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

PC

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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

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

Why Philosophy is Exhausting

Philosophy is truly an academic discipline. To devote yourself to a life of thinking, connecting the dots, and offering a conclusion just to have your premise beaten up and then do it all over again is arguably destructive. For those who can’t stand to be torn down, philosophy may be a hard area of humanities to dive into. The reality of philosophy is that it is exhausting, even to those who adore it.

Philosophy requires more than just the ability to think and comprehend ideas, it requires a keen sense of logic and rationality. When pondering thoughts of morality, one might be inclined to go by their intuition rather than think premises through logically. This can be observed in many cases that work in the area of moral luck. Here’s a common example:

Person A and Person B both leave a party drunk and make the conscious decision to drive home. Person A leaves a little earlier than Person B and makes it home on completely deserted roads. Person B takes the same route, but on their way home, a child runs in front of their car. Due to their intoxication, Person B is unable to stop in time and ends up hitting the child. 

Most people’s first reaction is to assume that Person B is more morally responsible for their actions. After all, they did kill a child. However, the fact that a child ran in front of their car was out of their control. The only decision they consciously made was to drive drunk, which is the same decision Person A made. So who is more morally responsible?

That’s just one example of how intuition can affect philosophers ability to craft a legitimate argument. 20th century philosopher Elizabeth Harman argued that intuition plays an important role in how we evaluate morality. Her writing was based on an argument made by Peter Singer about the morality of affluent countries. Singer argued that it is morally wrong for “affluent” people to help others that are lacking basic necessities. His argument eventually went deeper and he took the stance that “affluent” people should continue to give away their belongings and money until they have reached the same state as everyone around them, but most find that extreme and unable to be maintained. 

This is why philosophy is exhausting. It is hard to decide where an idea begins and where it should end. It is so easy and enjoyable to connect these ideas together, but when you are trying to reach an audience that perhaps is not ready to receive so much information at one time, a philosopher must learn how to pace themselves and offer the information they most want to share. 

A philosopher’s mind is never turned off. I can only hope to continue to cultivate my ability to think so that I could develop my own theories of morality, free will, and responsibility. The world of philosophy is so rich with ideas, I am excited by the possibilities I have yet to discover. I’m also exhausted by it. 

Eloragh 

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

An Objective Approach to Ayn Rand Con

When I told my boyfriend I had been accepted on a scholarship to attend this conference, he was surprised. He had actually been the one to introduce me to Rand and her objectivist philosophy, but I had yet to dive into the ideas. I bought a copy of Atlas Shrugged and, frankly, I am still intimidated by it.

It was an easy to decision to make, everything was already paid for. All I had to do was get to Atlanta and enjoy two days of listening to people speak about the gap between tribalism and individualism. Professors across a broad range of disciplines gave their interpretation of how cultural and political tribalism was disrupting the process of free thought and individual liberties. It was fascinating to listen to, but I have some objections about their ideas and the conference in general.

It would have been a problem if I had come to Ayn Rand Con without some intention of being skeptical of what would be thrown at me. I do agree that some of the lecturers had insightful points about how to maintain free thought in an age where collective intellect and the inherent defense mechanisms within groupthink can lead to a polarization in personal philosophies. It seems that you either sacrifice some of your values to be with the group that you agree with more than the other one, or you stand alone, atop a hill that you are crying is morally correct. Neither sounds appealing to me.

One big question I kept finding myself asking is how would Rand feel about this convention herself? Surely she would object to it on the basis that it is somewhat a deification of her and her ideas. I mean, just naming the conference after her would have been enough to set off a red flag or two in her head. I would like to imagine that Rand would be somewhat approving of the young people that come to this conference and have the courage to disagree with what some of the more experienced thinkers have to say. I think she would see free thought at play.

Despite all of the problems I could pick at within the conference, it really has been fun. I’ve met people from all across the continent in many diverse universities and alternative programs (*cough* Praxis *cough*). Having the opportunity to meet and converse with some profoundly intellectual thinkers has been really wonderful and exciting. I sometimes find myself feeling less intelligent or capable when I am at McGill, but I am beginning to wonder if that may be less a question of my abilities and more a question of my values.

Eloragh