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 

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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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Bad Grades

I’m not failing any of my classes, but for the first time in my life, I’m not excelling in them either. It feels like shit.

I have C’s in most of my classes right now. Yesterday, I wrote about how exhausted I was. Part of that exhaustion comes from the fact that I am putting in 110% to these classes and I am barely passing them.

Sometimes I wonder if our professors are setting us up for failure. All I hear about is how freshmen are not expected to get good grades. The exams and quizzes are not relevant to the content we are learning. I’m so tired of studying and reading exhausting academic papers that are so dense and filled with unnecessary words.

It’s hard not to feel like an idiot in this environment. When I question every day why I am studying, why I am working so hard, why I am putting my sanity on the line for teachers who don’t seem to care if I fail or not. I’m paying out the ass for this school and being told that I should be grateful towards McGill as well.

Bad grades are hard to deal with. Being screwed out of thousands of dollars and being told to say “thank you” is a recipe for a breakdown.

Eloragh

Take it Day by Day

Exhaustion is a tricky beast. Some days, you’re fine, you can get through twelve hours without much trouble. Other days, you’re better than fine. You can do so much within the time the sun rises to the time it sets, you wonder why you don’t do that much every day. Those weird days though, those are the ones that get me.

I’ve been hit with exhaustion every day for the past week. After going to AynRandCon, coming back and learning I had two exams, a paper, and a film analysis due within a week was like being smacked in the face by five different hands. I’m so tired.

Just writing this blog is taking an immense amount of energy. It frustrates me that I can’t write about more sophisticated, interesting topics that truly challenge my skills as a writer, but I have to acknowledge that this time is hard for me.

My boyfriend reminds me to take it day by day. I know I can’t do anything to get out of my situation right now that wouldn’t jeopardize my ability to come back if I wanted to. I need to be patient, keep giving it a chance, and then decide what I want to do at the end of the year.

Finals are coming up. It feels like midterms just ended. I’m more tired than I have ever been.

Eloragh

The Value of Being Purely Exhausted

After my weekend at the conference, I am beat. I have not been as tired as I am right now since I first came to Montreal a few months ago. I got in late last night and didn’t get to bed until 1am this morning. I woke up at 8 so I could buy myself breakfast because I haven’t been able to go grocery shopping in two weeks.

But I did it. I did everything I needed to do today. I went to every single class, sent out a proposition to a job that I have been interested in for a long time, and managed to visit a professor (which is a lot harder than it may seem. I cleaned out my fridge, explained to my roommates why I was gone all weekend, and spent the evening with my dad. I have to give myself some credit.

Sometimes exhaustion feels good. It feels earned and welcomed. There are days when it is so much better to be unimaginably tired by the evening than it is to feel as though you didn’t get enough done.

Eloragh

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

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