreciate their presence and charm.

Bad Conference Person #3: The Underprepared One

AKA Me. This was AynRandCon, an objectivists dream come true. However, I’m not an objectivist. If you’ve read anyone talk about Rand and her thoughts, they probably state this at some point. The “I’m not an objectivist, though” point is a disclaimer. It’s a defense mechanism for avoiding the inevitable accusation of subscription to a dogma or ideology. They’re afraid of being told that by claiming to be “objectivist” that somehow groups them with a set of extremists. Maybe it does.

In this case, I’m not claiming to not be objectivist because I don’t want to associate with objectivism or the cult-like following of the philosophy. I’m claiming to not be an objectivist because I am innocently ignorant of most of Rand’s ideas. Less so after this conference, but still relatively unaware nonetheless.

My first introduction to Rand was far too early, but I’ve been curious about her ever since. Her ideology of selfishness as a virtue always shocked and intrigued me. It felt mysterious and rebellious. My entire life I had been told that I existed to be charitable and kind, that my families success meant that I was privileged in a way that meant I should reject wealth and the products of hard work. Rand, as far as I understood, said otherwise. She asked me to be proud.

This piece was supposed to be cheeky and cute. No one at this conference was “bad” in any way that I could perceive. Despite my suspicion of the potential deification of Rand through a conference named after her, I can see that this event was about much more than her and her ideas. It was about offering young people with somewhat alienated ideas to come together and find a common ground. To be told, “yes, you’re allowed to disagree, but make sure you know why you’re disagreeing.” To make connections, to talk about politics and philosophy, to have fun, and to act professionally all at the same time. Rand’s name brought these people together, but she didn’t consume our time.

I will be writing more in-depth about my time at the conference. I can say that my love of philosophy and free thought have been reinvigorated. I feel as though the gloomy weather of Montreal is somewhat representative of the socialist politics that control life in the province. It feels gray and dismal, as though my ideas and my rationalization is just a result of some flaw in my ability to reason. Now I see that my thought process is perfectly fine, just not very popular at McGill.

Eloragh