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

Take Every Achievement

I haven’t been sick since early February. I am not surprised that I caught a cold the weekend before my last week of term. Whether it’s karma for pushing myself so hard in March, or my own fault for refusing to wait to ask my sick professor a question, it’s here.

Yesterday, I ordered takeout. I like UberEats, but I’ve found that there are only a few restaurants that I really enjoy. The one I ordered from yesterday was just ok, but definitely not worth the $30 it cost me. I refused to order again today and forced myself to the grocery store.

Just the effort of balancing my body on the metro exhausted me. The grocery store I go to is small and always busy, so I felt a little claustrophobic and guilty for going to such a public place while sick. I did my best to keep my mouth covered and not cough. I got out as fast as possible.

There have been days during this term that have been downright miserable, but there have also been days where I felt like I could take on the world. I have pushed myself far, but it’s been worth it. I’m stronger mentally and physically and my performance in classes has gone up. I knew that my hard work would pay off, but stressing my mind and body always comes with consequences.

I take the big achievements with the small ones. My acceptance to UNC as an exchange student was a big achievement. Going to the grocery story today was a small one. Both made me happy and added something to my life, like not having to order expensive, crappy take out again.

We should take what we can get. There will always be opportunities for bigger and better things on the horizon. If you body or mind is telling you to slow down for a moment, acknowledge it. You don’t have to rest forever, but you do have to rest eventually.

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

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

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How are You Making the Connection?

Someone that I have a lot of respect for asked me this question recently. We were having coffee with a group of people, and I happened to be the only one (I think) that had chosen to go to college. When scheduling this meeting, I knew I might face some questions about my choices and the practicality of them, so I prepared myself.

The absolute truth is that university alone is not enough anymore. I love what I do at McGill, but I can’t just do school work if I want to be successful in the future. That’s why I love side projects. Working with Social Evolution is a side project. Working on Original Path is a side project. Going to ballet and Orange Theory is a side project. Everything that I do outside of my primary focus (university) is a side project. They keep me sane and they keep me well rounded.

When this question popped up, I was ready to answer. I told them about my projects and all of the things I was doing outside of university to keep myself in the realm of professionalism. I also told them how much I enjoy the work I do in Linguistics and Philosophy and how it has made my life much richer and more collaborative. Showing them the connection between the value of the education I wanted and the value of everything I work on outside of school made me feel confident in my decision to pursue a degree.

So, how are you making the connection? Are you working on side projects? Are you keeping your health and happiness in mind? Are you considering passions that you may have been disregarding?

Any decision can be valuable, but you have to have reason and logic behind the decision. I struggled with knowing what I wanted to do for almost a year before realizing that I can do everything I want to. It may not happen all at once, but imagine if it did? That would be even worse, what an organizational nightmare.

Start thinking about how everything in your life is connected to your personal and professional development. You probably will be asked to justify your choices one day. Instead of worrying that it’s unfair or stressful, think about your choices, think about your connections, and fill in the gaps. Be prepared to answer the questions. You’ll be surprised how much more confident it makes you in your decisions.

Best

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