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

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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 

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 

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