Thursday, March 31, 2011

My (Almost) Last Day As A TA

It finally dawned on me today that there's only one week left in this semester.

And three months until I leave Kingston for good.

It boggles the mind, doesn't it? That this entire year went by so fast? I'm not even going to begin thinking about the possibilities for next year. It actually scares me that I haven't made a decision yet.

So, anyway. I've refrained from blogging about TA-ing on this blog. Because, well, you know. Common sense. So I won't be going into specifics about today's tutorial. But I will say this: I've realized that I will sincerely, genuinely miss my students.

I will be TA-ing one more tutorial next week. But today was the last day of tutorials for the other section that I teach. Anyway, I expected today's class to be a good discussion. I knew they would all have something to say about Haiti. But I didn't expect what happened at the end of tutorial.

I ended the last few minutes by talking about the upcoming federal election, giving my two cents on why I think they should consider voting. Please, kids, please please consider voting! Please get to know who is running in your riding! Please! And then, with some concluding comments, I dismissed them.

However, most of my students didn't leave. I was confused, until I saw what a couple of them were about to do. Instead of leaving, a majority of them stayed back to say "thank you" and to give me a card that conveyed their thanks. The message was adorable.

And, okay. It was absolutely, positively, the sweetest thing ever.

One student even told me that our tutorials were the reason she decided to major in Politics. That she discovered how much she loved the discipline.

I can't even describe how surprised I was. Oh, how far we've come from the beginning of the year, yea? Remember our reservations? That anxious feeling, not knowing whether teaching would come as easily as we'd like it? Honestly, at the beginning of the year, I wasn't sure if I'd even like TA-ing. I think many of us had doubts. Would we be good TAs? Would we be able to answer all their questions? Give proper advice? Get all that marking done? And yet, as I went through the year, I realized how much I loved it. I know academia isn't for me, but if, on an alternate universe, I decided to stay. It would, honestly, be for this.

This feeling of knowing that you taught something you loved. And that you were able to transfer that love and interest to another student. I love what I study. And helping another student discover such an interest is one of the best feelings in the world. I can't even express on this blog how happy I am to know that students out there are falling in love with the study of politics.

It warms the deep, dark cockles of my ogre's heart. It really does.

And, honestly? Now that I've reached the end, I think I'm really going to miss being a TA. It was such an enlightening, wonderful experience. I'll never forget it.

"The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn."
- John Lubbock

"Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words--- 'wait and hope.'"
- Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Is Why "Politics" Disappoints Me

Before you go any further, I'll assure you that this isn't the post you think I'm about to write. This won't get personal. And, no, I won't be flooding this post with nonsensical, political jargon.

I just want to rant. Will you let me? Here I go.

Wait. First, I'm going to tell you a couple of stories.

ANECDOTE 1 - The Left Wing Nutjob?

A couple of weeks ago, I was out for drinks with some new friends who I didn't know too well (hence, the going out for drinks thing. A good way to get to know each other, yeah?). Anyway, one of them made a joke about my department.

"So, I heard about the Commies over there. Is it true?" they joked (but, not really joking, if you know what I mean), "How do you deal with those left wing nutjobs, anyway? God, they must be such terrible people. So unreasonable. I swear, those people are crazy. They think people are evil just because they wear suits and nice clothes. What kind of sheltered crap is that?"

Um. There are a few things wrong with this picture. Not least of these being that you're insulting my department to my face. But, let's carry on.

ANECDOTE 2 - Those Evil Capitalists?

Again, a couple of weeks ago, I was out for drinks (again) with some (other) new friends (I swear, I do have time for school). With news about a pending election, they casually asked me if I'd be voting NDP. After my hesitant reply (I have to weigh the options, obviously), they immediately froze.

"What? You're not voting orange?" one of them asked, horrified, "You're a terrible person."

And, casually, another asked, "So, what are your politics?"

After my moderate reply, he shook his head, and turned to our other friend, "Listen, I know people who think like us. We should, you know, create a club or something."

I then mentioned a friend in Economics who would be interested in something like that.

They stared at me, strangely.

"What? He doesn't think there's anything wrong with free markets?" they asked, "We can't be friends with him! What the hell? He's an evil capitalist. He must be a terrible person."

THIS IS WHY "POLITICS" DISAPPOINTS ME

Do we see a problem with these two scenarios? I do. And, ironically, these two camps of utter hypocrisy have more in common than they think they do.

My problem? Conflating a person's "politics" with the "type of person" they are. From what I've observed in the grad student community here, competing ideological camps have perceptions of each other as "Communist nutjobs" or "fancy-suit-wearing-capitalists," without getting to know them as actual people.

Conflating their "politics" with being a "terrible person"? Really?

Does anyone see a problem with these judgements? Anyone? I understand why you don't want to be someone's friend if they're actually, legitimately a jerk. But judging someone before actually getting to know them, on the basis of their political leanings? Without judging their personalities, without getting to know them as actual people? Or, for example, conflating what their parents do for a living with what type of people they are?
Like, your parents are dentists? Oh, you must be rich. Ergo, a capitalist. Ergo, can't be your friend, sucka! I need to judge you, like, right now!

Like, your father's a truck driver? Oh, you're a peasant. Ergo, radical Marxist. Ergo, can't be your friend, nutjob!

Like, I've "heard" he's an Economist. Must be a right-wing radical. Can't be his friend, nope!

Like, I've "heard" she's a Development Studies student. She must be a freaking Marxist, yo! I can't be friends with a Communist!
I'm actually sick of it. Now that I write this blog post, I don't know if its politics specifically that disappoints me. Or, rather, if it's just people themselves.

Granted, I'm guilty of this too, though. You don't want to imagine what was going through my mind during both of the above scenarios.

For people who think they're so educated, some grad students can be so incredibly close minded, no matter what "camp" they belong to. They believe so much in how they think the world should be, that they neglect another camp they should be understanding and listening to. Instead of debating or engaging or listening to each other's ideas, they close themselves off to ideological camps. Surrounding themselves with friends who ONLY think the way they do.

Both camps espouse the same elitist attitudes they accuse each other of exercising. Whose hypocritical now?

And, frankly, from what I've seen in the grad student community this year, I'm not surprised that our world is the way it is today. Why it's so full of division and hate. There's no interest in understanding each other. There's only interest in sheltering oneself with those who think the same way.

Now, I'm not saying that everyone in the grad student community thinks this way. I've met a number of friends who are so open-minded about ideology and the policies associated with each kind. But for those that don't? You cannot imagine how much this annoys me. And yet, despite my hopes, I know I'll still witness such behaviour.

And while I'm not naive enough to think that we can all come together under one ideology, one political camp (what? I know! Crazy!), I just wish we could just try to understand people before judging them and insulting them behind their backs. Understand why their "politics" is opposite from yours. Understand their logic. Understand where they're coming from.

Really, is that so hard? Or is gossiping and calling them names behind their backs just the easier option?

If grad students can't even be friends, and hate each other based on stereotypical ideological misconceptions, imagine what it's like with actual political Powers That Be?

It's disappointing, really. And so hypocritical. And, disheartening.

Grad school has taught me (among other things, of course), that people can disappoint you. In remarkable ways. Where is this love everyone keeps talking about? Because, between ideological lines, I don't see any love or understanding.

And we wonder why our world is so messed up? We don't understand each other, or even try to understand why others think they way they do. Nor do we stop and actually listen. And open our minds. If we want our world, our communities to be a better place, there's no place better to start than with ourselves.

“If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own... how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.”
- William Allen White

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
- Dale Carnegie

“We are all alike on the inside”
- Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This Is Why I Miss Home - Happy Birthday, Alicia!!!

Here's my birthday greeting. All the way from Kingston. On a blog you suggested I start, no less. Do you remember this? I hope you do.

Anyway, I know you're all the way on the other side of the world right now, being the do-gooder you are, having the time of your life, but we still can't wait to see you when you're finally home! And, seriously. Adventures in New York await us. So there's a lot of things to look forward to. Thanks for being such a wonderful, fabulous friend! You've been the best partner-in-crime anyone could ask for, and the past seven years I've known you (has it already been seven years?!) have gone by without a dull moment. I'm so glad to have you as one of my bestest, closest friends. May you be blessed with a wonderful new year of your life, full of fantastic opportunities, wonderful surprises, and even more adventures (Two words: Michael and Kors) as we go through this post-grad life together. Love you, friend! Happy Birthday!

And, you know, this is why I miss home. For those of you heading off to grad school next year, always remember the people who love you and care about you. At home. Though grad school has been a wonderful experience for me so far, I think it's also important to remember that grad school can be tough in another sense. There will be many people who will, unfortunately, desperately want you to fail in order to secure their success. It may not be the easiest process to make friends in a strange city, a new school, and new program. And most importantly, grad school can be emotionally and physically draining. So much that, at times, you think you've gone crazy. However, if all this happens to you, take heart.

Because, the antidote? A reminder of everything waiting for you back home. And, my friends, that's where my heart will forever be. With the city I love, and the friends I adore. And today, I miss you all so very very much. Thinking of all of you with warm thoughts and good wishes!

P.S. Do I sound homesick? Or do I sound homesick? Let's wager a guess. Can't wait to see you all.

"Surround yourself with people you love being yourself with."

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence."
- George Washington

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Post-Grad Trip #3 - New York, New York All Over Again!

I am officially a Woo Girl.

No, really. That was the first squeal of glee I made when Mishal proposed a New York trip over the weekend.

What's a Woo Girl, you ask? Let Ted Mosby explain it to you.

Two years ago, a few weeks before our university graduation, my friends and I went to New York for the first time. And boy, did we love it. Seriously, I loved this city. From wandering SoHo, the Empire State Building, getting lost trying to find the Empire State Building, Chinatown, Canal Street, Little Italy, Central Park, Times Square, the random house party in Brooklyn (or was it Queens?), there was so much to do, so much to see. It was an awesome experience and, in short, it was an epic trip.

And so, we decided that every summer after graduation, we would travel somewhere together. Somewhere, anywhere. And, friends, that`s still the plan. Until we`re old and gray, we`ll be travelling somewhere together every year. And, last year, we embarked on our first Eurotrip ever: the adventures in Rome, Paris, and London, that I wrote about here.

This year, our initial plan was to jet off to Spain in July. Barcelona? Madrid? Awwww yeah. But unfortunately, reality calls. We realized a couple of months ago that Barcelona and Madrid will have to wait until next year. The timing just isn't right for many of us. Jobs? Returning from other trips abroad? Jobs? Trying to finish Masters degrees? Europe just won't work out this summer.

So where are we going for our yearly trip instead?

Well, back to New York, of course.

Wooooooooo.

See? There's a Woo Girl in me, somewhere.

I am so, so excited. I initially feared that our yearly post-grad trip wouldn't happen because of our busy schedules. But, thankfully, our travel plans are back on track. And a four-day trip to New York will be just the perfect antidote to the academic stress I`ll be under, come May.

So, the plan? This trip will be a little different than the last.

Meaning, we won't be taking an Asian bus tour this time. Oh, yeah. Did I mention Taipan Tours was involved the last time we were in New York? So. Awesome. But as much as we loved the quirky people on that tour with us, the plan this time is to take in as much of New York as possible. This means living right in the heart of Manhattan, visiting the places we didn't get to go to last time (the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, pastry shops on Broadway, Statue of Liberty, etc.), and maybe, just maybe, I can sneak away and visit NYU's Law School. Just because.

I am so excited. Did I mention that I`m really excited? The last time we were in New York, I was editing my undergraduate thesis. And this year, I'll be doing the same thing again. No doubt, I'll be editing a draft of that Masters Research Paper to the wee hours of the night in our hotel room after a day of shopping and sightseeing.

But it's worth the sacrifice. This trip will be spectacularly awesome, I can feel it. I can`t wait to travel with you girls yet again.

Also. I eagerly anticipate loitering around Times Square, as per tradition.

New York, can't wait to be back!



“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day, the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.”
- Jay Leno

"For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."
- John F. Kennedy

“It couldn't have happened anywhere, but in little old New York.”
- William Sydney Porter

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Message For The Ones We Will Forever Love

I don't usually go into deep-seeded details about my personal life here on this dear blog. School is enough of a topic as it is.

But today will be different. Today, I won't be ranting about school. Because sometimes, when we step back, we may realize that the important things we care about don't primarily lie with the books we spend all these hours with.

I'm 23 years old, but I've never experienced death.

I have never experienced the loss of a friend, nor have I learned how to deal with such a loss. But this changed this past weekend.

Death comes so swiftly. Too often, we think our young age connotates immortality. But, here's the thing. We're not invincible. Some of us can be plagued by sickness, by accidents, by unforeseen incidents that show us the realness of our mortality. And too often, the ones we love most, the ones we care for so dearly, swiftly leave the world without knowing how much we love them, how much we deeply cared for them.

This grad life is busy, I know. But sometimes, those assignments? They aren't the only things in the world that matter. There are people we love who matter to us. And so, tell them you love them. Please tell them. That you love them. One can never hear those words too often.

And when we lose a friend to death, the regret we feel knowing that we didn't say those words as often as we should have is a difficult reality to accept.

And so, I'll end this post with a message for a sweet, wonderful friend. A friend whose friendship I will forever remember and value.

My friend, I will miss you. For the rest of my life. I will remember you fondly, remember the years I've known you happy, and most importantly, healthy.

I'm so very sorry for not seeing you when I came home for Reading Week. The neurotic grad student in me thought she wouldn't have time to see all her friends, that she'd have time to see you the next time she came home from Queen's. I'm sorry for cancelling, friend. I'm so very sorry. And I'm sorry that we didn't have a chance to ride the #38 bus together one last time, to wait for that perpetually tardy #38 bus one last time, to complain about how we always lose our GO train tickets, how we hate admitting we watch Gossip Girl and yet we still do. And I'm sorry that we didn't have the chance to go shopping, or to discuss how Glee has gone downhill, or bunk at Muskoka together again, or go to Booster Juice, or figure out just how Blair Waldorf stays so fabulous, or to just, you know, wear our red heels simultaneously on the same Sunday morning all over again. And, most importantly, I'm sorry that I let this busy grad life think I was too busy to catch up with you. With all of you. For this, I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. And I will forever regret being too engrossed in school to think about what was going on back home.

I'll remember you, always. And I will forever treasure my favourite memories with you. Because, really? Five hour band practices? Fish and chips? The gas station with the "only Asian in Northern Ontario"? Plunging the toilet for the first time in our Muskoka cabin? Getting lost in Northern Ontario trying to get to Muskoka? Oh, these good times. Friend, I'll never forget that weekend. We were attached at the hip, literally. And, in all seriousness, it was a pleasure leading Compass youth every week with you.

My dear friend, your friendship, your kindness meant very much to me, more than you will ever know. You lived a life that many would be proud of. And I'm so very happy that you're in the arms of a loving God as I write this blog post today.

And while this weekend was heartbreaking, we know we'll see you again one day. And when I do see you again, rest assured that we'll go over everything we missed out on. All the Glee, all the Blair Waldorf. We'll have eternity to discuss it all.

My dear friend, I will simply say that, I love you. From the bottom of my heart. Our five-year friendship touched my heart from the day we first met. And for the rest of my life, I will never, ever forget you. May you rest in peace.

"May The Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace."

- Numbers 6:24

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
- The Wonder Years

"Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again after moments or a lifetime is certain for those who are friends."
- Richard Bach

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Convenience Store That Rips You Off & The Convenience Store That Saved Me

Okay. Let me tell you about my day. From 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, I sat at the library. From 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm, I went to TA my tutorial. From 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm, I sat at the library. Again. So, let's review. That's about nine long hours spent at the library today.

This Elections essay is taking over my life.

My knee is numb from sitting too long, and I'm so exhausted. Plus, as I stumbled out the library this evening, I realized that the last time I ate was at 12:00 pm today.

Yeah. I forgot to eat.

So, obviously, after trudging out the library, I was both tired and starving. But since I've been living at the library the past two weeks, I've barely had time to go to the grocery store. However, though I toyed with the idea of walking to Metro tonight, I was just too tired (read: lazy) to head all the way there.

So what's a tired grad student going to do for food? I thought I'd, you know, pick up something quick to cook at the local convenience store near the library, promising myself I'd start eating healthier next week.

THE CONVENIENCE STORE THAT RIPS YOU OFF

So have you guys been there? That Campus Variety Store at the corner of Earl Street and Albert Street? You haven't? Oh, that's okay. Don't go there. No, believe me, don't go there.

I hadn't checked out this convenience store all year, but resigned and tired, I fully expected items to be slightly overpriced because, well, it's a convenience store located right at the heart of the Student Ghetto. But, for the reasons outlined above, I couldn't go to a real grocery store. So I thought I'd suck it up, and get something to eat quick, as I didn't think prices would be that unreasonable.

I guessed wrong.

I walked down the first aisle, and the first indication of beyond overpriced food came when I glanced at a package of Catelli Smart pasta and saw it priced at $5.99.

What?!? That's $1.99 at Food Basics, yo!

I walked to the meat section to see how much their chicken was.

Yeah. A box of, like 10 chicken strips was priced at $12.99.

What?!? That's $7.99 at Food Basics!

I can't even.... yeah. No. I left. Right away. Why are you ripping students off, Campus Variety? Why?! I was indignant. I couldn't believe how overpriced the items were. And for students?! Who will inevitably need this food the most?

I cannot comprehend the absurdity.

THE CONVENIENCE STORE THAT SAVED MY DAY

Yet as I down Johnson Street, I realized my indignation still left me starving. Hungry. I was so very, very exhausted and hungry. I needed to cook and eat something, quick.

Then I remembered a convenience store that my housemates had mentioned earlier in the year. One that they said was relatively cheap because it was situated beyond the Ghetto. I wasn't too far away, so, off I walked, to the tiny little convenience store at the corner of Brock Street and Nelson Street.

It is, aptly, named Convenience Store.

I walked in, surprised to see how absolutely tiny it was. I'd never been inside. Looking around, I spotted an older Asian man waving at me, calling out a cheerful, "Good evening!"

Except. It was weird. He said "good evening" like a song. I mean, he said it like, "Good EEEV-neeeng!" Dragging out the syllables in a sing-songy manner, complete with high and low octaves. I can't even explain how weird and funny it was.

No, seriously. It was hilarious. Convenience Store is owned by the most quirky Singing Korean Man.

So, in a hurry, I headed down the meat aisle and found fresh sausages at an extremely reasonable price. My housemates were right about this place, I was so pleased.

And here, came the best part of my convenience store quest.

Because, well, Singing Korean Man kept singing as he rang up my purchase.

"ArEE yoUU ChiNEESEE?" he sang, jumping from higher and lower octaves.

Confused, yet amused, I replied I wasn't.

Pointing to himself, he sang, "I aMMMM KorEEEEEan!"

Nodding in excitement, I replied, "Really?! I watch your dramas all the time!"

"YoUUU watCHHH KorEEEEan drAAAmas?" Singing his heart out, he paused from putting my sausages in a bag and lifted his laptop from under the cash counter.

Oh, it was epic. Because, well, Singing Korean Man was, hilariously, watching a Korean drama on his laptop while he waited for customers. He was, of course, singing along with the Korean pop song blaring out of his speakers.

"Wow!" I enthused, "That's a good drama you're watching!"

"Thank Youuuuuu!" he handed me my sausages, "Gooood NIIIIGHT!"

Oh, my gosh. He was hilarious.

SO THE MORALS OF TODAY'S STORIES?
1. Don't forget to eat.
2. Campus College Variety is overpriced.
3. And Singing Korean Man who owns the Convenience Store on Brock Street is too awesome beyond words.

Go buy something and listen to him sing you a conversation! Go do it! It will be epic.

He will make your life. Just like he made my day.

Thanks for the cheap food and entertainment after a long, long, tiring day, Singing Korean Man! I will be back!

"Friendship is the glue that keeps our lives together, especially when it feels as if everything is falling apart."

"If there is ever a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think, but most important of all, even if we are apart, I'll always be with you."
- Christopher Robin to Winnie The Pooh

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Message For A Past TA - From A Former Student, With Appreciation

John Travolta? In Grease? Anyone?

Ever had a TA who made an academic difference? So helpful, beyond measure?

FIVE YEARS AGO...

In my second year at UofT, I had to take a required Political Theory course. And I did. POL200 wasn't bad. Actually, I loved it. My professor, Mark Lippincott, was fantastic, and made me love theory more than I thought I would (this was a pretty big deal, since I wasn't a fan of theory to begin with).

Anyway, as with almost all my classes at UofT, because we had a class of about 400 students, we had to attend smaller tutorial groups to discuss the material. But, the thing is, POL200 was funny in regards to tutorial groups.

Because, well, tutorial attendance wasn't mandatory.

I know, right? So that meant I didn't have to go, right?

Call me a nerd. Bring it. Because, heck yeah, I still attended.

Um. I wanted to learn.

Anyway, on that first day of tutorial, I stood around the entrance, and thought it was weird that no one was standing outside the tutorial room. Usually, we're all standing around awkwardly for the previous class to vacate the room. Well, anyway, once they did, I walked inside, sat down, looked around the humongous tutorial room, and thought it was weird that the room was totally empty.

A couple of minutes later, though, a guy walked in. And sat down. Nodded at me in acknowledgement. But said nothing.

We sat there in silence for, like, 15 minutes.

You guys, I'm telling you, sitting in silence with a total stranger in an empty, enclosed space is so awkward. So awkward. It's a situation that begs for at least some small-talk.

Plus, I stare a lot. And I stared at him in fascination for a really long time (more than I usually do), because, well, he looked really familiar to me. And I mean really familiar. I couldn't figure out why I thought I knew him.

But then it hit me. Drawing on my penchant for finding people's celebrity dopplegangers, I realized that's what he was. He looked like John Travolta, circa 1978, in Grease. Yeah, really. Only he was Greek. He had the black leather jacket and white t-shirt down, complete with abnormally tight, high-waisted jeans.

Uh. Hot?

No. No, no, no.

After ten minuets of awkward silence, I thought I'd break the ice and make conversation.

"Sooo... you're in POL200, huh? What year are you in?" I started hesitantly, glancing at my watch, "And wow, our TA is really late!"

"Actually, I'm a Masters student," he replied, "And I'm, um, your TA. I'm not late at all."

Oh. Foot, meet mouth. It all made sense now. Leather-Jacket-Too-Much-Cologne-Greek-Neo-Travolta was my Political Theory TA. Fantastic. This was coming along really well! Remind me again why I decided to attend a non-mandatory tutorial?

I think he felt bad about the awkward silence. But, in truth, I realized the silence was awkward because, well, he was a little socially awkward himself. I don't think he knew how to make small time! And, well, his own conversation starter wasn't any better than mine.

"So, uh, while we wait for more people to show up... how was your weekend?" Greek NeoTravolta TA (can we just call him GNTTA?) asked, "I, uh, got really drunk at a Greek wedding. Like, it was an all-weekend wedding. I may still be hungover."

What?! Oh. TMI, GNTTA. But thanks for sharing. You were at a Greek wedding? Did it, per chance, look like this?

After a few minutes, it became apparent that, you know, no one else was showing up.

And, yeah. So there you have it. Story of my second year at UofT. I was the only one who ever showed up for my POL200 tutorial. ALL SEMESTER. And they say UofT has huge class sizes? Pffft.

Anyway, needless to say, tutorial with GNTTA was more of a tutoring session than an actual tutorial. No one ever came to class. And so, all semester, GNNTA patiently explained everything there was to know about Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes. You know, the basics. He explained everything so well, and I'm was glad I got the run-down on Plato's Republic before, you know, the paper was due, and, well, I'd only read half the book.

On top of his awesome theory knowledge, though, GNNTA gave some pretty good academic advice. Which is why I'm writing this blog post today. He was, despite the social awkwardness and questionable choice of wardrobe, a good TA. I told him about my fear of public speaking, and therefore, why I hated participating in my other class tutorials (even though some participation marks were a massive 20%)! And why I was relieved I didn't have to engage in public speaking in his particular tutorial. Because, well, no one was there.

After this admission, I vividly remember him saying the following words on our very last tutorial:
"Why are you so scared about public speaking? And tutorial discussion? Don't doubt your intelligence. You know, I had that same problem in undergrad. And my TA back then gave me this advice. I'll pass it on to you: don't ever underestimate yourself. Don't be afraid to talk in front of others. Be confident. If you act confident, no one will ever know how scared you are."

FAST FORWARD, FIVE YEARS LATER.

I'm now a TA at Queen's.

I still hate public speaking. But I've learned to live with it.

And the other day, during my office hours, a student came in, knocking hesitantly.

After a brief chat, I realized that my student was, essentially, Mini-Me. Scared of public speaking. Scared of talking in front of other people.

And at that moment, I remembered GNTTA. And repeated those same words he said to me:
"Why are you so scared about public speaking? And tutorial discussion? Don't doubt your intelligence. You know, I had that same problem in undergrad. And my TA back then gave me this advice. I'll pass it on to you: don't ever underestimate yourself. Don't be afraid to talk in front of others. Be confident. If you act confident, no one will ever know how scared you are."

From GNNTA's former TA, to GNNTA, to me, to my student. That advice has been passed down, my friends. It might be simple advice. But it's a powerful, encouraging message for those of us suffering from that ever-present fear whenever we face the task of speaking in public, whether it's tutorial discussion or a huge presentation.

AND SO, GNNTA...

And so, GNNTA, I don't know where you are today. After that POL200 exam, you booked the heck out of that exam room for a flight out to Greece. You were a funny little fellow.

But, I'd just like to let you know that, you were a great TA. Beyond the high-waisted Travolta jeans, you were awesome. You were patient with explaining content, and, contrary to many of my TAs in undergrad, you actually made sense. You helped me understand political theory. For that, you deserve praise.

More importantly, however, I'd like you to know that you helped out a student more than you could possibly know. I still remember your advice about public speaking, particularly on the days where seminars scare me beyond measure and I want nothing but to keep my mouth shut and hide.

You made a difference with this student, GNNTA. Your advice was more helpful than you know. You will probably never know this, but regardless, I'd like to recognize you. For helping me out, I thank you.

With Appreciation,

A Former Student

"Everyone who has ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference."
- Nolan Bushnell

"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why."
- Bernard Baruch

"Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them."
- John C. Maxwell

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When We Grow Up... What's Our Second Choice?!

I have a huge Elections paper due next week.

And yet, I just spent two hours reading up on Christiane Amanpour and Campbell Brown. Clearly, I am procrastinating. And yet clearly, they're both fascinating women.

Which led me think of the following question: if we hadn't chosen the education and career path we are on now, what would we be doing? What was our second choice?

I don't mean to go all Rory Gilmore on you guys, but I think, if I wasn't on my way to law school in September (or if I ever, for any reason, had to change my mind), I would have loved to go into broadcast journalism or, better yet, investigative journalism. Reporting? Investigating? Writing? I would have loved all of that.

Also, I'm nosy. So anything remotely related to investigative journalism would have been, well, sort of... fun. Reading about Christiane Amanpour reminded me how much I used to debate about going into journalism. Maybe I could still do both? Lawyer turned journalist? It could happen in twenty years, right? We'll see, friends, we'll see!

So here's another million dollar question: if you had to change your mind about where you are (career and education-wise) today, what would you be doing? What would that second-choice-career be?

You're in academia studying a specialized field these days. But if you had to take a different path would you...

Be a scientist?

An astronaut?

A writer?

A shoe designer?

The next Bill Gates?

The next person to steal from Bill Gates? (Hey. Crooks are people too).

A figure skater?

A chef?

A restaurant owner? (Uh. If you any of you choose this option, can you.. um.. let me know?)

A doctor?

A wedding planner? (Two words. Jennifer. Lopez).

A nurse?

A gossip columnist? (This would be third on my list. No lie).

A game show host?

A video game designer? (I know about ten boys who would want this career in a heartbeat!).

A video game tester? (Ditto. And yes, this is a career)

A rock star? (Hey. The Bieeeeebz did it. So can you).

I guess the most important thing is that we love what we're doing, yeah? And that we have the option to change our minds, to switch paths, to go back to school, when we're ready to move on? My point is that we all have a diverse set of skills, of interests. I don't think we should be afraid to explore new options when we think we're ready. When we doubt our current situation. When we start to think our careers are going nowhere. When we're not sure we love what we're doing anymore. Don't be afraid to try new things! As long as we love what we're doing, that's what counts, yes?

And, yeah. That Lawyer-Turned-Journalist-And-Gossip-Columnist-On-The-Side option? You better believe that's still an option for me. Perez, you better watch your back.

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."
- Dorothy Nevill

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Quarter Life Crisis - Do We All Go Through It?

It's funny. I don't think I've met a single person my age who hasn't gone through a quarter life crisis. Or at least a mild version of the quarter life crisis. Is this a sign of getting old? Uh, I hope not.

For a definition of the quarter life crisis, click here.
For those who don't know what to do with their lives, click here and here.

The other day, while catching up with a friend who recently moved to Toronto for a new job, I asked that million dollar question.

"Hey," I asked suddenly, "Have you ever gone through a quarter life crisis?"

Without missing a beat, he replied, "Yeah, of course. I just got over mine."

"Really?!" I asked incredulously, "How'd you get over it?"

"Oh, you know. It passes. I got a job," he replied casually, "Mine was pretty bad though. I didn't have a job and I didn't know what to do with my life. So I almost bought a motorcycle. I just wanted to, you know, feel young and in control again."

Young and in control again? He's 23!

What is the Quarter Life Crisis? Here's an excerpt from an article I recently read:
"This phenomenon, known as the “Quarterlife Crisis,” is... unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are."
- Welcome To Your Quarter Life Crisis
The month before I graduated university last year, I was so uncertain about where my life was going that I felt queasy at the thought of graduation. I, quite literally, thought my life was over. I was undecided about taking a year off after graduation. I hadn't written the LSAT yet. I hadn't applied to law school yet. I hadn't applied for graduate school yet. I didn't have a job lined up for the year after graduation yet. In short, my life was in limbo. I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life. Or my degree. Like, what was I doing to do with a Political Science degree?! And if there was ever a time in my life that I doubted going to law school, it was the months leading up to graduation.

A month before graduation, I remember my friends and I sitting at our local Starbucks in desolation. Here we were. Women in our early 20's. Educated. About to graduate university. And having absolutely no idea where our lives were going. Many of our friends were getting engaged, getting married. Other friends were interviewing for jobs, applying for internships. And yet, while we knew all those opportunities sounded awesome, we didn't know what we wanted. While we had doors open to us, we didn't know which doors to walk into.


Most importantly, we didn't want to grow up.

School had always been an unknown yet reliable comfort. It's where we went every day for the past fourteen years. And suddenly, those days were coming to an end. Worse yet, things weren't going according to The Plan we had for post-graduation. You know, going to law school, grad school, medical school, journalism school, volunteering abroad, teaching abroad. We used to have our lives planned out. But by the time university graduation rolled around, things weren't going according to The Plan.

In short, the unknown scared us. Not knowing where we would be next year scared us. And for a number of graduating students, that's a prevalent yet completely normal fear.

This all defines the Quarter Life Crisis, my dear friends. Facing the fact that you're growing up can be hard. And it's a big deal.

If those feelings of uncertainty, fear, lack of direction about the big, bad, future sound familiar, I assure you, I can relate. Yet for those of you going through this early-twenties-quarter-life-crisis right now, please take heart. I know that uncertainty over your future is a huge deal. In fact, it's a big deal. But the assurance I can provide is this: the uncertainty will pass. The future will come sooner or later, and come a few months, you'll start making decisions that form what your future will look like. Not knowing will soon becoming knowing. Does that make sense? One day, this time in ~life limbo~ will be a distant memory.

We all have big decisions to make in the next few months. Decisions that will shape our futures. Our lives, forever. And if there's anything I can say to encourage all of us who are uncertain about our time post-Queen's, it's this: you are all so very capable of doing more than you think you can. Don't ever place limits on your capabilities, on possibilities for next year. We're young, we have big, bright futures ahead of us. Yet achieving those opportunities won't come if we aren't confident about ourselves.

You are all bright, intelligent, wonderful people. And that big and scary future is there for you to conquer. I have no doubt that you'll kick this Quarter Life Crisis where it hurts, yea?

"Begin each day as if it were on purpose."
- Hitch

"Have patience with all things. But first of all, with yourself."
- St. Francis de Sales

"Time comes to us softly, slowly. It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before we are ready, it moves on."

- Jacqueline Woodson

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Love The Library - Stories About My Familiar Strangers

This is me. Spying on you at the library,

Do you ever go to certain places so often that you begin to recognize the people who also regularly frequent that location? You don't know them. But you sort of do.

I have a name for these people. These are my Familiar Strangers at Queen's. Also, a disclaimer for this post: I'm really not creepy. I just, you know, observe people. A lot.

So, a couple of months ago, I decided I didn't like studying at Stauffer. Too noisy. Too many chances of running into my students. So I relocated to studying at another library on campus. And, I'm telling you, I fell in love.

So much love for this library that I'm there everyday. It's the perfect study spot. Not a day goes by that I don't spend at least 5 hours at my usual table, writing essays, reading. And so, when you're at the library everyday, you tend to familiarize yourself with the ~library regulars~. The people who spend just as much time there as you do (if not more). Enough that you can recognize each other on the street. Or at Starbucks. Or, you know, at the Grizzly Grill on Friday night.

So here, my friends, are just some stories about a couple of my Familiar Library Strangers. I don't know their names. I don't know where they're from. I don't know what year they're in. I just know that we see each other every single day, sitting at our usual tables at the library.

And after regularly spending hours at the library together, I'd like to think we're, you know, sort of friends (hehe).

STORY 1 - THE IVY LEAGUE POSER

The first time I discovered this library in December, I planted myself down at the nearest table, and looked around in satisfaction. I liked it. I loved the quiet. I loved the atmosphere. The study hall wasn't too big, but it wasn't too small that I felt pangs of claustrophobia.

Glancing over at another table, my eyebrows raised as I checked out a guy wearing a Harvard University sweater, decked out in crimson and gray. Janice and I watched him in fascination, wondering if he had gone to Harvard for his undergraduate degree.

The next day, I was back at the library. Planting myself down at the same table (it has, indeed, become my usual spot), I glanced over to see Harvard Guy heading to a nearby table. No big deal, right?

Harvard Guy placed his backpack on the table and started to unzip his jacket.

Except, as he took off his jacket, I noticed something weird. Harvard Guy was now wearing a Columbia University sweater.

What?

I watched him curiously, in fascination. What's this guy's deal?

A few hours later, the library was getting pretty hot. It was an uncharacteristically warm winter day in Kingston that afternoon. So, naturally, what do you do when its hot? You take your sweater off.

Out of the corner of my eye, I discreetly watched Harvard/Columbia Guy slowly take his sweater off. Except I noticed something weirder.

Harvard/Columbia Guy was wearing a Princeton University t-shirt underneath his sweater.

WHAT?

LOL. Oh, love. Love him so much for all the the Ivy League Trying. Since then, Janice, Josephine and I have labelled him the Ivy league Poser. We don't know his name, what year he is. All we know is that, in our heart of hearts, he is the fantastically hilarious and endearing Ivy League Poser.

Now you see why I think the library is so amusing? This particular library isn't the depressing, desolate place libraries usually are. You make your own fun, yea?

STORY 2 - THE LIBRARY ASIAN

There's more where Ivy League Poser came from.

Like, for example. I think I've found my favourite Asian drama actor's doppleganger.

No, no, really.

A couple of months ago, I noticed that another library regular was an Asian guy who looked oddly familiar. I couldn't put my finger on why I thought I knew him. And so, day after day, I kept staring. Thinking that, you know, I would eventually figure out why he looked so familiar.

That's when it hit me.

He looked like a popular Korean pop-star-turned-drama-actor who, I admit, I'm a ridiculously major fan of. And when I'm a fan, my friends, I'm a fan. A delusional, crazed fangirl at that. Ever heard of him? His name is Rain.

I'm so much of a fangirl that, initially, I thought the guy at the library really was Rain.

And so, one day, as I was leaving the library, Korean Drama Pop Star opened the door for me, nodding in acknowledgement. (Because really, at this point, after seeing each other at the library everyday, you're bound to recognize each other). I nodded back cheerfully, wondering how, pray tell, I could bring up the topic of his doppleganger when I had never spoken to him before. I needed to figure out if he really was Rain. Or, better yet, maybe even related to Rain? (The resemblance is uncanny, I tell you).

And so, I glanced over at Janice and strategically raised my voice a little loudly to enthuse, "We spent so much time at the library today, we should go home and watch Korean music videos of Rain!"

Because I thought, you know, bringing up the topic would make him pause and talk to us.

However, Korean Drama Pop Star just looked at me oddly as he walked by. He didn't stop. Didn't give any indication that he was even remotely related to Rain. Aw, darn.

And so, since then, he's looked at me a little oddly. Like, you know, I'm That Asian Girl who just fell off the boat and watches Asian pop music videos in her spare time.

But don't worry, I'll set him straight one day. I will speak to Korean Drama Pop Star before the year is over to let him know I'm not an obsessive, crazy fan of Korean pop culture, I promise!

STORY 3 - BRADLEY COOPER AND HIS WIFE

Yeah, I'm creepy. We're creepy. But this doesn't make it any less fun.

There's a guy at the library everyday who looks like Bradley Cooper. No. I'm serious.

The first time Janice and I saw him, we were floored. Like, he could pass for Bradley Cooper's twin brother. We also noticed that he always studies with his wife. I'm thinking they're in the same program, in the same year.

There's really nothing else I can say about these two. Other than the fact that they're insanely, ridiculously cute together. They study together, eat together, spend 10 hours at the library together.

I think they may be newlyweds. Coopers, I wish you both a happy life.

STORY 4 - MY ENCOUNTER WITH LAGUNA

Readers, I'm sure you've all seen Laguna. He doesn't frequent the library I go to now, but he's a regular at Stauffer. You guys, this guy is a Stauffer legend. Everyone knows who he is! He spends his life at the library. And people stare at him in fascination because, well... he's Laguna.

Ever seen him? Queen's students have dubbed him Laguna of Laguna Beach. Because, you know, he only ever dresses in beach wear. You've seen him. You know you have. The Hollister t-shirts, the spiky hair he often (in a model-esque fashion) runs his hands through, abnormally large arm muscles he proudly displays as he wears abnormally small tank tops in the dead of winter.

You've seen this guy at Stauffer, trust me. He's, like, famous.

So a couple of weeks ago, at Zappas Lounge downtown, Josephine and I were giggling mercilessly when we realized we spotted Laguna across the dance floor. Except, suddenly, something weird happened.

Laguna and his posse crossed the dance floor and walked over to us.

They stopped in front of us and Laguna looked directly at me and said, "Hey, do you want to dance?"

We were waiting for a few friends, so I quickly replied, "No, it's okay!"

Laguna frowned. "Are you sure? This is a one-time offer."

Surprised, my lips twitched in laughter. "Yeah, I think I'm good," I said.

Laguna and his posse walked away. Confused. HAHAHA. I swear, those guys are a walking MTV reality show. Josephine and I died laughing. We couldn't believe we actually had a face-to-face encounter with the legendary Laguna.

Good thing I don't frequent Stauffer as much anymore. I have joined the ranks of those Who Have Rejected Laguna. I just hope I didn't offend him too much. I can still be his friend, yea? Because, like I said, he's a Stauffer legend. A legend!

So next time you're at the library...

...be aware that someone could be watching you! Not in a creepy way, of course. More like in a I-see-you-around-all-the-time-because-Kingston-is-so-small way.

There are way more Familiar Library Strangers that I can talk about. But this post is getting long. And I'm procrastinating from doing actual work. So the next time you're at the library, look around, observe. Get to know your Familiar Strangers! And keep in mind, there may be someone watching you too!

Oh, Kingston. Oh, Queen's community. You never fail to amuse me.

"For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen while one stands."
- Christina Rossetti

"Thus, nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship."
- Cicero

Friday, March 18, 2011

Living Through An Earthquake - Brief Thoughts On Japan

When I was four years old, Mount Pinatubo, an active volcano in the Luzon region of the Philippines, erupted. Along with the eruption came a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated a majority of localities in the Philippines, leaving 100,000 people homeless. It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century.

I remember that earthquake quite vividly. I was too young to be scared, but curious enough to wander outside as my father ran after me, yelling in panic to get back inside.

I remember pausing curiously at the sight of my driveway cracking in half. I remember everything shaking violently, getting dizzy. I remember my father scooping me up, tersely handing me to my nanny, and being tucked safely in a closet under some sturdy shelves in an effort to protect me from any pending damage. Of course, I wasn't pleased at the time. Like, really, why am I in a closet? Are we going to play?

Clearly, I was too young to have any common sense. Little Barbara was also quite sad when, two days after the earthquake and volcano eruption, no one came to her 4th birthday party. A natural disaster deterred my little friends from RSVP-ing, you know?

I remember my mother getting home the night of the earthquake. Petrified. I remember hearing her recount the story of hiding underneath a table with other dentists in the clinic. I remember her telling us, her voice shaking, that she was treating a patient when the earthquake happened, when the volcano erupted. That the entire clinic was filled with screams of panic.

I remember my father tersely trying to contact his relatives in another region where the eruption had been particularly severe. Where the lava had wiped out the houses of many communities. Where my relatives, in an effort to save themselves, climbed on top of their damaged homes in order to wave at helicopters for help.

I remember that for weeks and months after the eruption and earthquake, I had to be led to my school bus everyday, slowly, very slowly. The volcanic ash was so thick. We couldn't see in front of us at all. Tons upon tons of sulfur dioxide was discharged into the atmosphere, making it difficult to see or breathe for months.

I remember the uncertainty, the fear. I remember my parents trying to figure out how to book the heck out of the Philippines (we left for Canada a year later). I remember it all so vividly, despite being very young.

Last Friday, on March 11, 2011, my heart dropped when I saw the headlines early that morning. That an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. I can barely remember my own experience without feeling queasy; I can't even remotely imagine what people in Japan are feeling right now. It's more than an understatement to say that the situation is devastating, tragic. And how incredibly scary is it to still be feeling aftershocks?

I've looked through pictures of the damage in Japan with a heavy heart. Beyond rebuilding infrastructure, can you imagine what it's like for the people? At the individual level? What if your own home completely collapsed? All your belongings, your life's work, everything you own completely destroyed? What if you have absolutely nothing to eat but ramyun noodles you stored away for emergencies? What if you still can't find your family? What if you witnessed your own family members fall short of survival? I can't even imagine how devastating it must be for those who lost loved ones in the earthquake. To pick up the pieces of your life and attempt to put it back together without your family, your friends, is incredibly heartbreaking. The uncertainty and fear must still be so prevalent for them right now.

But what can we do? We're halfway around the world. We're grad students with our own busy schedules, our own things to worry about.

I can't think of anything else but to consider donating to relief efforts. So, dear readers, please consider donating to the Canadian Red Cross' Japan Earthquake relief efforts. I know we're all grad students on tight budgets at the moment, but please please consider donating even just a few dollars. Some people now have absolutely nothing to their name. What do they do now?

To visit the Red Cross website, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

"I have found the paradox that, if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love."
- Mother Teresa

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
- Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Racism - Brief Facts About Queen's

Okay, so, it's definitely too sunny and beautiful outside to even remotely consider doing work. But, alas, I have to. There's too much to do, and as a result, I'm currently drowning my sorrows at the library with a delicious cookie (courtesy of Josephine) and a pile of readings that need to be read by tonight. I can't even think about the amount of work I need to do in the next couple of weeks. Too much. Too much.

And so, I am blogging. Because, clearly, I have my priorities straight.

But anyway, this should be a quick post. My officemate is writing a pretty interesting paper right now on the implications of gender, class, and race on getting a university education here at Queen's.

Interesting, right?

While hunting around for books at Stauffer this morning, Dear Officemate gave me a run-down on her research so far: quick historical facts about getting a Queen's education, specifically about race. Here's a few I thought I'd share.

Fact 1 - Carribean medical students were kicked out of Queen's Medical School in the 1960s, as students coming back from the war refused to attend school with coloured students.

Fact 2 - In the last seven years, fourteen faculty members of colour have quit. Why? For an example of racism against a faculty member, click here. A task force dealing with systematic racism against faculty members of colour was established in 2007.

Fact 3 - A majority of national studies on racism at Canadian universities cite Queen's as the primary example of racism against students at any Canadian university. On the basis of university policy and social atmosphere and acceptance.

Fact 4 - Did you guys know that Alfie's is named after a homeless coloured man who used to "live" outside the JDUC? Think about that when you get your dance on at the Alfie's area tonight!

Fact 5 - Just last year, Queen's issued a warning regarding racial vandalism of student property (graffiti with racial slurs). To read the the University's statement, click here.

These are just five of a number of facts (and, generally, evidence) that demonstrate how racism is still a potential problem in the Queen's community today. My officemate is still researching the topic, but interesting paper nonetheless, yea? I can't wait to read the paper in its entirety. Facts like these are always so fascinating, and I love it when writing a paper can actually be fun. Though I'll admit that in regards to the facts above, I'm not too surprised. So interesting. My paper on (the implications of class on the consumption of) cocaine now seems to pale in comparison.

Okay, so. Back to work. I only wrote this post in an effort to procrastinate.

Happy Weekend, everyone! Please have some fun for me while I camp out all weekend at the library.

"Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives."
- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Debating Skydiving (On A Grad Student Budget)

Over the summer, one of my best friends went skydiving. We all planned to meet at the skydiving centre that afternoon to watch her jump off the plane, but unfortunately, that was the day I had to drive to Kingston to sign my lease.

And so, I didn't get to watch her skydive. Boo. I remember it being a beautiful sunny day - the perfect day to jump off a plane, really. However, since then, I've seen the pictures. I've seen the videos. And the entire experience looks absolutely fantastic.

So this summer, we're all going to join her. We've been eagerly planning a day in August where we could all go skydiving together. I know, right? I'm excited, and, admittedly, a little petrified. But either way, despite knowing that I'll feel like puking the minute I step into that plane, I still want to go skydiving.

Just look at that picture above. What a surreal experience, right? Most of you who know me well are aware that I want to experience as many of these activities as possible before I enter the Real World of Work. Because realistically, am I ever going to have time to gallivant from activity to activity when I'm putting in 80 hours a week to pay off my law school loans in the future? Probably not.

Skydiving? It's right up my alley.

But here's the thing. I can only think of CONS when it comes to skydiving.

CON #1: It's $525. Um. That's a little.. uh.. steep for someone getting paid a mere TA salary here at Queen's. Expensive much?

CON #2: I might die. No, seriously. What if your parachute doesn't open?

CON #3: Did I mention that it's $525?

CON #4: My parents would keel over at the idea of their only daughter jumping out of an airplane. Yeah. Should I impose such unnecessary worries on my parents? (and extended family who will probably be just as worried and horrified?)

CON #5: Did I mention that it's $525?

CON #6: Did I mention my fear of heights? Yeah. I know. And I want to go skydiving. This equation doesn't make sense, does it? It's okay. Minor details. This fear of heights issue is something I need to get over. Like, I really need to get over my fear of heights. I'm thinking skydiving could be the antidote?

CON #7: Oh, yeah. It's $525.

Okay, so, in conclusion, skydiving is freaking expensive. And on a graduate student budget? I don't know if I can justify the cost. Which is really too bad, since it would be such an awesome experience.

On the other hand, skydiving isn't free. Ever. If I want to go someday, I'll have to pay that same amount regardless. So I might as well go ahead and sacrifice the cost for the experience now, right? Because, really, when am I ever going to have the chance to go skydiving for free? (Except when I fulfill that dream of being on The Amazing Race, obviously).

Dilemmas. Dilemmas.

I still have time to decide, so I suppose I'll hold off for awhile.

So the debate?

Experience vs. Cost.

Oh, money. This lowly grad student rolls her eyes at the cost of experience. It puts a downer on everything!

"Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words."
- George Eliot

The Token Bad Day - A Grad Student's 24 Hours Of Terrible

I suppose a post like this would have been written sooner or later. I'm surprised I haven't been inclined to write a similar post earlier.

Anyway. Remember my post yesterday about how fantastic this week was going? Scratch that. With the risk of sounding like I have a split personality (I really don't!), today was the exact opposite yesterday. Weather-wise. And, well, everything-wise.

I've realized that this blog gives off a false impression of a graduate student's life. And for this, dear readers, I am sorry. Because here's the thing. Contrary to the impressions I've been giving off the past few months, the grad life isn't perpetually strewn with rainbows and unicorns. Butterflies, ponies, kitties, chocolate covered almonds. Also, side note: why is my blog so, so pink? Annoying. (You see? I told you. Bad day).

But here's my point. The grad life is not easy. It might seem like common sense, but I feel the need to finally, explicitly admit it on this blog.

I can't stress enough that graduate school can, at times, be difficult. I walked past a group of little girls (okay, they weren't little. But you know what I mean) chatting in Mackintosh-Corry's cafeteria today, scoffing at how "easy" grad school would be next year.

Um. Hey, little girls. News flash. It isn't.

The grad life isn't easy. While it is predominantly a rewarding, awesome, fantastic experience, it's also incredibly challenging to juggle all your responsibilities, all your tasks, all your work.

The grad life can be uncertain. It can be tense. It can be stressful. It challenges your mind, your will, your emotions, your heart.

There are some days when you walk out of your office, out the building, into the library, only to sink down into the closest seat you plant your eyes on. You slump down, you wonder how you'll get all your work done in such a short amount of time. You bury your face in your hands and wonder what, pray tell, you're even doing in grad school. You can't do this. This is too freaking hard. This is really really really hard. I can't write all this. I can't read all this. I can't do this. I can't deal with all of this. You can't make me. I'm not cut out for this.

And you don't want to burst into tears because, you know, you're a big strong adult and all. But that's exactly how you feel. You feel like crying from the stress, from potential disappointment, from the omnipresent workload that haunts your every step.

For those landing on my blog as you research grad school, I want to warn you that you might get days like this (I say 'might' just in case some of you have supernatural superpowers). Days when the workload is overwhelming. Days when you doubt your competence, your intelligence, your skills. Days where you clutch your hair and wonder why you entered academia.

I guess today was mine.

And there are some days when your future isn't as dependable as you thought. You realize that some dreams might stay just that. Pipe dreams you can no longer depend on.

And it's days like this that can sometimes bring you down. Where the only thing that can cure your funk is a good night's sleep or a relaxing evening watching your favourite TV shows.

I don't mean to paint a picture of grad school as an excruciatingly painful experience. It's not. Bad days happen. And I suppose tomorrow, I'll visit my blog and gaze in horror at the negativity exuding from this blog post.

But tomorrow's another day. I'll let Future Barbara throw a tantrum at herself for writing such a depressing blog post. Right now, I'll rest on the fact (as should all of you experiencing the token Bad Day) that bad days pass. This will, really, pass. Worries will eventually go away. And it makes us appreciate the better, not-so-stressful days more, yea?

"Be polite to all, but intimate with few."
- Thomas Jefferson

"We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little bit of each other everywhere."
- Tim McGraw

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Sunny Spring Day In Kingston!


This blog post has no purpose. Other than to waste time not doing work in my office.

Actually, wait, this post does have a purpose. I just want to briefly point out (before I head back to my readings) what a beautiful day it is today! Just look at it! Look outside! I don't see a cloud in the sky, and the weather is unusually warm for March. In Kingston. What happened to all the snow? Where? It melted? Well. Good riddance. Time to bust out the skirts, sandals, and shades, yes?

Ever have those days where the weather is just so fantastically beautiful that you end up in the most fantastic mood ever? Really, I'm more gleeful than usual. I don't know why, I really think it has to do with the sun. It's an unusually beautiful day in Kingston (well, unusual because of the months of dreary winter weather we've been having), and the spring-like weather has me in such a good mood.

It really is one of those days.

Anyway, I arrived at my office pretty early this morning, and the sun greeted me enthusiastically as soon as I stepped outside. Awesome. My office hours started at 9:00 am and will end at 11:00 am today, though I should probably stick around a few minutes after 11:00 am. The students are expected to pick up their essays during office hours (and extended office hours) this week, and I'm sure they're all anxious to get here. Fun. Actually, don't take that as sarcasm. I love it when students pick up their essays and realize they actually received a good mark or a better mark than they expected. The student who just left was almost in tears over her mark. Aw. You deserve the best, kid.

Okay, I should end here and stop procrastinating. I told you, this blog post had no meaning other than to tell you all that you should enjoy today's sunny awesomeness. Because it may rain tomorrow.

So here's the plan for today: finish Elections readings, finish a Canadian politics essay and then... tonight?

It's the JOEL PLASKETT CONCERT TONIGHT!

Sweet. What an awesome day ahead. It really is one of those awesomefantasticfeelgoodabouteverythinginlifesunnysunny kind of days. I would go and frolick in the sun but I have readings to do.

Have a great, fantastic, beautiful, awesome day, everyone!

"Through life, we suffer. With friends, we never have to suffer alone."

"Sometimes me think, 'What is friend?' And then me think... 'Friend is what last chocolate chip cookie is for.'"
- Cookie Monster

Monday, March 14, 2011

Concluding An Epic Dodgeball Season - The Last Game Of The Year

Back in September, I blogged about how I joined Queen's SGPS Grad Student Intramural Dodgeball Team. While my first post about dodgeball wasn't the most positive, glowing review of our intramural league, I'm happy to report that our Fall and Winter seasons were incredibly entertaining, competitive, but most importantly... we had fun. It was, truly, quite the experience.

Okay. Well, granted, we lost every game we played this semester. Minor details.

Okay, fine. If we need to press the issue, I'll admit that we were That Team. The Team That Always Lost. But, moving on. Let's forget the measly details of actual competition. Let's get down to why, in retrospect, I'm so glad I joined dodgeball this year.

I was pretty skeptical about joining dodgeball back in September. Because really, have you met me? The only sports I've ever been good at involved a tennis racket or a pair of figure skates. Other than that, I've been merely serviceable at impromptu basketball games or softball games I participated (read: was coerced) in.

However, my perspective on sport changed when I played ball hockey regularly over the summer. Apparently, I have the capacity to get pretty aggressive, yo. Whipping around a stick to aggressively score goals? I absolutely loved it. And I will shamelessly announce that I was awesome at street hockey. Which is why I considered participating in some sort of contact sport this year.

Fast forward to this past Thursday evening. Our last dodgeball game of the year. Cue the tears. Cue the team hugs. Cue the whipping out of my camera to take team pictures.

We met at the Grad Club to participate in Thursday night's Trivia Night, broke bread (read: ate junk food), played pool, and attempted to answer trivia questions that downright confused us. And, not surprisingly, the boys of the team walked the amusing road towards inebriation with pitchers of alcoholic beverages.

Right before our dodgeball game.

Do you see where this is going?

Let's do the math. Teetering levels of sobriety and a sport that involves bombarding others with balls? Incredibly amusing, to say the least. Josephine and I, the only female members of the team, were highly entertained by watching our lovely team members frolicking under the influence. And so, our last game turned out to be quite epic. Choreographed dance numbers, Justin Beiber impersonations, piggyback rides as ball-throwing strategies.

And the dance numbers. Don't forget the dance numbers. Complete with throwback disco moves. Does this sound awesome or does this sound awesome?

We came to the game without any expectation of winning (and, really, who are we kidding, winning was a long shot for us). We headed to our last game together with the sole intention of having fun, and I'm glad that's how we ended our season. Such motivations defined our year together. Dodgeball hasn't only been a good workout, it's been an arena where I've met incredibly great friends. Where I've met grad students who I wouldn't have encountered if I hadn't joined the team. And most importantly, it's where I had fun, away from the piles of work that haunt me during the day.

I really encourage all of you to consider joining a sports team sometime, be it in school or in your community. It's not solely a competitive experience. It's also a social arena, where you build friendships, connect with a team, and experience the enjoyment of playing a sport that you may discover you actually enjoy.

But now, alas, the season has drawn to a close. I'm sad to say that's it for dodgeball. But here we are. Thank you, Dodgeball Team. You've been the greatest. I'm so glad I had the chance to meet every single one of you. I'm so glad I took the chance to experience this.

This has been, ultimately, another wonderful, memorable Queen's experience that I'll never forget, no matter where I am next year.

"You can’t hide from life. Eventually, you have to live it."

"Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
- Emily Kimbrough

"Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, dont worry. I'm here. The flood waters will recede. The famine will end. The sun will shine tomorrow. And I will always be here to take care of you."
- Charlie Brown to Snoopy

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My (Tentative) New Love Affair With Sushi - A Lesson For Trying New Things

Before I moved to Kingston, I never had sushi. Ever, in my life. I know right? Whenever I told people I'd never tried sushi, I always received the horrified, "But... you're Asian." It was my thing. I was the Girl Who Never Had Sushi.

And to this today, even as I write this blog post, I've only had sushi three times in my life. And all three times happened in Kingston. I've been told that I need to try sushi in Toronto. Apparently, it's a life-changing experience.

I don't know why I was so apprehensive about trying sushi. I'm usually not resistant to trying new things re: food. But sushi? I think it had to do with the seaweed factor. I hate the taste of seaweed. Once, my parents and I had to watch our neighbour's house for a couple of weeks while they were on vacation, and when they came back, they rang our doorbell with a ~box of cookies~ to thank us. Without reading the label (granted, it was in Chinese), I cracked open the lid and bit eagerly into one of the cookies. Guess what kind of cookies they were?

Seaweed cookies.

Ew. I thought I was eating, like, feet.

So last October, Tory and Belinda decided that enough was enough. We walked into Sima Sushi, located at Princess and Bagot. I was a little apprehensive, but I went anyway. And I'm really glad I did. I even came up with a way to eat sushi with minimal seaweed-to-taste bud contact. I'll just order the ones with the rice around the seaweed, so I won't have to taste it. BRILLIANT, right? Anyway, my sushi experience in Kingston has been pleasant to date. To the point that I'm actually really really growing to like it. Since October, I've been to Arisu Sushi on Princess and Division twice. It's an acquired taste, I guess.

Side Note: At Sima Sushi back in October, I ordered a plate of Avocado rolls (??) and that sushi type with fried sweet potato (??). I don't know what they're called. Yeah. I just totally butchered those names. I think they're types of California Rolls? Really, I have no idea. I think this is a sign that need to educate myself by consulting a sushi and sashimi glossary.

Side Note 2: Speaking of sashimi, I still haven't tried it. I'm a little apprehensive about eating raw fish. Let's review. It's raw. I think it will take awhile before I build up enough courage to try a bite. What does that even taste like?

And so, my friends, to end on a more positive note, I think this should be a lesson for trying new things. If you don't like it after the first try, fine. But at least you tried it.

There are many things, admittedly, that I've been apprehensive to try (or do) in Kingston and, let's admit it, in life. Like that complicated contraption at the gym that supposedly works out your abs, but I've been too chicken to touch it. Or like getting into a pool and learning how to swim beyond the standard doggy paddle. Or learning how to surf. Or paying the deposit to sky dive this summer because of my apprehension re: WHAT IF MY PARACHUTE DOESN'T OPEN? I WILL DIE.

This grad life is too short to spend being the perennial chicken I am with things I'm unfamiliar with. It's always refreshing to try new things. I'm 90% sure I'm leaving Canada for law school next year. I'll be in a foreign country, surrounded by people I don't know, in a city I know nothing about. I'll be trying new things everyday. Might as well stop being a chicken and start now, yea?

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

"A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see. Because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing in nothing."
- Maya Angelou

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
- Oscar Wilde

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Will Never (Hopefully) Procrastinate Again... (Cross Your Fingers)

I feel like this is a mantra I need to keep repeating to myself. Repeatedly. Over and over again. Why did I do this to myself? I never do this. Why now? Why?

I cannot even begin to explain how exhausted I am right now. I feel like I just ran a marathon. Or spent five hours at the gym. Or went through a life-changing crisis that required me to lose hours and hours of sleep. But really, none of this is true. I sheepishly admit that I lost hours of sleep merely because of my own procrastinating foolishness.

But I learned my lesson this weekend. I promise, I will never procrastinate again.

This all started during Reading Week when, in denial, I didn't mark as many student essays as I should have. I was enjoying my time at home, you see. And really, I was in denial about marking so many essays. I also didn't finish writing the 15 pages of my Elections essay that I should have written. I also didn't finish reading ahead for Canadian Politics. I also, most importantly, didn't finish editing my Canadian Politics critical review essay.

And now that Reading Week is over, I've been punished for my procrastinating ways. This past weekend was agonizing. Beyond anything I can explain in words. Actually, three words sum it up: I. Need. Sleep.

The Barbara of Reading Week was at home, spending time with friends and family, and, most importantly, sleeping in. She woke up every morning, glanced at her pile of work in disdain and walked past her desk.

"I'll let Future Barbara worry about that," she said dismissively, "I'll do it tomorrow."

Fail.

Major mistake.

I will never let Future Barbara worry again. Ever. Future Barbara cannot wake up with dark circles under her eyes after a mere 3 hours of sleep. Future Barbara cannot be a slave to caffeine. Future Barbara cannot suffer from sleep deprivation when she writes future blog posts. Yes, Future Barbara will continue to do her work days or weeks in advance.

I learned my lesson this weekend. I promise, Future Barbara, I will never procrastinate again.

I don't think I've ever been as stressed this year as I was this past weekend. To the point that I spent 8 hours at the law library on Friday, 8 hours at the law library on Saturday, and 6 hours at the law library on Sunday.

Um. I don't think that was healthy. I spent more time at the library than I did at my own house. Actually, I spent more time at the library this weekend than I did sleeping combined. Yes, let's review those numbers. This was a problem.

I don't know about you, but as the work began to pile up last week, on top of all the essays we had to mark, I started to panic. So overwhelmed, I felt like I was drowning. The sinking feeling you get when procrastination catches up to you is terrifying. This cannot happen again.

But I learned my lesson this weekend. I promise, Future Barbara, I will never procrastinate again.

Now that the weekend is over, I feel like I can breathe again. I finished reading 200 pages I was required to read. I finished marking 50 student essays. I finished writing a weekly reading response. I finished writing a paper. I finished an outline of another paper.

And now? I'm off to crawl to bed, relieved that this wretched weekend is over. And starting tomorrow, I'm doing my work days and weeks in advance. There is no way this is happening again. EVER!!

"There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back."
- Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
- Bertrand Russell