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.


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?

State of my year

One of those blog prompt books that I crack open to get the brain juices flowing spat out this theme three months ago.  It’s only now that I have found the words to convey the theme that’s been running through my 2017:

Small potato in a big world.

From my seat at the top of the Lions/Binkert trail in West Vancouver, the urban areas of Greater Vancouver marked a grey puddle to my left.  To my right, I stood over a tranquil Howe Sound and Bowen Island, both which looked surprisingly large compared the urban areas in the distance.

The city of Vancouver, which I am surrounded by daily, makes up the whole world as I know it.  I know where landmarks and neighbourhoods are within that city, but what lays outside is (and still is) a mystery to me.  And what’s outside is infinitely bigger than Vancouver, as I saw from the top of the Lions.  As a person from the small, small puddle of concrete grey amidst vast expanses of land; I realized that my existence was quite minuscule and insignificant.

This sense of small-ness marked the beginning of this year as well when I began working in Ottawa.  In the first week, my workplace hosted an orientation event for new employees.  Twenty or so fresh, young faces filled up an entire boardroom.  I elatedly rode on the energy in the air – of course, I was excited for the job, but moreover, my past workplaces never had orientation events of such scale.

From meeting others and asking about their backgrounds, I learned quickly that I was likely the youngest in the room with the least amount of experience, since I was still an undergraduate.  The other new hires in the room had Master’s degrees and were working on fascinating projects with actual impacts on people (unlike undergraduate papers that are only read by professors and my mum).  Some even had extensive professional experience under their belt in various sectors.

It hit me as I looked out at the circle of focussed, keen faces that some of the brightest minds in the field from across the country were right here in this boardroom.  These people had obviously done extremely well in their academic programs to proceed onto graduate studies, and likely received funding for their graduate studies too.  Furthermore, they proved their extraordinary intellectual and interpersonal capabilities yet again by securing highly-coveted (at least, according to my immediate peers and myself) employment at this organization.  Compared to them and their achievements, myself as an undergraduate student from a tiny corner in Canada was nothing much.  I may have held what I consider as some fairly significant leadership positions on campus, but if my accomplishments could be measured on a metre stick marked in centimetres, theirs were measured by measuring tapes marked in metres.  In other words, their work was on a whole other scale from mine.  They were in a whole other league.

So, whether it was from the top of the Lions in West Vancouver or in a boardroom in snow-covered Ottawa, my understanding of the world (and thus, how I fit into the world) changed as I saw things from a new perspective.  From these vantage points so unlike my everyday point of view, I developed an appreciation for how awesomely immense the world is, and how small my presence truly is.