Planning Years

When one is asked to plan out the next few years of their life, it can feel scary. I still have doubts, I still have fear, I’m still hesitant about everything I am doing, but at least I know that I have options if I want to opt-out.

I twisted my back today so I’m tired.

Eloragh

Midterm Season

I have always hated the western school year schedule. I know there are arguments as to why schools choose the 9 months of fall, winter, and spring and allow students to have the summer, but I’ve still thought it was strange. If schools wanted to be more intelligent, they would follow more of a business style of planning and break their year up into 4 quarters, allowing students to chose which quarter they want off.

However, that is not what this blog is about. Midterms are approaching here at McGill and the library is packed with students every hour of every day. They even extended their hours so we can spend more time worrying about how we’re only halfway through the semester and we’ve forgotten what we learned at the beginning of our classes.

I’ve never struggled with tests. I probably approach them too casually, in all honesty. It’s not that I don’t see the point in studying like mad or that I think I’m above the stress of it all, it’s just never gotten to me. I did ok on my SAT, pretty good on my ACT, and got enough AP credits to finish my entire McGill freshman program without ever stepping foot in a lecture hall. That’s a decent record in my book.

Tomorrow morning, I am attending a cycling class at 7am, getting to the library by 8am, and will continue to study until 9:35am, when I will head over to the McConnell Engineering building to get to my Anthropology class. From 10:05 to 11:25, I will participate in an exam that consists of 7 long answer questions that will test my knowledge and application of concepts such as structural functionalism and legal pluralism.

Not to jinx myself or sound like an arrogant little freshman, but these concepts are all bark and no bite. Their names definitely sound intimidating, but they have no depth to them. Their definitions are in their names. Despite feeling incredibly confident for this exam, I can’t help but remember a concept that has proven to be true numerous times in my life: The more confident you feel in how you did, the more likely you are to be disappointed by the outcome.

To elaborate on that idea, I will offer an example. I took a French quiz right before I left for Austin. I was the first one in my class to finish and felt incredibly confident in my answers. I got a 70% on that test. Not too bad for one of my first college quizzes, but it definitely wasn’t the A I was expecting.

So, that’s why I will continue to study. I may have an arrogant voice inside my head, but I can choose when to listen to it.

Eloragh

Writing What People Want

Sometimes I find it very difficult to keep up with my writing. This blog definitely keeps me in check, but some days I create better content than others. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to write meaningful blogs or articles every day, but it’s easy to do so on the days that you’re motivated. So, you may have a poor low-quality blog to high-quality blog ratio, but you can still reach a large audience if you make that ratio work for you.

When writing your high-quality content, you have to write in such a way that you get your point across while making it readable. If I open up a blog that’s more than 7 paragraphs long, I already know that I will not get through it. I don’t have the time, patience, or focus to read something so long. Keep your blogs short, witty, and to the point.

You also want to focus on what people like to read. What is the formatting? Does it include more or less illustration or visual element? Is it more sarcastic or more literal? Who are you appealing to? These questions will help you define how you get your point across and how to do so in a way that will get you the most reach.

The reality of being a writer of any kind is that you’re going to fail. You will fail ten thousand times before you experience one blip of success. The best writers don’t let their failure phase them. They write not because they expect fame or recognition but because they are passionate about their ideas and believe they’re worth spreading. That genuine love of what you do is also what will truly appeal to your readers. It’s hard to hide a lack of love in writing. If you’re spirited in what you say, your audience will feel your fire and feed it back to you.

Eloragh

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

Take Advantage of Willpower

When I was trying to get healthier physically, I was always reminded that habits have the advantage over willpower. I always disliked this idea because it seemed to be that the two forces go hand in hand. To develop healthy habits, it took a lot of willpower to start eating better, exercising, and taking care of myself mentally. It was a lot of work for it to become routine, but once it did, it was hard to shake.

A friend of mine told me recently that she scheduled all of her classes in the morning because she wanted to get her day started early and if she had all afternoon classes she would just sleep in. Although I understood what she meant, I wanted to tell her that it was totally possible, and probably more sustainable in the long run, if she just exercised some willpower for a few weeks until waking up earlier became a habit.

I’ve always been a night owl and an early bird, so it’s important to me that I find a way to get 8 hours of sleep while still being able to stay up later but wake up before noon. When I was in high school, I had the worst trouble getting up the morning. Part of that struggle definitely came from the fact that I wasn’t motivated to get to school because I didn’t enjoy my experience there, but most of the problem was exhaustion.

Despite understanding the science of why teenagers need a lot of sleep, I still had to find a way to get up earlier and have more energy. My exhausted state was no longer becoming sustainable and I knew it was important for me to focus on schoolwork at the time I was dealing with this. So, I took advantage of my willpower. I forced myself to make certain habits for two to four weeks. If they hadn’t stuck or, at the very least, weren’t easier by that time, I could drop them. Most of the habits not only stuck, but I found myself looking forward to acting on them.

Willpower, in my opinion, is underutilized and underappreciated. There is so much power in being so motivated and excited about the possibility of the future that you can force yourself through the difficult times. If they continue to be difficult for too long, then you’ll know that those habits were not for you. While habits may be more sustainable in the long term, willpower is an excellent way to take advantage of the initial motivation and excitement that comes with starting a new phase in life.

Eloragh

Exhaust Yourself

Lately, I found that I have to exhaust myself to be able to sleep at night. I took about a 2-month break from ballet and exercising in general, but it’s time to get started again. Although my time off was beneficial for my mind and body, it’s become more of a drain as time has gone on. My body needs to be physically exhausted for me to sleep well, function properly the next day, and process my energy intake properly.

There is value to exhausting yourself. I believe that we aren’t really meant to sleep when we still have the capacity to go. The feeling of sore muscles and nothing left to give is the feeling that makes me enjoy going to bed at night. It gives me an idea of how hard I worked that day. I may mentally exhaust myself, but if I don’t do the same physically, the imbalance of forces will inevitably be noticeable in my everyday life.

The trick is to find something that makes you want to exhaust yourself. For me, it will always be ballet, but recently it’s also been cycling and pilates. It’s been exploring Montreal by foot. It’s been walking up and down my university campus until my calves are screaming at me to rest. If you don’t enjoy how you tire yourself out, then you will always be focused on the fact that you’re just trying to exhaust yourself.

Eloragh

p.s. I fell down twice going up the escalator in my metro station after ballet class last night. There is also value in knowing when to stop. Happy Humpday.

 

Working Remotely: How to Recover

Recently, it seems like the dream for people in the workforce is to work remotely. I often hear friends of mine say “I wish I could work from home. A remote job would give me so much freedom to live and travel and experience what I have been missing out on in life.” This idea is not false, not at all, but, like many other things in life, it is incredibly romanticized. My remote internships have given me hundreds of opportunities and opened doors to my future I would have never considered before. However, it takes discipline and passion to keep yourself from falling off the wagon when you don’t have immediate pressure.

When I moved to Montreal and started school at McGill, I underestimated the amount of time I would need to dedicate to school. It’s been a little over a month since I started, and I feel as though I’m getting the hang of things, but I have a lot to catch up on before I’m in the clear. My internships and most of my life outside of school had to be put on hold so I could find my balance and figure out how to manage a new lifestyle, culture, and style of learning.

Now that I have a pattern of working and studying, I’m prepared to integrate remote work back into my schedule. Yesterday, I finally finished a rough draft of a project I was supposed to send to my boss months ago. The great thing about being an unpaid intern is that, because you’re doing free work, your boss can be pretty lenient, but that comes at an expense to your professionalism. You may not face the same kind of punishments as you would if you were being paid, but how does your image to your boss suffer? Will they ever hire you for a paid position if you can’t prove you’re abilities while the pressure is low?

I’m incredibly fortunate that I know both of my “bosses” fairly well, and they understand that moving to a new country and start at a new school is a huge change that will come with uncertainty. The past month hasn’t just been about settling into the increased workload, it’s been about figuring out how to grocery shop, how to manage my money, how to live with strangers, how to divide up housework, and how to take care of myself in the face of immense stress. But now, it’s time to recover.

When recovering from a setback while doing remote work, the hardest part of getting back will be your first day. Whenever you decide to start working at your normal pace again, it will be difficult. You will probably experience a lack of motivation, an inability to work at your full capacity, and a nagging in the back of your mind saying “why even start again? Why bother?”

The stress of beginning again will pass. It will take time and discipline, just like all aspects of remote work do, but during this time it is important to remember why you started your work. Is it something you’re passionate about? Does it give you the life you want? Are you allowed a flexible lifestyle because of how you work? Instead of focusing on the ways that starting again and working more inhibit you and stress you out, think of how they make your life easier and more enjoyable.

When you recover and as you do so over and over again, every time you have to pick yourself up will get easier and faster. You will have more reasons to start, more memories as to why you love what you do, and more experience getting back on your feet. Give yourself time and patience as you work your way into a new phase, but learn the difference between being gentle and making excuses. We all go through difficult periods, but what differentiates those who succeed on their own from those who can’t manage it is the ability to push forward and challenge yourself despite the discomfort you will face.

Eloragh

Photo credit to alternative.ei