An Unintentional Summer

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Summer Decisions

I’m an “intuitor” (is that a word)? I feel things out. I go with my gut.

I’m also a stubborn gal. If I can help it, I’ll always choose the opposite option as what my dad wants for me.

So as I was thinking out this summer, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. The only option that sat right in my gut was the option my dad was rooting for: visiting family in Finland and Singapore. What!? My gut always disagrees with my dad.

Although this trip agreed with my intuition, it offended the things I value most. That is: accomplishment (I am a pro at finding resume-building opportunities), community (This summer I will be leaving behind a beloved camp community where I was extravagantly loved and really useful), and an identity of humanitarian suffering. This last one is perhaps the hardest to unpack.

Identity Crisis

You see, I idealize this archetype of the individual that suffers. I can’t remember who said it, but those of us who don’t seek an identity of extravagance/wealth/fame, seek out another identity in suffering.

This identity might seem more altruistic than the first, but it’s ultimately dysfunctional because it asks for something in return for service. It seems altruistic, but it’s completely conditional.

Anyways, the point is that I almost committed to working in the Global South with marginalized people. It was an impressive, seemingly-altruistic summer commitment, that would have been entirely selfish.

Flights booked, ready to go

Reflecting on the things I’ve been forced to loosen my hold of, I’m seeing more and more potential in my summer choice to go on this family trip. And here I am. My flights are booked, and my will fitfully surrendered to the direction ahead.

I’m a big advocate of the law of replacement (that is, if you want something out of your life, you must replace it rather than leave an empty space of a vacuum in your life), so these are the things I’m consciously grabbing hold of in Finland and Singapore:

Relaxation, because sometimes you can accomplish more in doing nothing than doing something.

Family time. It’s been 9 years or more since I saw my relatives in Singapore, including my almost 90 year-old only-living grandparent.

Heart growth. I want to find a mentor, walk the beaches, eat obscenely good food,  make music, laze about, and live at a different pace.

So cheers to a summer happened upon, completely unintentionally.

See you soon, Finland.

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1 year later

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Last year I blogged about my New Year’s Resolutions. In that post I resolved to

a) write one song every other month, and

b) tangibly help the poor and oppressed in my global community in 2012.

So how did I do?

I thought it would only be fair that I followed up on how these resolutions panned out. Truth be told, I ended up doing alright, but not as well as I would have hoped.

I wrote a few songs, but not on a regular basis, and I didn’t finish a single one.

In my second resolution, I took baby steps.

I got to participate in a Skype call with a woman trying to prevent families from selling their daughters into prostitution in Cambodia (I told you about her in that earlier post).

I also committed to attending a church for this year called Sanctuary. It’s a community that includes people of every socio-economic status (in other words, it welcomes the street-involved person just as much as the office-worker). It’s an amazing place, and I’ve met some amazing people, but I can’t say I do anything there but show up.

It hasn’t come to anything yet, but I applied for positions with the York International Internship Program. If I get accepted, I could be working in Johannesburg in a community that restores hope to people living with AIDS, promoting the civic awareness of children in Bangalore, or even helping with social media in a Ugandan village. Cray.

Wanting more

Looking back, the thing I’m most frustrated with in 2012 is my willingness to compromise. I didn’t pursue my resolutions further because I put them second to less important things. This leads me to my resolution for 2013.

Looking forward

Considering last year’s story, this year I resolve:

1. To fight resistance.

I can’t count the number of times I picked the “safe” or “default” option over what I knew what was best. Steven Pressfield writes,

“Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually. So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing . . . relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.”

This year, I will fight the urge to do things just because they are the default option/what my culture tells me is the right option/seemingly safe or easy. Instead, I’ll pursue the things I really feel called to.

I will fight resistance.

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What’s your take on New Years Resolutions?

Choice and a comic from Candy Chang

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The other day I was thinking:

I’m twenty years old + that is a young age to be.

The world is my oyster.

Heck.

I could have a baby.
I could backpack Europe.
I could study more to become a business consultant.
I could live as a nun and memorize scriptures for the rest of my life.

I’m at the crossroads of 100 different paths. Which do I take?

My friend Elissa Mielke blogged this Sylvia Plath quote the other day:

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It helped me realize how choice is burdensome.

And then I realized:

I need to start making some choices.

Agh! (A full week of panic/despair/list-making follows.)

One of my friends, Erin, often teases me for trying to conquer the parts of life that can’t be conquered (i.e. relationships, self-growth, the future). You have to live it in the moment, she says. You can’t “finish it” or “achieve it” in one thrust.

I often look for happiness in arriving (at a state of perfect circumstance, or something). It doesn’t work. Life starts now, and that is a beautiful, liberating thing.

Candy Chang’s comic (shared here with permission) is about how not having to choose one thing is a good thing. Read it if what I said is resonating.

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What choices are you struggling with? 

To read more about Candy, go visit her website. It’s rad.

Satisfaction: exam-related thoughts

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Actually Mick, I can get some satisfaction.

This morning I wrote a mid-term for one of my favourite courses this semester, Prof. Tom Wilson’s Structure of English (GL/EN 2608). I did well and I felt so satisfied after handing it in.

This made me realize that there is no better feeling than learning in a class, and then getting rewarded for it with grades. After all, if you’re not learning anything at all, an A feels like a pointless and meaningless label. On the other hand, when you’re really working hard and getting Cs, it’s just discouraging!

Beautifully though, I have been learning…

… about grammar, (I finally know the difference between a preposition, conjunction, determiner, and the different English tenses. No more pretending!)

… about language, (According to Tom Wilson, lots of rules we grow up with are really just highfalutin/pompous/unfounded. The result for me: liberation from being a member of the grammar police.)

about life. Here are some Tom-quotes (paraphrased) that I’ve scrawled down during lecture:

“If you don’t allow yourself to be wrong, you’re committing yourself to never being right.”

“It’s pointless to work hard if we’re not working well. [Not procrastinating] isn’t moralistic, it’s just pragmatic.”

“Dare to be awful, because you actually learn something by failing.”

Brilliant. Preach it, Tom!

With that, it’s time for me to start the 2 papers and assignments waiting for me in my binder.

Have you written exams lately? How did you feel about them?

P.S. Thanks to Michael McGrath for the great blog post idea. You da bomb!

Fall is a confetti toss.

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Lately, I’ve been feeling contemplative.

It’s that point in October where things have become mundane, routine, stressful. Drudgery is setting in like the chill.

Yet, all around me there are small spectacles of colour and light: the quad at golden hour, the rustling branches of an oak tree, the muted sunrise of a cloudy day.

The hardest things to overlook are the trees. Their leaves are turning colour, transforming the campus into a sea of gold and rust.

I can’t help but marvel.

Even if just for a moment, I let the beauty spill through my senses, into my depths. I’m shaken out of my stupor.

My concerns fall away like dead leaves from branches and I remember that life is meant to be celebrated, and fall is the confetti toss.

Moments like these inevitably end, and I return back to the books. But when I do, it’s with a heightened awareness that my life isn’t a burden – it’s a gift.

I’m grateful.

In case you’re wondering, all of these photos were taken in and around Glendon Campus. For more musings about fall, check out Nick’s deeply contemplative (and funny post), Laura Stanley’s awesome post, Five Reasons Why I Love the Fall or my very first blog post. Fall really is the time for deep thoughts!

Before next week, go for a nature walk. The leaves are falling fast… you won’t regret it! 

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.

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’.