The Racer, Part 2

Alternatives to racing I

I tried interval training for the first time a few weeks ago.  As you may know, I’ve been running for a while and have done a few races.

Interval training is very different from how I used to train.  Previously, with little guidance other than training plans found on the internet, I was running prescribed distances at a steady pace.  In interval training, you run at your goal pace in short, manageable intervals (usually one minute or so) with rest periods in between.  This supposedly helps your body acclimatize to your goal pace.

In this way, interval training is not about finishing faster than the last one.  It’s about consistency.

I definitely was caught aback by this difference.  The audio guide (from Nike+ Run Club – Nike+ apps rule my fitness life) for this interval training session that I was following called out in the very first interval to cease from all-out sprinting.  This surprised me as I realized that I unconsciously was doing exactly that.

Alternatives to racing II

A friend of mine and I were bemoaning the difficulties of writing papers.  Typical arts students.

I always manage to turn things in on time.  I cannot bear to take deductions based on lateness, rather than my skill.  So, it boggles my mind when I hear of others like my friend who knowingly turns things in late.  To her, the paper was not ready, so she didn’t turn it in until it was.  For her, the greatest challenge when writing papers is bringing herself to finish it on time.

“But why?” I demanded to know.

She replied that she’s not sure herself, but perhaps it’s because she lives life a little slower.  I can see that as a viable reason – she has told me about how she’s noticed certain trees on campus look particularly beautiful at sunset, and eased the speed that I would have gone at during our meetings by taking time to talk about things that aren’t on the agenda.  Things such as school and family, which are in a way just as important, because it’s brought the two of us closer and thus made the meetings much better.

I walked by one of those trees she talked about, albeit early in the morning instead of at the end of the day.  I chuckled as I eyed the orange leaves, drooping slightly with dampness, thinking to myself that it did look as gorgeous as my friend described.

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Here it is.

I am scared, so scared.  I want to write, I need to write – but I’m not talking about this blog.  I’m talking about my paper.  It’s due Monday.  I have 400 shoddily-put together words on a word document titled “draft 1” (that’s right, lowercase) because I am well aware that I am not satisfied with how it sounds right now and I will revisit it to create a “draft 2”, “draft 3”, perhaps even a “draft 6”.

Every word I write sounds frozen, awkward and strange.  I read it and it doesn’t capture the argument that I want it to say.  What is my argument, actually?  How is what I’m saying an “argument” rather than a description?  I revisit the outline and beat the steps of my argument back into my mind, and back to the paper I go.

I’m back at the paper and things still sound wrong, so wrong.  A person once told me to just write it out.  I’ve told people to just write it out and not look back.  But it doesn’t make sense to me.

My professor in office hours yesterday asked me how I haven’t had a collision in university yet, what with all my extracurriculars on top of my academic performance.  I nervously laughed and truthfully remarked that perhaps one was indeed oncoming.

 

Here it is.

The Racer, Part 1

“You’re talking so fast, with your teeth clenched, I can’t hear what you’re saying,” interrupts my professor, imitating the teeth-clenching part himself.  “Slow.  Down.”

Ah.  Not the first time someone’s asked me to slow down my speaking pace, but it’s one of the most unflattering descriptions I’ve heard and seen.  Only my Mum’s descriptions that liken my speech to “unwieldy chunks coming out of your mouth” matches up to this remark from my professor.

I was at my professor’s office hours to ask about grad schools.  He’s the oldest prof I’ve had: he frequently brings up anecdotes about his grown son, who is now 30-something years old and starting his own family (if I recall correctly).  This prof speaks in a slow, measured pace that more than one of my peers have described as “grandfather-ly”.

In contrast to my prof across from me, I’m not only speeding through my sentences, but also through life, apparently.  I outline my plans to go to grad school right after undergrad since I know my career options all rely on a Masters degree.  As such, there’s no reason to delay graduate studies, I explain.  Our conversation also touches on the matter of my extracurricular activities.  He cautions me about being so “well-organized”.  As he puts it, I’m “organizing things” left and right, all the time.  “You’ve got to watch out,” he said sagely, wagging a finger at me.  “Life is not a race.”

My prof’s diagnosis is accurate.  My days begin, end and revolve around my to do list and my schedule.  I am constantly thinking about where I can slot in a meeting or a block of time to work on something.  Organizing my time and my priorities is key to my success, second only to having the motivation to do it.

I organize left and right to manage all the things that I want to work on.  I want to have this leadership position.  I want to go to this conference and have this experience.  I want to go to that conference too, and I would appreciate having some funding for it. I want to achieve all these things, alongside applying for grad schools.

Maybe I don’t have to do all of this now.  Maybe these experiences will eventually come and I can savour them then.

But I want them now.  If I don’t seize my chance now, then when?

So I’ll continue racing.  Racing to organize and get all that I can now because I don’t dare pass up on this chance.

Revisting my aversion to war – an update

I went to a conference with a team of fellow Canadian youth recently.  We had a media event with several other Canadian youth organizations.

In preparation for the event, we were discussing last week whether we ought to wear poppies, as Remembrance Day (November 11) was coming up.  In Canada, it is quite common to see people wear poppies in commemoration of veterans and other people who serve in the armed forces not only on Remembrance Day, but from the start of November onwards.

I raised my uneasiness with wearing a poppy.  A teammate asked me to explain, which I did as best as I could orally (my past post explains it much more eloquently).  She shared her own views, which was that wearing poppies purely showed appreciation for those who have served.  I acknowledged that that was a way to view it, one that I had previously held in high school during my gung-ho commemoration/Canadian nationalism phase, but one that I was no longer comfortable with.  With that, the conflicting opinions floated around us, unresolved. I declined to accept a poppy from another teammate who had brought several as back ups, postponing my decision to wear one until later.

When the question about poppies was raised again the morning of our media event as that second teammate inquired whether he should prepare poppies for us to wear, I conceded and said I would wear one for consistency’s sake, to dress like how a Canadian official might dress, and to fall into the norm amongst many other Canadians.

I ceded so that I wouldn’t be a bump in my delegation’s road forward.  I chose the prospect of smoother working relations over my moral stance.

However, acquiescing to wearing a poppy did not only undermine the strength of my conviction, but also would have undermined the meaning of the poppy as I do not believe in the message it conveys.

Fortunately, this did not come to pass, for another organization doing the press conference firmly insisted that wearing poppies was a personal choice.  Since the only other offered opinion favoured consistency, in which either all press conference speakers wear them or none, the end result was that nobody wore a poppy.

It was a slightly tense moment when those two stances met. The same sense of unresolved conflict that I felt when explaining to my teammate why I was uncomfortable with wearing a poppy hung in the air.

As a larger group, we didn’t progress on the matter to find a solution or to meet halfway.  I am glad for it though.  I should have emulated the other organization’s undaunted position.  That would have demonstrated the strength of my beliefs.  It would have challenged others to rethink their own views, raising questions of how the meaning behind wearing poppies differs amongst people and whether everyone should be expected to wear poppies.

I recall now that I decided after writing “My Aversion to War” to wear a white poppy for peace this Remembrance Day.  Like the red poppy, the white poppy’s meaning does vary amongst people but its roots are in pacifism.  I had envisioned that wearing one would stimulate critical reflection on Remembrance Day as I imagined explaining the discomfort behind my choice to any curious people.

I’ve failed to follow through on this promise to wear a white poppy this year, and also have undermined the strength of my beliefs.  If they’re still worth anything, I won’t do the same next time.

Tea

I pulled the first all-nighter of the school year on Thursday night.  After a morning of stumbling around, one foot tripping in front of another, I managed to safely get to school.

I typically have tea in my designated mug with breakfast, but as I was maximizing sleeping time I had to pack my tea to go in a thermos.

Once I took my first sip in class, I felt warmth and clarity spread through my limbs and mind.  I looked at my unassuming, petite thermos and was in awe at the magical properties of the brown liquid inside.

Tea is amazing.

Tea, Elixir of Gods

Race in Reality

I finished my second half-marathon race on Sunday.  After making the almost-obligatory posts on social media about this accomplishment with a photo of myself smiling after the race, I couldn’t stop reflecting on how the photo I posted belied the gruelling aspects of the experience.

In an accurate reflection of the lack of time I have lately to type up and polish a post, and my scratchy handwriting, here is a more accurate representation of my half-marathon experience than the final “I finished my race!” photo you may see on social media:

Race in Reality 1

Race in Reality 2

Handwriting interpretation is available upon request.

 

Am I really a student?

Student: a person who studies at a school.

I’ve been a student for essentially the entirety of my life, but going back to school this year hasn’t quite felt like going back to school.

As I look at my weekly schedule on Google Calendar, which I now use in conjunction with my Trello boards to keep track of my life, it looks like making use of hour-by-hour agendas is not the only thing I picked up from too many work terms.  In the past week or so since returning to school, the time I spend in meetings is almost on par (if not exceeding) with the time I spend in class.

Like work, the time between meetings or class is spent preparing for the next one.  I’ve spent remarkably little time on readings or assignments for class since first day of school.  Instead, I’ve found myself drafting emails, researching non-school work things for projects that I’m working on, and filling out numerous funding applications.  I’m getting a lot more practice writing succinctly like I do in the workplace than writing academic papers.

The unusual ratio of lecture to meeting time is largely due to the fact that I am taking a lighter course load this year.  However, I’m also missing out on a bunch of lectures for conferences, much like last year.  This time around, I’m missing two weeks’ worth of class!

I’ve said before that missing class for experiential learning opportunities like conferences is well worth the stress.  Yet, with this skewed schoolwork to non-schoolwork ratio that I’ve been living with so far this year, it feels awfully unnatural.  I don’t feel like I’m a student so much as a free-wheeling person on campus who has to pop by lectures as frequently as I do Skype calls.

The hardest part about this situation is that I have to constantly remind myself where my priorities are.  There are many occasions where I’ve sat down and wanted to finish up an action item from a meeting, before I tell myself that I am first and foremost a student.  School work needs to be my priority.  I need to graduate.

I am a student.  I am a student.  I am a student.

But what’s a student for, other than preparing for a career after school?  Which my non-school commitments are supporting?