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

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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

Developing Your Portfolio

Well, the semester sure started with a BANG for me. A kidney infection and ten days of recuperation in Charleston have left me feeling stronger and ready to tackle the work I have ahead of me. Just in time for the midterm season too.

A few weeks ago, I received a golden opportunity to have my resume analyzed and torn down by someone who I – and many, many others – consider to be an expert in this field. I immediately jumped on it and just made it into the pool of candidates. A week later, I got a video response in my inbox. I knew my ego would take a major hit, so I didn’t open it for three days.

Fortunately, I was wrong and the person was very honest but also very kind about it. I appreciated the unexpected bits of praise that were thrown around in the response. Before they looked into my resume though, they asked me what job I was aiming for and if I had a portfolio to accompany it.

I have my portfolio on this website, which is a fantastic representation of what I have been able to get done in roughly 2 – 3 years. As great as that portfolio is, it doesn’t zero in on what I want to sell myself as – a marketer. My first question was “is the portfolio I have on my website something I could sell as a ‘marketing portfolio’?” The answer is no, it is not.

When applying for marketing positions, I usually take quite a bit of time to develop a project specifically for the company I am applying for that relates to a hole in their marketing or audience, one of their current goals, or a potential client. The projects vary by company, but that’s the gist of it. So far, it’s been great for me. Even though I didn’t get every position I applied for, I was still building my portfolio. I just didn’t know it.

So, I pulled together what I could into a makeshift file and called it my portfolio. It’s not my strongest work, but the realization that I needed to start compiling my past samples in such a way was perhaps a better achievement. It helped me to understand a few key elements of applications that can be used for almost any position:

  1. Your portfolio should be easy and efficient for the reviewer to look through. Use your best 5 – 10 works depending on how long you’ve been in your career.
  2. Focus on what they are looking for. Really narrow the details of the job posting or description. A custom or even semi-custom portfolio for each application could help tip the scale in your favor.
  3. Building a portfolio takes time. If you’re 18, like me, your portfolio might be small and that’s ok. The best thing you can do is continue to apply for jobs, continue to learn new programs and skills that you can put into use in those applications, and save every last bit of work you do.

Resumes are great, but portfolios are even better. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes, figure out how you want to present your abilities, and make it happen. Understanding what control you do have over your applications will help you refine them and make better impressions.

Best

Eloragh

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