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

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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

Hello, November

You have 60 days left in 2018 to do something. Who cares what that is? All you should focus on is the fact that you have 60 days with nothing to lose. 60 days to do 60 things and learn 60 something-news. You get the idea. 60 days.

When I think about what I associate November with, I think of coziness, family, comfort, food, holidays, etc. I think about all of those warm, fuzzy feelings that accompany the New Year. I’ve always thought of November in warm colors. The reds and oranges and yellows of the end of fall never cease to make me feel welcomed and loved. They are colors of passion, desire, and happiness.

As time creeps on, Winter tends to make me feel isolated and cold (big shock.) New Years has always felt the coldest to me. The tinsel and sparkles that people use around January 1st are so metallic and harsh, I find it hard to see them as festive.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always associated the New Year with leaving behind good memories that will never be relived. Of moving on into a new, frightening 12 months with who knows what in store. It feels as though I am doing the same thing I did the previous January – looking down the long path that leads to Christmas.

Welcome, November. You will be my favorite month.

Eloragh

How Long is Too Long

When is enough enough? This is a question I have always struggled with. When will I be sick enough of what I am doing that the rewards I am offered are not valuable enough to keep me slogging away?

I’ve spent twelve and a half years in education. As the semester inches to an end, I find myself feeling the same sense of dread that I have spent for the majority of my life. My grades loom over me like an all-seeing-eye, reminding me that I’m not free to do much of anything if I can’t keep my GPA at a 3.0

The reality I’m facing is scary. I do feel as though I have let a part of my life go. I don’t feel like I am the same person who left New Mexico two months ago. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I had grown in a positive direction, but I feel as though I have done the opposite. My confidence in my abilities and intelligence is faltering. I am scared to let it fall any more than it already has.

I know I have options, but even that fact frightens me. Last night, I learned that I have support from those I love to do whatever I want to do that will make me happy. They have told me that my mental health and joy come before any kind of degree or association. Although this conversation relieved me, it added a new kind of pressure. Now, the choice is put onto me. So what do I want to do?

For a long time, as long as I can remember, I have wanted to make an impact. Who doesn’t right? No one goes out into the world with the goal of being ordinary and quiet. No one interesting anyway.  Of course I want to make an impact. When I made my food pantry, I knew I was making an impact. When I did my senior project speaking out against my school, I knew I was standing up for every student who had been trampled on by an administration. I knew that my radio shows were making an impact. When my blogs or pieces for Original Path are spread through social media, that’s an impact.

That feeling is what elation is. It motivates me like nothing other. That desire to expand my reach far and wide is what gets me out of bed in the morning, keeps me eating well and exercising, and motivates me to take care of myself emotionally. If I allow myself to feel like shit when I can do something else, my reach is not valuable, because what I advocate becomes a load of bullshit.

Maybe that’s where my fear lies. If I stay and get my degree, do what everyone expects me to do, I will surely be in a secure place, but I’ll also be miserable. If I leave and do something daring, I will be following my own advice and putting myself into a new situation filled with fear and excitement. I’ll be on the edge of something amazing. I may still be miserable, I may find that my unhappiness does not lie in my environment or situation. However, I’ll never know if I don’t try something new.

Nobody tells you how scary freedom is when you’re constantly battling for it. Nobody tells you how you won’t know what to do once you have it.

Eloragh

The Perfect Blogger

I’ve never claimed that blogging every day would be my goal forever, as much as I would like to think that I have that kind of ambition. Although daily blogging has given me a lot, I realized that it is hard for me to sustain.

Despite this realization, I don’t want to give up. I enjoy writing, I love sharing my thoughts, and I love creating content. Even though I have faced many many bumps along this road, I’m not going to pull over just yet. November is a new month, with new goals, and new opportunities. My November ambition is starting on October 28th.

I’ll be going to AynRandCon next weekend and I am incredibly excited. I have yet to read anything from Ayn Rand (although I am slowly making my way through Atlas Shrugged), but I was impressed by the Ayn Rand Institute’s dedication to young entrepreneur’s and ambitious people who want to connect. I cannot wait to meet so many bright, young minds.

This week, I am working on a paper about consciousness, attending lectures about the anthropology behind immigration, and desperately trying to stay afloat in my French class. Bless my professor’s heart, she is the sweetest, most welcoming woman, but I am starting to wonder if my French is salvageable. If anyone can save it, it’s her.

See you tomorrow.

Eloragh

Collect Yourself, Then Move

These last few weeks have been filled with essays and exams. I’m completely exhausted from every hoop I have had to jump through in October. I decided to take a little time off from school today and do some work on projects outside of academics.

I wrote a piece on Original Path, created a video for a company I really want to work with, and spent some time with people that are very important to me. I took a moment to collect myself before moving on from this difficult but rewarding experience.

Now it’s time to continue on.

Eloragh

Two Months Down

As October is coming to a close, I want to reflect on how my first two months of university have been. In short, I am not confident that I will be able to continue here.

There are parts of adult life that I was unprepared for. Being in a different country all by myself has created different kinds of anxiety in my life. Charting new banks, government offices, healthcare systems, etc. while figuring out how to simply live by myself has been hard.

I’m determined to continue to try. Regardless of whether or not I decide to stay in college, figuring out my life is not a choice. I have to find a way to live and function that works for me. I have to create a budget and stick to it, get my nutrition back under my control, and pull myself together in general.

However, I want to do this slowly. I think I should focus on feeling good before I try to become uber organized.

Eloragh