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

Photo Credit

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

Featured Image Credit

Disengagement from the Complex

There’s this class at McGill called Introduction to Communications. Now, when a university says “communications” what it really means is “we pretty much think all media is evil and out to corrupt you.” I think this is definitely an exaggeration, but take a class and tell me if I’m wrong.

The end of the semester is approaching pretty quickly, midterms are just on the horizon. We have our final exam schedule, but I only have two. My other two classes involve a final project to finish the curriculum. In my communications conference today, we were put into groups and asked to decide what form of media we wanted to analyze.

I suggested Blockchain technology because of its future impact on security and eliminating the need for trust between humans during transactions and record keeping. No one was interested in this, unfortunately, so I ended up being grouped with the girls that wanted to study Instagram influencers. I thought that platform would offer the best opportunity to incorporate some element of Blockchain tech.

When I left to go home, I remember thinking on the train that there was a disconnection from the idea of exploring the complex. Those girls did nothing wrong, they simply chose a subject they were familiar with and felt that they would do well with. However, I have never seen education or academics as a place for familiarity or comfort. I have always seen projects and assignments as opportunities to explore something I don’t know.

Maybe I’m more curious than the typical college student. My reasoning is that if I’m going to do a project, I might as well have some fun along the way. I’ve been curious about Blockchain technology for a long time and have been making little efforts to learn more about it. I thought a major final project would be the perfect motivation I needed to spark my engagement with the subject.

I was quick to realize that this is not the mindset that inhabits most of my classmates. Instagram is something 99% of teenage girls are familiar with, so picking that as their final project was probably a no-brainer. In all honesty, I have no doubt that I will do well on this project, but I also have no doubt that I will not learn a single thing along the way.

College and education in general, seem to promote this idea of “just pick the easiest route and get it done.” Although I can 100% understand the desire to chose the path of least resistance, I can’t bring myself to agree with the idea that it should be promoted in an academic setting. The more we push people to just go with the most comfortable option, the more we distance and disengage ourselves with the ability to begin to understand something more complex.

As time goes on and this practice continues, I fear that the human capacity for learning will decrease. If we all learn only what we must know to survive and are incapable of finding a desire to explore anything else, our intellect will surely begin to shrink.

As I said before, I don’t think those girls who chose the project did anything wrong, but I do pity them. They’re putting in the minimum amount of effort and turning their nose up at any opportunity to expand their knowledge. Once they leave a university setting, I’m sure they’ll have a hard time finding flexibility and a willingness to learn again.

Eloragh

Self Defense in Canada

While living in the states, a lot of my friends would remark about how “lucky” I was that I was a dual citizen of the US and Canada. I’ve written about Canada and why I don’t think it’s as golden as leftists in the states make it out to be before, but I want to touch on another controversial topic: self-defense.

When I told my boyfriend I was going to be out late for classes and lectures, he immediately asked if he could send me a bottle of pepper spray. We talked about it for a while before deciding that it would be in my best interest to be able to defend myself regardless of how safe Montreal is known to be. Yesterday, he reminded me that I really needed to purchase a can or let him send me one. After digging around and trying to see where I could find any form of mace, I was informed that it is illegal in Canada.

Canada has some pretty strict laws regarding firearms. Vice did a great video showing exactly how extensive and irritating the process of purchasing a gun legally is. Although many people agree that firearms are not necessary for a day to day life, they may not be aware of what objects are classified as such a label. Under Canadian law, pepper spray is in the category of firearms.

Kellie Leitch, a member of the Canadian House of Commons, recently proposed that ban on pepper spray be lifted for the sake of women’s rights. The government responded with a statement to the Huffington Post:

“… Ms. Leitch’s proposal is unrealistic and offensive to women across this country. Her misguided approach places the onus on women to defend themselves rather than focusing on addressing and preventing gender-based violence…”

As a woman, I actually do want the onus to defend myself to be placed on me. I don’t trust anyone more than myself to do what is best for me in a crisis. I sure as hell do not want to depend on the Canadian government’s ability to “address and prevent gender-based violence” instead of respecting my right to defend myself. There is not enough security in their promise.

You may be asking yourself, what can Canadian’s use to protect themselves? Well, we get to use the Streetwise My Kitty Self Defense Key Chain.

self defense

At this point, I’m not really sure what the Canadian government is trying to express. On the one hand, they want women to understand that they shouldn’t expect or prepare for assault because the government is working so hard to end it, but on the other hand, they give us degrading options like a pointy keychain that looks like a cute cat. What’s worse, the fact that my government is trying to make me believe that the reason they took away my right to defend myself was to lift me from oppression or that my only choice to get around self-defense laws is this ridiculously embarrassing toy?

Women do not want the state to take our self-defense into their control. They want the right to carry pepper spray, the right to feel safe late at night, and the right to know that their families aren’t dreading a phone call that the ended up dead in a metro station. Kelly Leitch’s proposal was not oppressive to women. What is oppressive is that women now have to depend on the promise that the Canadian government will do such a good job at ending gender-based violence that we don’t even need to think about protecting ourselves. This is not only a problem for Canadian women, but for everyone residing in this country. We were all born with the right to take our own security into our hands until it was stripped from us and we were told to say “thank you.”

Eloragh

How to be a DJ

I was 17 when I was offered my first job as a DJ. I had done my senior project on education and how I had made my way through the broken system. The final product prompted one of my mentors to ask me to host a radio show about ed reform. I was an amateur media enthusiast at the time. My only experience with media work was the documentary I had made the previous year. Although that documentary won its category, I couldn’t deny it’s mediocrity. I went into the studio, doubting my ability to act as a mediator and draw ideas out of my peers, but I left feeling elated. Not only was I capable of my job, I was fantastic. Our show was a success and it was the first time I had ever heard young people around me sharing their stories and criticizing the system they were forced into.

My next show was about gun violence and reform. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, we wanted to bring the student voice to light again. We had a lot of contrasting views in the studio, but regardless of the difference in opinion, everyone agreed that the Stoneman Douglass students represented a new wave of young adults who were not only willing to have their voice heard, but demanded it. The recognition that I had experienced with my first radio show began to feed my confidence. I knew I was capable in the technical side of the studio, now I wanted to challenge myself as a leader.

I did my third show today. It was more of a marketing program, but it still meant a lot to me. I am currently working with Dr. Yonty Freisem to promote his Media Production Hive curriculum. True Kids 1 and Dr. Freisem’s curricula fit together perfectly, with both sides focusing on media education, student voice, literacy, and empathy. Our show was truly just an advertisement and informational piece on this effort, but we were still able to converse in a Socratic form. As we finished our discussion on what it meant to be conscious on social media and the importance of teaching students to be digital citizens, I felt more comfortable in the studio than ever before.

So that was it, three shows in and I felt like a real DJ. I would be lying if I said the content of my broadcasts were consistent, but the quality of them are. At the beginning of the show, I talked a little about how important it was for me to be given an opportunity to act professional and operate in a professional setting. My mentor jumped in and told me how he wanted everyone involved in the program (True Kids 1)  to excel as much as I did. Although I appreciate his comments, I can’t say that the quality of excellence I was able to achieve is unique to me.

Why are my achievements seen as rare or uncommon? They’re not. The only difference between myself and every other student in school today is that I was granted the chance to act as a professional in a setting I was interested in. Doing a radio show sounded exciting and new, so I naturally wanted to appear prepared and poised. By just allowing me the opportunity, my mentor had already given me a reason to reach for a higher level of quality. I wanted to prove that nothing stood in my way of doing the best job possible. I wasn’t going to allow my age or my education dictate what kind of professional environment I did well in. I was going to let my passion, my drive, and my happiness tell me where I should place my efforts.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of students don’t feel as though they deserve a chance similar to the one I was given. Public education has a funny way of crushing a young person’s self-esteem and making them disassociate from the “adult” world. However, when given the opportunity to integrate themselves into a world of skill and experience, they are so grateful and excited that they will strive to be their best without any outside force.

How to be a DJ is the same thing as how to have a job you enjoy. Every student, every person who is willing to show how hard they can work is deserving of an opportunity to act on that will.

However, being deserving of an opportunity doesn’t mean it will come along by chance. Being young is difficult, people will automatically assume you are less capable, but that just means they will be even more pleasantly surprised when you prove your worth. Get yourself that opportunity, network, make friends, ask for a chance, do your research, always work harder than you did yesterday, and show them the value they don’t expect. We can make excuses about things we cannot control, but achieving excellence is not about focusing on the obstacles, it’s about looking for the solutions.

Eloragh

Dakar

Ritsy cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc. usually share a lot of similar qualities. Dakar is the elite city of Senegal where the 1% of this mostly impoverished country ignore everything going on in the fishing villages and countryside as they party their life away.

Today is my last day in Senegal. I spent most of my time here in Mekhe, a small village about 90 minutes out of Dakar. That is where I expected to spend all of my time, working and creating plans and reports. Although I did spend quite a bit of time on that, I also traveled a lot while in Senegal. Dakar is not the truth of this country.

Yesterday, we went to a fishing village called Tivaouane. The roads were made of dark, deep, hot sand with goat droppings mixed in. Most of the villagers could be found along the beach, either catching, smoking, or selling fish. The kids were playing in the rough Atlantic, even though there were what seemed to be jellyfish litering the shore. Their boats represented their livelihoods.

You will not hear any words of pity from me. The Senegalese people, the African people do not need Western pity. The men and women of the fishing village do not want our pity, they want jobs, they want a functioning economy, they want opportunities to become independent.

African poverty is not a failure of people, it is a failure of democracy. Americans especially like to believe that more democracy is the solution to everything. Although democracy often leads to more economic freedom, it is not a solution on it’s own. Much more will have to be done before Senegal will see it’s peoples potential. Fortunately, there are people who do not waste time that work tirelessly to see this perpetual state of poverty end.

I will probably be writing about Africa for a while. I learned a lot while I was in Mehke and I see it as my responsibility to pass my newfound knowledge on.

Eloragh