Long Days are Just Beginning

Every week, the one thing I am guaranteed to say is “I just need to get through this week.” I wonder when this constant fear of moving past the present will be alleviated. Everyone says that it’s important to live in the present, but it’s much easier said than done.

What does it even mean to live in the present? If I fully committed myself to only thinking about the 24 hours ahead of me, how would I create a future to look forward too or a goal to reach for? It’s difficult to say. All that I know is I do my best every day to not worry about tomorrow and focus on how I can make the day ahead of me productive.

My long days are just beginning. Now that this illness is behind me, I’ll have no excuse but to buckle down at McGill. A students work for C students, maybe I won’t buckle down that much.


An Update from a Sick Student

I’m almost done with my second week at McGill, and I can tell you I’m not enjoying myself. It’s not fair to just say this without recounting everything I’ve done (and haven’t done) since arriving at this university, so I thought I would do that here.

When I came to Montreal, I had two days before I moved in. My bags had been lost in the transfer between United Airlines and Air Canada. I also came down with a fairly bad cold that kept me in bed for two days. I do realize that this was in no way McGill’s fault, but I do believe that sometimes there are signs from the world that what you are doing is not what is for you. I couldn’t help but think about this idea as time edged closer to move in day.

Moving in and meeting my roommates was perfectly fine. My apartment is nice, my room is a good size, and the two other girls I am living with are kind, interesting, and good flatmates. So far, that aspect of university is the one I have been enjoying the most. Frosh (Canadian “orientation” events) started two days after I moved in. I got a sunburn on the first day and came down with yet another virus that evening. I was sick to my stomach for most of Frosh and didn’t participate.

To be honest, in a way, I am grateful that I fell ill. Frosh events ended up being a lot of drinking, drugs, and partying. By the end of it, all of the freshmen and Frosh leaders were hungover and had a head cold. All of the participants had decided to drink from each other’s glasses, hook up, and crowd themselves into very small places. They then spread this “Frosh Flu” to the rest of us. I have that flu right now, but I’ll come back to that.

Classes start. On my first day of classes, I was taking Legal Anthropology, Calculus A, Introduction to Philosophy, and Near Beginners French. I have since switched Calculus A for Introduction to Communication Studies because Calculus A had barely started and it was already keeping me up at night. Looking back on these past two weeks, calc was probably the only class I signed up for that made me feel like I was lost.

Maybe that was a good thing though. My anthropology lecture was 1.5 hours long and consisted of a lot of intuitive ideas about law that I already had a sense of. Philosophy started with the question of “do we have free will” with the basic argument. I will admit I was not aware of this specific argument, but I will also say that I don’t care. I can’t stand this philosophy class. It’s huge, I feel like I can’t speak, and it makes me miss Socratic seminars more than anything. I am desperately clinging to the online Socratic I do every Sunday to maintain my love of Philosophy.

French isn’t so bad. I do think that foreign languages may be one subject that I do well with in a classroom setting. In that class, we have 29 students instead of 300 and we have a workbook instead of a textbook. So, in essence, my favorite class so far is the one where I get to write and speak in a language that I am unfamiliar with. It also happens to be the smallest one I am a part of. Who would have guessed?

Now, I have the Frosh flu and I’m not allowed to miss class unless I have a doctors note. I hate to say it, but some of my high school classes were more interesting than what I’ve experienced so far. Everything else except the days I go to school and living by myself is almost exactly the same as high school. I miss Socratics, I’m already sick of being talked at, and I’m having a lot of trouble fitting into a social scene because I don’t want to drink.

I’m not happy. Not with my classes, not with my lifestyle, not with the culture of the school I chose. I’m feeling stuck. I’m not sure what to do about my unhappiness at this moment, but I know what I need to do about this cold. I’m going to rest and rest and rest. Hopefully, I won’t fail my classes in the process.




How to Create a Meaningful Education

Allow me to state something right off the bat: your education is your responsibility. No matter what anyone else tells you, you will always have the ability to take your education into your own hands. From encyclopedias, to the internet, to those who you surround yourself with, there are millions and millions of resources to pull knowledge from. At times, your education will require more attention. If you chose to exercise complete autonomy over it, there will no longer be any teachers or administrative staff to regulate your learning. However, they will also no longer be there to make it simple.

As a college student, I see a lot of people stressing over their education. I’ve barely finished my first week in college so I can’t speak from my experience yet, but I believe I can speak from others. When I look around campus, I see a hustle and bustle that I can only describe as that type of airport stress. The kind that puts an extra jump in your step and makes you furrow your brow even if it’s not sunny outside. Our backpacks are slowly giving us hunchbacks as we carry around $500.00+ worth of textbooks. It’s not a very peaceful environment.

One thing most of these students can’t find peace with is their schedule. During the add-drop period, everyone is constantly watching their classes, making sure they’re guaranteed a seat in the ones they want and waiting to be accepted into others so they can drop the ones they don’t. The number of classes you’re taking is indicative of your work ethic. The higher the better. If you’re like me and you decide to take the minimum number of credit hours to ease into a new style of life, you’re immediately marked as lazy.

To some people, their social status is valuable to them and dependent on how hard other people think they work. They pile on class after class only to realize that they can’t manage all the reading without sacrificing their well being. Suddenly, their social status has become more important than their health and grades.

For most everyone, education is a large part of the beginning of their life. The majority of us will go through at least 13-18 years of compulsory education, sometimes more. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize that we could have had more control over that part of our life until much later.

Here are a few tips to help you take control of your education before you “finish” it:

  1. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Most of the people here who cast a judgemental glance my way when they learn about my schedule don’t know that I took as many AP classes as possible in high school. They don’t know that I had 18 credit hours towards my degree before I got here. Their opinions won’t pass my classes for me, so they don’t mean anything.
  2. Plan ahead. Planning ahead may mean taking AP and IB credit classes to get a head start on college. It may also mean choosing homeschooling or online school over a traditional school to follow an unorthodox passion that you know you want to create a career out of.
  3. Figure out what type of education is right for you. I’m still trying to decide if college is something I’m going to continue with. The culture, level of challenge, and lifestyle that I have been experiencing at McGill will all factor into the choice I make at the end of the year. Just like tip number one, don’t let other people’s thoughts on your life dictate what you do with it.
  4. Work really hard. That old saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” really is not true. There are many many things I enjoy doing – such as writing – that still feel like chores when I am tired or burnt out. No matter what you’re doing, you will get out of your education what you put into it. Whether that means getting your act together and turning in all of your assignments or dropping out of a school you hate, you’re going to have to do some work before it gets easier.
  5. Acknowledge what you love and put as much time and effort into it as possible. In the end, those who do crazy things such as become professional basketball players or internationally renowned musicians are always those who blew off what seemed “important” for what they loved. No government mandated curriculum has any right to tell you what is worth your time.

In reality, our education is never really over. The beauty of being a human being is that you have every second of your life to experience something new. Your time on earth is unique to only you. Absolutely no one else will understand the way you viewed life unless you tell them. Be creative, do what you love, share your thoughts and ideas through a medium that is expressive and passionate. When you think about it, creating a meaningful education comes down to what you want to share with the world. Whether that is music or political theory or integral calculus, spend your time on what brings value to your life. Only then will you find meaning in your education.


Reaching for What You’re Bad At

I am notorious for enjoying things that I suck at. For example, my body is not really built well for ballet. It doesn’t want to contort itself into the positions that the art form requires. Yet, I still go and dance and have improved tremendously over the past two years.

Calculus kicked my ass today. I know I enjoy math and want to enjoy the process of it, but I find it difficult to do so when I’m so overwhelmed. With some patience, I hope the outcome will be similar to my experience in ballet.


The Syllabus Week Grind

Most college students will tell you the same thing – syllabus week sucks. It’s boring and it’s during the add-drop period for classes, so you can’t skip a class or they’ll give your seat to someone on the waitlist. It’s brutal, especially if your lecturer doesn’t know how to make it fun.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about college. Many of my previous blogs outline a few of the concerns I had going into my first year at university. With that being said, I did want to make the best of my year and try to enjoy the classes I took. This semester I am taking Intro to Philosophy, Legal Anthropology, Calculus A, and Near Beginners French.

So far, the only class I am not thrilled about is Legal Anthropology. I was surprised and a little disappointed when I sat down in that class and found myself yawning within five minutes. I wrote a little about this in my blog yesterday and pondered whether this class would be worth my time. I’m going to stick with it for a few reasons.

  1. I can do anything for a semester.
  2. It’s only syllabus week. I should really give the lecturer a chance.
  3. The class might end up being a pre-requisite for my degree if I choose to continue.

There are more reasons why I should stay, but these are the three main ones that have kept me from dropping the class. I also don’t really want to go on a search for another one, but that’s a different problem altogether.

Syllabus week is not fun, no, but it’s valuable. I would have killed for a course outline like the ones I received yesterday when I was in high school. They tell you every single due date, set of questions, what reading you’ll need, and on what terms it would be accepted late. The PDF’s are so organized, they make my previous syllabuses look like a five-year-old wrote them.

Tomorrow is the last day of syllabus week anyway. It wasn’t too hard to stick out.



Settled In

Relaxing in a different environment can be hard for some people. I’ve traveled and moved around so much in my life that a new living arrangement is a norm for me. With that being said, settling into my apartment at McGill has not been as easy as I thought it would be. Perhaps it’s because the situation is slightly less temporary, perhaps it’s because I won’t be leaving when my family does, or perhaps I feel uncomfortable here. I can’t rule out that possibility.

Despite my settling in being unsettling, I do like the space I’m in. It’s small, but not too small. Just small enough that I can live in it without feeling overwhelmed by the amount I have to clean. We snuck in cinder blocks to elevate my bed and I have a window where I can set all of my plants and electronics. My desk is larger than the one I have at home so I know I will enjoy doing my work on it (at least more than I did on my other one.)

What I’m trying to say is, everything seems to be ok. Life here will calm down. I’m not required to participate in anything. I’m missing Rez Fest tomorrow to spend the day with my family because they’re leaving on Tuesday. Everything is by my terms and it feels good. Even if it’s just a taste of freedom, I’m more than satisfied for the time being.


Academic Finance Lessons

As I’ve been focusing on transitioning from teenage life to adult life, I’ve come to see that school has failed to teach me many things. A good understanding of how to balance my finances happens to be in that pile. Here’s why I think schools are bad at teaching students what to do with their money: they’re run by the government.

When I was a Montessori kid, some of my first lessons were about trading. I would count dried beans and trade them with the other students. I learned quickly that larger beans were worth two or three little beans unless they weren’t heavy. We all had our ways of deciding how many beans we were willing to part with. When I left Montessori and entered public school, I was appalled at the lack of beans. It would be twelve years until I had another finance class.

My senior year, our life and health teacher made an attempt to teach us how to budget. She used outdated worksheets from an outreach attempt made by some obscure bank. Many of them were vague and confusing, leaving much of the class with a failing grade and still no understanding of how to manage our paychecks. It was beyond frustrating. We had to move on due to the governments need to make everything seem as though it is progressing at a standard rate, and thus we all left feeling nervous about our fiscal future.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of government. I’ve dealt with two different kinds and seen them both fail miserably to meet the needs of their citizens. The reality is, government schools are bad at teaching finance because the government is terrible with its finances. I can’t remember a year when I haven’t heard news about the “debt ceiling” or “trade deficit” that we always seem to be dealing with. Although the repetitive stories I’m referring to may all be an attempt at outrage media, I still remember feeling annoyed by the numerous administration’s continued inability to budget themselves.

I’m moving to a completely different country where the currency is lower in value than USD. I am nervous about investing, transferring money, traveling, paying my bills, getting a job, and being monitored by two different tax collecting agencies. School never taught me how to handle these worries, so now it’s up to me to figure it out. I would hope that after 12+ years in education I would know how to balance a checkbook, but I guess that’s just not on the government’s list of educational priorities. No wonder we’re all dazed and broke.