Me, the taskmaster

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I have an obsession with tasks. I love accumulating them, categorizing them in to-do lists, and leaving reminders of them everywhere in my room on little slips of paper.

Sometimes, these “shoulds” begin to weigh on me. I begin to believe the lie that I have to be perfect. I let my relationships suffer and I become discouraged about my workload. I can’t sleep. I feel stupid, tired, worthless.

Is this because of my personality, the stresses of university, or just a part of life? Probably all three. And if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I’m not the only one stressing out.

This is an excerpt taken from an article written by Kate Lunau for Maclean’s on the high incidence of mental illness in university students:

“In 2011, 1,600 University of Alberta students took part in the National College Health Assessment survey. The problems students identified are playing out across the country.

Mental health issue experienced at any time within the last 12 months

Felt things were hopeless: 51.3

Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do: 87.5

Felt exhausted (not from physical activity): 87.1

Felt very lonely: 61.7

Felt very sad: 65.6

Felt so depressed that is was difficult to function: 34.4

***

(U of A total %)”

When you first start out at university, you may feel isolated – it’s normal. One of the most powerful things you can do is reach out to others.

The reality is that the people around you are probably dealing with similar feelings and issues, so I’d encourage you to step out to make new friends. Build relationships, offer and receive support, and cultivate community in your new location.

It probably won’t happen all at once, but you’ve got to start somewhere!

You don’t need to struggle alone.

The Whole Person

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If you didn’t know that the sculpture on the side of York Hall meant anything, join the club. I was clueless about “the Whole Person” until my super-awesome academic advisor, Michael, gave me a sheet explaining the whole thing (see below).

As I was researching the name of the artist, I came across this article from an edition of Pro-Tem printed in 1965. Given the academic emphasis of the sculpture, the author wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, “being a whole person requires more than studying!” I completely agree.

This raises the question: what is wholeness?

These pictures were taken in early spring of this year.

The Whole Person: a legend of symbols

  1. History and Chemistry: an hour glass and a beaker
  2. World Below Ground: agriculture, archeology, mining.
  3. Philosophy and Psychology: a maze.
  4. Nations and Civilization: the tree of life and knowledge.
  5. Biology and Genetics: genetic symbols interwoven in a cockerel.
  6. Zoology: evolution (a fish).
  7. Languages: the vowels.
  8. Political Science and Sociology: an eye inside a representation of the world.
  9. Life Above Ground: a tree.
  10. Construction and Logic: a tension-compression symbol.
  11. Lines of Logic leading from the tension-compression symbol to the Whole Person’s mind.
  12. The Cerebrum of the Whole Person: showing three symbols; (a) mathematics (analysis and synthesis), (b) perception, (c) retention.
  13. The Whole Person holds up the Lamp of Learning: a dove-like symbol emphasizing that the only hope for peace is through education.
  14. A Globe to Represent the World: the flags of the nations face in all directions.
  15. The Geometrical Shape Encircling the Upper Portion of the Whole Person: represents the universe and the curvatures of space and the theory of relativity.
  16. The Brass Rods: as well as indicating the important effects of the educational symbols upon the Whole Person, they are said by the artist to symbolize the “music of the spheres” as they sing in the wind.

Regardless of the literal meaning of this statue, I think the general sentiment of “wholeness” expressed by the name of “the Whole Person” is a beautiful reminder. As human beings, we are more than our minds. We have feeling hearts, souls, and bodies. Life is so rich!

What do you think makes a “whole person?” How do we work towards achieving wholeness in an academic setting?

I love communications.

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I feel like I’ve finally found the degree of my dreams. I don’t want to get into it too much, because we’ve only been together for a week, but seriously. I am telling you, communications is the major for me.

This is my first year as a communications major (side note: the official major and minor program will be established by 2014). For a gal who has studied everything from psychology to international development, and who has felt lost in the midst of it all, this is monumental.

Expectations

When I left high school, I felt that it was expected for me to know what career I wanted, what I was really passionate about, and at the very least – what I wanted to major in.

But I didn’t know! So in the meantime, I did all the things that seemed interesting to me, and began to work through the haze of confusion of career options, degree options, club options, options, options, options . . . And I’m still working it out!

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Fast forward

Last night, I had my first communications class. The class was dynamically taught, the subject matter corresponds to my passions, and I can see the content helping me in a future career. This is a new thing. I finally found the rightly fitting program for me.

When you get to university, you may also feel that you’re not ”getting it.” In that place of uncertainty and doubt, I’d encourage you to keep struggling. For a life of passion. For an academic pursuit with purpose. Even for peace. Who knows, one day you might be surprised with arriving at something you really love.

commuter tip #1: get a locker

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If you’re a commuter, you might want to consider renting out a locker at Glendon. This $30 rental saves your back from carrying stuff like winter wear and extra books. If you want a locker, get one fast because they won’t last (see what I did there?). Instructions for renting a locker can be found here.

A heads-up regarding locker location

Lockers have been removed from York Hall and new ones have been installed in the basement of the Centre of Excellence. Meaning lockers this year are new and shiny, not old and grimy (did it again, forgive me).

Returning.

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Here I am again. In a chair, sitting on my butt, listening to a prof talk about something that I don’t fully understand.

It’s a new season in my life in many ways – I have a new major, I’m living in residence for the first time, and I’m a different person than who I was in the spring – but September has arrived like always, the steady chime signaling the arrival of a new academic year.

I don’t feel anxious. This was not the case in my first or second year. As a first-year, I struggled to adjust to university life altogether, whereas during my second year, I needed to adapt to a new environment after transferring to Glendon from another campus.

Thus, September has beckoned a few surprises, including the luxury of being familiar to something. Of knowing what’s coming next. Of having a routine. For the first time in 2 years, I am returning to something that I know well – student life at Glendon. The result is that I’m a lot less stressed than I have been in the past, but also that life is less of an adventure.

I’m not sure what to take away from all this, except a bit of comfort that the new things that phase us now can eventually be overcome to become the familiar. Our fear in the moment will not remain for a lifetime!

Dear first-years, if you are feeling lost in the newness of university right now, please assure yourselves that you can rise to meet all of the obstacles laid out before you. You will struggle, you will adjust, and you will carry on!

As you meet change, you will be changed. Before you realize, September will find you in 2013, yourself being a little wiser, more grown-up, and slightly more prepared to conquer what’s next.

Good luck with these next few weeks of ‘new’.