Archive | October, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

31 Oct

                             

Halloween is one of my favourite holidays.

A time of year when you’re encouraged to scare kids and eat all the candy you can handle (and then some) is all right by me.

My love for Halloween started when I was pretty young.

As a kid, I’d get really into my costumes. I went as a princess, a cavewoman, a movie star, a boxer….and then I got older and thought that my costumes needed to be scarier.

So, I came up with the best and most innovative costume idea that I’ve ever had: a two-headed vampire.

Yup…apparently a vampire with one head just wasn’t gettin’ it done for me.

I also loved scary movies as a kid. Scream, Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, The Ring, Signs, anything with Freddy or Jason in it…I’ve seen them all.

(Which reminds me, I really need to ask my parents why they let me watch so many horror movies as a child…)

So with such a long history of loving Halloween, I should be overjoyed that it’s almost here, right?

Wrong. I just don’t feel like I’m in the Halloween spirit this year.

What’s changed?

Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m in university now.

But I don’t think that my enthusiasm is fading because I’m getting older.

I think the real reason I’m not as excited is because I experience Halloween 24/7.

Not sure what I mean? Well, let me explain. Here are some classic Halloween images – the equivalent of what I’ve been seeing here at UTM.

1) Zombies.

You can always tell when it’s midterms or someone has a big test coming up. People walk around looking sleep-deprived from pulling all-nighters to study. They shuffle around campus half-dead, just like zombies. I bet if you got close enough you would be able to hear some groans…(or they might try to eat your brain…you know, to digest some of your knowledge…chew on some of your ideas…get a taste for your thoughts…okay, I’m done.)

2) Vampires.

What do vampires do? They suck the life out of you. Hello midterms.

3) Haunted houses.

Living with neighbours means that I sometimes hear muffled noises on the other side of my walls. Or….maybe I just tell myself that it’s my neighbours and my house is actually haunted….creepy, right?

4) Carving pumpkins.

I have always put a lot of effort into my jack-o-lanterns. I would get this really creative idea for my pumpkin’s face, carve it, make a huge mess, get pumpkin gunk all over myself, and then whine when I have to clean up. Sounds a lot like me trying to cook my own meals…

5) The annoying horror movie protagonist that never does what you tell them to do even though you yell at the TV screen repeatedly.

I just got back a couple of my tests that I wrote. I became incredibly annoyed at a couple of my answers on questions that I had gotten wrong. I knew the answers…I KNEW them, but I was probably nervous so I got them wrong…stupid, stupid, stupid! Yup. I’m that girl that gets scared and isn’t thinking straight so she goes to investigate the creepy noise even though the smart thing to do is stay put and stay calm. I can only hope that on the next test I will listen to the voice inside my head yelling “NOOO! DON’T DO THAT! ARE YOU NUTS!? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”

So there you have it: My list of things that remind me of Halloween, even when it’s not Halloween.

But, you know, I could be wrong.

I might just not be that into Halloween this year because I haven’t had time to think about it with all the tests and quizzes and assignments and essays…

Huh. Maybe I was onto something with that two-headed vampire stuff…

Life with two brains could make university a whole lot easier.

Coffee Break

22 Oct


I’m about to reveal something shocking about myself. Brace yourselves…

I have never been to a Starbucks.

Well actually, that’s a lie. I had never been to a Starbucks until today.

(I know, I know…like I said, shocking)

Yes sir, today was one for the history books. I left the security of my comfort zone and ventured into uncharted territory: the Starbucks outside of our UTM library.

As you may have already guessed, I’m not normally a coffee drinker.

Well, actually, that’s kind of a lie too.

Truth is, I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. And I did not intend to break that streak today…but I did.

I went to Starbucks with my roommate because I am still recovering from being sick. I thought that a hot drink would be good for me and my achin’ throat.

My intention was to get a hot chocolate.

I love hot chocolate. I drink it all the time. If I don’t have hot chocolate in my house, something is very wrong. I don’t want to say I’m addicted but…I really love it.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I just really want you to be able to imagine my outrage when I saw that hot chocolate at Starbucks is under the category of “Kids Drinks”.

My only question is: Why?

They had some kind of chocolate chai tea that wasn’t a “Kid’s Drink”…that’s close enough to hot chocolate, right? So why aren’t they in the same category? Somebody tell me!

What makes hot chocolate an immature drink?

Timmies doesn’t have hot chocolate on their menu under “Kids Drinks”.

Is Starbucks telling me that if I don’t drink coffee I’m not an adult? If the law can recognize me as an adult, why can’t you, Starbucks?! Are you above the law, Starbucks?! Huh? HUH?

Man, I have never been so upset with a coffee chain in my life!

But that wasn’t even the worst part about this whole experience: I let the sign win. I actually felt like I couldn’t order hot chocolate because I’m too old.

So I was forced to make a drastic move: I ordered coffee.

A pumpkin spice latte to be exact.

I have to admit, it was pretty good. It wasn’t hot chocolate but…anyways…I guess I’ll get over it.

Overall, this was an interesting experience for me for two main reasons:

1) Where I’m from, there are no Starbucks. We have about a million different Tim Horton’s, but that’s it. I always associate Starbucks with the big city because that’s where they always seem to be. Toronto is no exception. I feel like now I’m finally a true Torontonian…it’s like I’ve been initiated into city life.

2) I found out that some drinks have higher statuses than others. “Lattes” are apparently too good to be put on a menu alongside “hot chocolate”. (Still not over it. I want hot drink equality!)

I realize that for most university students this experience would not be so noteworthy.

But for me, it was monumental.

I have never once felt like I needed coffee to get through a day of class or to stay up all night studying. But a lot of students do. The line-ups at Starbucks are always ridiculously long and people come away carrying cups that are ridiculously huge.

Is coffee really a necessary study aid? Why is it that coffee is such a huge part of student life?

Please tell me, I need to understand the mystery that is ‘Starbucks Coffee’.

Oh, and is coffee addictive? Because I’m afraid that if I keep having to order coffee instead of hot chocolate, I may get hooked.

Isn’t coffee like, a gateway drug or something? Don’t they say that it’s one of the hardest things to quit? Doesn’t caffeine give you the shakes?

So many unanswered questions.

I think I’ll play it safe and just go to Tim Horton’s….thank goodness for their lack of beverage discrimination!!!

Why Me!?! (Cough, Cough)

22 Oct

It’s official: I have taken my mother for granted all of my life.

 Why do I say that? Well, I’m sick. And I’m realizing that it’s pretty nice to have someone around to take care of you.

 Out here on my own living in university res, I don’t have my mom around to nurse me back to health.

 This means:

 If I want chicken noodle soup, I have to get it.

 If I need more Kleenex, I have to get it.

 If I need Halls, I have to buy them.

 If I need Advil, I have to get it.

 If I complain because I’m looking for a little sympathy, I just get ignored.

 If I’m making weird, delirious moaning sounds, I hear “What’s wrong with you?” instead of “Oh, my poor baby!”

 It’s tough to be in university when you’re sick.

 In high school, it was pretty easy to tell myself that I could afford to miss some school and it wouldn’t have any kind of significant impact on my grades.

 But it’s not so easy to catch up after missing classes in university. There’s more content that you miss and you can fall behind pretty quickly (trust me).

 Plus, in high school, my dad wouldn’t have been on my case about how much money it’s costing him for me NOT to be in class.

 So because I felt guilty that my parents are paying a lot of money for my education, I went to class, even though I was sick.

 I sat there in the back of a lecture hall trying to look miserable enough so that no one would sit beside me…I didn’t want to get anyone else sick. (And, I wanted to avoid that awkward situation where you sniffle and cough so much that you just know the person beside you is disgusted).

 I was delirious most of that lecture. I couldn’t pay attention. Every time I tried I either ended up either coughing on myself or having to dig in my bag for a Kleenex. But at least I was against a wall so I cough and sneeze into it and not onto other people…common courtesy, you know?

 I tried to hold back. I tried to keep my coughs inside and push back my sneezes. I sipped on water hoping that would help. For the most part, I was able to keep myself together fairly well for that hour.

 But when class was over, I didn’t hold back anymore.

 I was so relieved I was free that I went outside and just let out all of the coughs and sneezes that I so desperately needed to release! I blew my noise without fear of disturbing (and disgusting) my fellow students.

 It was a great feeling.

 By the way, if there’s anyone out there who may have had the pleasure of being in one of classes these past few days, I’m sorry. If you end up sick, please don’t blame me. It is 100% my parents’ fault. They made me feel guilty about skipping class, so I had to go and spread my germs. I had no choice.

 The most frustrating thing about this whole experience though, is that I don’t know how long I have to live like this.

 I don’t know if this is just a minor cold, or if it’s the type of illness that starts up the zombie apocalypse. (Sorry, the first episode in the new season of The Walking Dead just aired, so I have zombies on the brain…)

 Bottom line, I don’t know when it’ll get better, but I’m kind of hoping it does sometime before next week (I have 3 tests to muddle through).

 I do know one thing though: The person that invented that super soft Kleenex is my new hero.


Those Pesky Nerves

11 Oct

You know, I never really thought that I had any nervous habits.

I’m the kind of person that could be stressed out about something, but the rest of the world would never know it.

I just don’t show that I’m nervous. But trust me, I do get nervous. Especially before a test.

I think that the added pressure of my first university midterms have caused my nervous habits—the ones that I never thought that I had—to become more obvious.

For example:

I’ve noticed that I have this weird habit of playing with one of those foam stress balls while studying….(except mine’s infinitely cooler because it’s a stress star)


I’ve noticed that I get really quiet and don’t talk to anyone when I have a test on my mind…but I might talk to myself a little bit when I’m studying…(C’mon, you know this! YOU KNOW THIS!)

I’ve noticed that my mind wanders right before I’m about to take a test to really, REALLY random topics….Have you ever wondered if bald people use shampoo? Why does Winnie the Pooh have to wear clothes when Rabbit, Tigger, and Piglet walk around with nothing on?

I haven’t only noticed things that I do when I’m anxious, though—midterms seem to bring out a whole lot of nervous habits in other students as well.

You always see people frantically studying their notes outside of the classroom when they’re waiting to go inside for their test. (Really, what can you possibly learn in the 2 minutes you spend cramming in the hall that you didn’t know already?)

Why do people do this? Nerves.

You hear people ask the Prof questions right before the test that have already been answered and thoroughly explained….(Pencil. Student card. Don’t leave before time is up.)

Why does this always happen? Nerves.

And then there’s the classic toe-tapping, pencil-twirling or pen-clicking that people do when they’re stuck on a particularly tough question.

Why? Yup, you guessed it…nerves.

I don’t blame anyone that has these habits. I get it: we all get nervous. I’ve done most of these things myself without even realizing it.

What’s the good thing about nerves? Well, I don’t really know.

But what I do know is that every time I get nervous, I realize that I care about what I’m studying.

One of the biggest things I worried about before coming to university was that I wouldn’t find classes that interested me, or that I would hate the program that I chose.

But the fact that I’m nervous before a test means that I genuinely care about the outcome. I want to do well, because I actually like what I’m learning about.

To me, this is a big relief.

To others, well…they’ll probably just say that I’m nuts and go back to their last minute cramming.

But I want to know what you think…can nerves be a good thing? Do you have any nervous habits?

Welcome to the Danger Zone

11 Oct

So. Here’s the view from the front door of my res:



What you don’t see in this shot are all of the construction workers walking around on my roof with their tools that I’m sure have an actual purpose, but to me just seem to be used to make noise.

It’s midterms. And the roofs in my townhouse block need to be fixed (for some reason unknown to me).

What does this mean? Well, let me break it down for you.

Bad roofs + midterm stress + excess noise = one unhappy camper (a.k.a. me)

And in case you missed it, it’s midterms.

It’s the one time of year that first year students such as myself are starting to feel the stress of university.

Being unable to focus on studying in your own home because of noise is a problem.

A couple nights ago, before I discovered that my house would be under construction, I was feeling good about the midterm that I had coming up. I thought that I had done everything right. I studied and got to bed at a decent time. But then, I was jarred awake early in the morning by thumping and banging and crashing on my rooftop.

I was only semi-awake, so my first thought was that someone was breaking into my house. But it didn’t take me long to realize that no burglar tries to get into your house through the ceiling.

The walls were shaking. Some of the noises were so loud that I literally flinched. But once I realized that it was just construction and I wasn’t so startled, I moved on to frustration.

But the weird thing was, I was frustrated because of something that I remembered from my psych lecture the other day. It was about sleep and all the different cycles you go through during an average 8-hour rest. Basically, the last couple hours that you sleep are your longest REM cycles, which help you to recover mentally, as opposed to the first few hours that help your body recover physically.

Recovering mentally includes helping you to remember things that you learned the night before.

So my second thought after the burglar thing was this:

OH NO! YOU’VE INTERRUPTED MY REM CYCLE! MY MEMORIES HAVE NOT YET BEEN CONSOLIDATED!

The positive take away here? Well, obviously something had sunk into my brain: I had remembered the sleep cycles that we had studied in class.

So even though I was still frustrated, I did get a bit of a confidence boost from this whole experience. I thought:

Pretty good that I’m able to remember all that from my lecture after being jolted awake early in the morning, eh? Even when I’m not fully awake I can recall what my prof said! Impressive, no? Oh yeah, this midterm will be a breeze! Construction? What about it? I’m going to ace this test regardless of the headache this noise has caused me!

It took me about 30 more seconds that morning to realize that my midterm was in biology….not psych.

Who Knew?

4 Oct

 I’m learning that there is really a lot I don’t know about living on my own.

I’ve been in UTM res for about 4 weeks now, and last night was my first “house check”.

For those of you that don’t know, a house check is basically where your Don comes into your townhouse and makes sure that it isn’t a pigsty.

                                               

I can assure you that I’m not a messy person. My house does not look disgusting enough for pigs to call it home. (Although, since our garbage wasn’t picked up this week, it might smell like we have a pig living with us…)

I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I like things clean. So I thought that taking care of my own townhouse would be easy because I have always been pretty good about keeping things neat and tidy anyways.

But there are a few things about maintaining a home that I didn’t realize.

For one thing, it’s been painfully obvious that chores don’t get done by magic (a.k.a my mom and dad).

Clean clothes don’t appear out of thin air.

I can’t make a request and then have a hot meal placed in front of me.

I can’t say, “Hey mom, I got a stain on my favourite jeans, can you take care of that? Maybe hand-wash the stained part before you throw it in the laundry? Thanks.”

I can’t say, “I’m cold” and have someone else get up and turn up the heat for me.

My bed doesn’t get made on its own….and the sheets don’t get changed and washed by themselves, either.

The garbage and recycle bins don’t get placed on the curb by 7am all by themselves.

The list goes on and on.

I feel like before I lived on my own, I only knew half the story about doing chores. 

I thought “Oh yeah, I can cook my own meals! Piece of cake!”….but what I didn’t realize was that it almost always takes longer to clean up and do dishes after you cook those meals.

I thought “Laundry? Oh yeah, I can figure that out…it’ll be done before I know it”….but what I didn’t know was that I own a lot of clothes that need ironing after being washed.

I thought that I could handle vacuuming….but I’m fairly tall (and old), so my back gets sore being hunched over! Who knew that you could injure yourself doing chores!

Who knew about all these add-ons? Who knew chores came with unexpected surprises? Who knew that housework is actually WORK?

WHO KNEW?! I’LL TELL YOU WHO: MY PARENTS! AND THEY DIDN’T WARN ME AT ALL! WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?! WAY TO PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR THE “REAL WORLD”, MOM AND DAD!

But I could never stay mad at you guys. 

An apology in the form of a cheque to cover the new maid that I will be hiring will do just fine.  😉

Fight or Flight

4 Oct

Stress can kill you.

That seemed to be the main theme of my psych lecture the other day.

It was really comforting considering what my week looked like: test, assignment due, homework due, essay due, test…

Great, so now I’m stressing about how much work I have to do, and I’m stressing out about how much I’m stressing out.

So how can stress kill you exactly? Well, apparently stress isn’t just all in your head; it actually has an effect on your immune system. Meaning you can actually become physically ill from excess stress.

This shouldn’t be a surprise though. I mean, who hasn’t felt sick during an exam when you look at a question and you just…blank.

Oh, and then usually, it’s worth the most marks so you just blabber on about whatever random facts that you actually can recall. Whether or not it actually answers the question though, is a toss-up.

See? There you go. That’s stress wreaking havoc on your body.

We were also talking about our flight or fight response in class, and how it’s sort of outdated.

In the old days, people actually had things to be afraid of. Let’s consider for example, oh…I don’t know….that time when cavemen were running away from hungry dinosaurs (what? that didn’t happen? I thought The Flintstones was a documentary? No? Oh well…).

Anyways, those cavemen were subjected to dangerous situations all the time and they benefited from the fight or flight response. Basically, they came face to face with a hungry dinosaur, and their bodies prepared them to either fight the thing, or (probably the better option in this case) to run for the hills.

But today, people just aren’t subjected to dangerous, life-threatening situations in their everyday lives. So the things that activate our fight or flight response (and our stress) are things that you can’t actually fight or run away from.

So, if we can’t act on our stress to relieve it, where does it go?

Well, if you’re like me, it gets bottled up inside you until the night before your first university test and then you have a mini-meltdown.

As university students, we stress about tests, deadlines, and getting our laundry done without shrinking it or dying it different colours (that last one might just be me, though).

These things are our hungry dinosaurs.

What’s important to realize is that these fears of ours don’t compare to dangerous, life-threatening situations. We need to figure out what fears are worth worrying about, and which aren’t.

For example:

Finding yourself standing between a mama bear and her cubs: Worth it.

Stressing out about a test: Not worth it.

Finding yourself stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue: Worth it.

Feeling like your going to fail your exams: Not worth it.

Going skydiving and forgetting your parachute: Worth it.

Worrying that, even though you brought about 20 pens to your test, every one of them will die before you finish: Not worth it.

Do you see a difference? Because sometimes I feel like I can’t.

Sometimes, I feel like I would gladly take that mama bear in exchange for a university test.

But that’s ridiculous.

It’s silly to worry about such small fears in comparison to others.

You can’t let yourself get stressed out over your fears. Because, hey, it could always be worse…

Image

….you could always be stuck in a cage with this guy!