So Many Choices

12 Feb

sign

I have a problem.

I recently got handed a few new assignments, which isn’t all that unusual since I am a university student.

The issue is this: They are all research or writing assignments, with no predetermined topics.

I can literally write about whatever I want.

And I can’t decide what to pick.

I’ve always thought that there is so much more pressure when you’re forced to pick your own topic.

Sure, at first you’re thinking “FREEDOM! YES!”…

…but then it’s 2 a.m. the night before it’s due and you still don’t know what to write about.

Or, you realize that you picked a terrible topic in the first place and you want to change it, but you don’t have time.

A good topic is the first hurdle to producing great, or at least half-decent, work. It has to be good.

This is the reason that I’m starting to feel a little nervous about completing my assignments.

Not only do I have three projects to choose topics for, but I also have to choose topics for my blogs.

That’s a lot of topics.

And to make matters worse, one of those projects that I have to do is a podcast.

I have to talk for three minutes about something.

Two things you should understand about me:

#1) I’m not sure that I’ve ever voluntarily spoken for three minutes nonstop about anything ever in my life.

#2) I’m incredibly indecisive.

Both of these points make it difficult for me to do a podcast.

My indecisiveness makes it difficult for me to do life.

I need to be absolutely sure about something before I commit, no matter how insignificant or trivial it is. I find myself thinking about every possible outcome of a decision before I make it, no matter how unlikely it may be.

Choices are everywhere, especially as a first year student.

What am I going to major in? Should I go to class today? Study now, or later? Option A), B), or C) All of the above? Do I really like this class? Drop it, or just hope it gets more interesting?

So. Many. Decisions.

How do I cope?

Well, I like to remind myself of the decisions that I’ve made that have worked out well:

1. Chose U of T. So far, so good.
2. Tried out for a basketball team. Love it.
3. Started blogging. It’s been fun.

This list is my proof of the fact that any decision that I make, (i.e. what to write about or research), has the potential to lead to something great (i.e. a decent mark).

Now, if only there was some surefire way to decide which project to tackle first…

coinflip

Heads or tails?

What did people do before the Internet?

1 Feb

Internet’s down.

I’ve never felt so lost.

It’s close to that feeling you get when you think you’ve lost your phone.

You know, where you think that your life is over and you’ve travelled back in time to that weird era when your parents were young.

Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

What am I supposed to do with my time without Wi-Fi?

What’s the weather like if I can’t check The Weather Network online?

Maybe it’s like that old riddle…

If the Internet is down, and no one’s around to check the weather report, is it really -25˚C?

How will I know if someone has sent me an email since the last time I checked it?

Half an hour of uncertainty is too long…

What am I going to do if I can’t want an episode of something before I go to sleep?

Well, I guess I’ll just…read a…what’s that called?…Oh yeah…a book…

***8 hours later***

INTERNET’S BACK UP!

Untitled

Amazing. My life seems to have purpose again.

I don’t know who fixed it, but you’re my new hero.

Thank-you for bringing back email, social media, and YouTube!

Thank-you for enabling me to check the weather without looking out the window!

Thank-you for bringing me back into 2014!

 

 

A Complicated Relationship

1 Feb

Writing – we generally don’t like it.

It’s why we pull all-nighters the day before an essay is due.

It’s why we would rather take a test than do a term paper.

We get so intimidated sometimes by a blank page that we immediately seek out comfort food and let it take over our lives instead….

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(Oh, that’s just me? No one else turns to Haagen-Dazs for guidance? Sure.)

Now, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert by any means, as I am not a professional writer and I have never been published, but I have been learning a lot lately about writing.

I am currently taking a class about rhetoric.

What’s rhetoric, exactly? Well, it’s all about persuasion.

I’m learning how to write in such a way as to get a reader to think, feel, or do something.

It’s a good skill to have.

Employers look for good communicators and job interviews are all about rhetoric.

You can’t get through university without knowing how to write an essay, or give a presentation.

You need to use persuasion to get your TA to accept an assignment that’s a bit late…

Bottom line, rhetoric is important.

So I’ve listed here for you some of the things that I’ve learned about good writing so far.

#1. DO NOT ABUSE THE THESAURUS.

We all do it. We read a sentence of our essay and think that the words we’ve chosen need to sound a little “smarter”. So, we look at the thesaurus suggestions for alternate words and pick the longest one from the list.

DON’T DO IT.

First of all, you probably don’t know it’s actual definition, which means that it may not be the best choice of word for the point that you’re trying to make.

Second of all, if you read a sentence and all of sudden come upon a word that’s ten syllables long and looks like it can’t possibly exist in modern English, it’s a distraction. Your reader is now focusing on this ridiculous word that they don’t know the meaning of instead of focusing on the point that you’re trying to get across.

Oh yeah, and you never want to make your reader feel stupid.

(It just feels like defeat every time I have to open that dictionary app.)

#2. DON’T BE BORING.

There’s a formula we are taught from a young age in school that tells us how to structure our writing.

It goes introduction, main body, conclusion.

It’s boring.

Granted, all are required elements of composition, but you can be creative with it.

Experiment with organization and develop your own voice and tone that will make people want to read what you’re writing.

#3. CONSIDER YOUR READERS.

No matter what kind of writing you are doing, your reader is the most important person in the world.

Your writing is nothing without an audience.

You cannot have an effect on someone if you don’t know who that someone is.

So, know your audience.

Understand what they expect to hear and consider them in every choice that you make as a writer.

#4. IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND/LIKE WHAT YOU’RE WRITING ABOUT, YOUR READERS WILL FALL ASLEEP.

You have to know what you’re talking about (which means you have to read farther than an article’s abstract when conducting research) and you have to want to talk about it.

This is probably the one reason why staying up all night to finish an essay is a bad idea.

You can’t possibly care at 3 am about the topic of your term paper, or whether it is interesting or not. You just want to be done with it.

Well, if that’s the way you feel, that’s the way your paper’s going to sound to your reader…which is bad, because if it’s your TA or Prof, they will get bored and be less inclined to give you a decent grade.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…sometimes you don’t get to choose your topic.

Well, that’s where Rule #5 comes in…

#5. FIND YOUR ANGLE.

There’s room for creativity within a predetermined topic.

You have to find a way to create interest for yourself and your audience by choosing a unique aspect to focus on within that topic.

Again, that’s why the night before is a bad idea.

It takes time to organize your thoughts and to become excited about your angle.

Because, if you like what you’re doing, you’re going to do it better.

PROOF: I like eating ice cream…

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…and I certainly do it well.

 

Think I’m missing any rules? Comment below!

What are you doing with your life?

25 Jan

questionmark

I think it’s time that we had a serious talk…about life.

It seems to me that the biggest unanswered question university students have is:

What am I going to do with my life?

Sure, you might know what you’re going to school for, or what degree you’re working towards…but it’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint exactly the career that you will have post-grad.

Of course, there may be exceptions.

You might have been that person that fell off your bike, ended up in the emergency room with a broken arm, and then suddenly known that you were destined to be a doctor.

But I don’t think that these kinds of epiphanies happen too often.

I am doubtful that one day I will have a moment of total clarity where I will just suddenly understand my life’s purpose.

I don’t think that our “one true calling” really exists.

And I don’t want it to.

I want there to be variations to my calling.

I want to have new passions, new loves, and explore different opportunities.

I want to experience the gradients of gray between the bright, promising white of university and the stark black of a monotonous career.

The problem with this though, is that a lot of people really expect you to have ONE idea, ONE goal, and ONE future.

My parents, who are paying for my education, certainly expect me to know what I intend to do with my life…like, now.

But who decided that a little uncertainty was bad for you?

If being in university has taught me one thing, it’s how much I value learning about new things across different areas of study.

Sure, I had a set picture in my head in high school of what I wanted to do with my life.

And I carried this image with me into university because you just don’t invest in something that you’re unsure about.

But it’s important to take a step back and stop looking at yourself as if you’re in this little box with set limits and boundaries.

Experimentation is how you will figure out what to do with your life.

How do I know?

Well, I’ve been hit in the face with a lot of examples lately.

I had the pleasure today to listen to a guest lecturer named Will Novosedlik speak about his work helping companies build their brand.

He talked about how he discovered that, after 10 years, he didn’t like the idea that the companies he was working with were making promises to consumers that they didn’t really uphold. It was eating away at him.

So he took a step back, and started to write about his frustrations. He soon got himself a column in The National Post and found that simply expressing himself made him feel refreshed and ready to undertake new projects.

The best part? There was no “aha” moment in his story. He went through variations of a career, and ended up feeling better and more satisfied.

And he’s not the only one that’s experienced a change of plans.

I had one prof that told us how she hated linguistics in university. Then, years later, she rediscovered a passion for the subject and is now teaching it to students like me.

I met a psychology prof that admitted she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life in university…(apparently, they threaten to kick you out if you’re in the end of your third year and still haven’t declared a major).

Even my mom and dad have changed jobs in the last few years in favour of something new and different.

My older brother is right in the middle of what I would consider one of the most terrifying transition stages life has to offer: that uncertain period between graduating university and finding a job.

As you can see, the evidence is all around me.

It’s impossible to know what you’re going to be when you’re done school because no one can predict the future.

The best that you can do is to have goals and work towards them.

But it’s important to remember and expect your ideas to change.

Opportunities come up, we meet people with connections and ideas, and we make decisions that we could never predict making any earlier than the moment when we make them.

Conclusion: Life is complicated. Embrace it.

But if what I’m saying doesn’t convince you, well maybe you’ll listen to one of my favourite authors, John Green. He talks about college and life post-grad in his video blogs. Check them out; he’s hilarious:

And, if you’re at all interested in marketing, branding, or the business world, you can find Will Novosedlik’s blog here; he’s a great writer:

http://novosedlik.com

Why is it so cold?

25 Jan

ice

Wow, it’s been cold lately.

Like, wind chill warnings and temperatures way, WAY down in the minuses kind of weather.

It’s weird because I’ve lived in Canada all my life, so I’m used to this kind of thing.

But I think I’ve been kind of sheltered from it until now.

In high school, I always had the luxury of being driven to school in a nice, heated car, or waking up and finding that my dad had already warmed up and scraped the ice off of my car for me.

I didn’t really have to walk to school a whole lot in the winter in those days.

But now, I have to walk everywhere.

Which is fine, it’s only a few minutes to walk across campus. But in the weather we’ve been having lately…it’s been tough.

My dad says that this cold is a good thing because it’s another incentive for me not to take up smoking.

I can always count on him for a different take on things.

But seriously though, I didn’t wear gloves the other day and I thought my fingers were going to fall off.

It seems like all I do is talk about the cold with people these days.

They say: “It’s soooooo cold!”

I nod and say: “Sooooooo cold!”

And then we can’t say anything else because we’re shivering too much.

However, I did have an interesting conversation with my roommate today. She’s from Nigeria and she asked me how long Canadian winters usually last.

I said that it all depends on whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow.

Yeah…I know, it’s a good quality joke, but it didn’t really land.

She had no idea what I was talking about.

I had to explain what Groundhog Day was, so my joke was pretty much dead and the situation got awkward.

Seriously, imagine yourself saying: “Well, here in Canada we have Groundhog Day where a bunch of people wait around for a groundhog to come out of its hole and if it sees its shadow, then we’ll have six more weeks of winter and if it doesn’t, then we’ll have an early spring.”

She thought I was nuts.

I told her to Google it.

groundhog

 

Too Smart for My Own Good?

17 Jan

=  yikes

One of my friends said this to me via text the other day:

You’re too smart for your own good.

First of all, thanks!

Second of all, so not true.

I may be in university and an adult now, but I do some really stupid things sometimes.

And being on my own in a new place isn’t helping.

I’ve locked myself out of my house (multiple times).

Yesterday I attempted to get something out of my bag while carrying hot chocolate and walking, all at the same time…I ruined my sweater and my jeans.

I pulled on a door clearly marked “push”….a couple of times.

I made a pasta salad, but I misjudged how much pasta to cook…I’ve been eating it for most of my meals for the last week.

Oh, and then there are those texts I send to my mom and dad every so often.

I ask them some really phenomenal questions sometimes…and it only occurs to me afterwards how dumb they sound.

erm

Here are just a few of them:

Does chocolate stain? (From the aforementioned multi-tasking incident).

Then: It was HOT chocolate, does that make a difference?

 Is a red sweater safe to put in with a load of whites?

 How do you cook chicken? 

 Can you put a load of colours and whites in the same dryer? 

 How do you clean a green onion?

 How long will cheese keep in the fridge? (I asked this one too late…my cheese got blue mold).

So clearly, I have my moments.

But what’s really amazing to me is the fact that I can go to class in my first year of university and have my mind blown about some of the things that I’m learning…and then I can have moments like these where I feel like I’m not thinking at all.

Maybe all this higher learning is pushing some of the more basic pieces of knowledge out of my head…hmmm…

But on the bright side, I learned the answer to most of the stupid questions that I asked my parents.

I can now cook chicken like a pro, clean onions like nobody’s business, and separate my laundry in no time.

These might not be skills that I anticipated learning, (mostly when I thought of coming to university, I thought of gaining more academic-type knowledge), but they are skills that are (shockingly) important for everyday life.

So, all the expenses of university life are paying off, I think.

After all, can you really put a price on life skills?

(FYI mom and dad, that’s a rhetorical question)

When Things Go from Bad to Worse

17 Jan

ube

A new semester means new courses.

 I was pretty excited that a new course of mine was all about writing.

Now you’d think that I would have this one in the bag, right?

I have a blog; I write all the time…should be easy, shouldn’t it?

Well, I’m learning that that’s not actually the case.

Let me explain.

Coincidentally, my first writing assignment was a blog.

My first thought was: YES! I KNOW WHAT A BLOG IS!

But I soon found out that what I normally blog about (i.e. random things that happen to me) are not very…academic.

And this assignment was supposed to be.

I had to write a critical annotated bibliography in the form of a blog about an article written by Stephen King.

So…a bit more complicated and formal than what I’m used to.

For this reason, as soon as I sat down to write, I felt the pressure.

Why, you ask?

Well, it was supposed to be short and succinct, coherent and easy to read. I needed to make good points and get them across in a manner that made sense, and was brief.

Sounds easy, but it’s kind of a tall order.

I kept telling myself that this shouldn’t be a difficult assignment.

I kept repeating in my head: this should be easy, this should be easy, this should be easy…

 …until there came a point when I admitted that it wasn’t actually that easy.

I was totally overthinking it.

And you know what that means: writer’s block was beginning to set in.

But I powered through it.

I had a draft (albeit a fairly rough one) finished, and I was feeling better about the whole situation.  

 That is, until the whole situation changed.

screen

 

Yes, that’s a picture of a blank word document.

I somehow deleted my almost finished blog.

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How, you ask?

Well, I highlighted and cut the few paragraphs of my rough blog in order to paste them into a template that the prof had provided. But after cutting and before pasting, I (for some reason) decided to copy a file from my documents and paste it on my desktop.

So, when I went to paste my blog, of course the only thing that got pasted was the name of that file that distracted me.

And so I cut my own blog, and couldn’t get it to come back.

The worst part was that it was late at night the day before the assignment was due (as per usual for a procrastinator such as myself) and I had to start all over again.

I was extremely frustrated.

I sat staring at my laptop screen for a solid 5 minutes begging my blog to come back to me.

 

 

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But once that 5 minutes was up and my grieving process was over, I began writing again.

Just like before, I powered through it and got the thing done.

Moral of the story?

Always COPY, don’t CUT.

It’s just safer.