Category Archives: Desperation

A LOVEly Valentine’s Day

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Alone on Valentine’s Day? Do not fear, for Aphrodite is here (jokes, it’s just me)! Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and while being with that special someone on this holiday is always great (if you have one), who better to spend the day of love with than your girl friends? These ladies are, after all, the ones who have been there and supported you since the beginning. What’s also amazing is the fact that we live in a vibrant and fabulous city with tons of potential for V-Day fun.

Firstly, what’s better than a night full of food and gossipping? Nothing! Toronto has a wide range of restaurants and pubs that have the perfect Valentine’s Day atmosphere. For those (like me) whose heart is dedicated to Hogwarts, there’s The Lockhart near Dufferin Station. For those (like me again) who like sweets, there’s the Nutella Bar! Another entertaining idea is going to a theatre production. Possibilities? Kinky Boots at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, The Winter’s Tale at the Coal Mine Theatre, Gaslight at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and many more.

If your ideal girls day is one of relaxation, what better way to spend it than at the spa? Toronto has a variety of spots doing Valentine’s Day packages. Want to stay home instead? A DIY spa is easy to make.  Glamour has some great tips, including how to make a sugary scrub and tasty (healthy!) drinks. Another way to relax on Valentine’s Day is to watch a rom com. Whether at home or at the movies (How to Be Single is coming out on February 12th), binge-watching romantic comedies with your besties at a sleepover with popcorn and nail polish is a good idea any time of year.

Hope you feel the love! XOXO!

A Meditation on Cancer, Climate Change, and Life

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Astronaut Piers Sellers recently published an article in The New York Times Sunday Review section. I came across it on Twitter, seized by its audacious title: “Cancer and Climate Change”. With an open mind, I learned that the 60-year-old NASA scientist recently diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer wants nothing more than to spend his remaining days back at work.

I was once told to be open-minded, but not so much so that my brain falls out of my head. This time, it did. I was shocked to see that Sellers could not find something else to do with his golden years, like conquering Mount Everest or enjoying a permanent spot at a beach resort. I found this bloodlessly macabre. In fact, I closed the tab before I even finished the article.

I was appalled by Sellers’ end-of-life decision because it counters what many others (and myself) have in mind for our own retirements, mostly including checking off those selfish, self-indulgent, and pathetic items on our to-do list before we die. In fact, Dr. Oliver W. Sacks, the renowned neurologist and author, published a series of farewell articles in the NYT and his memoir On the Move when his melanoma metastasized into his liver in 2015. He said “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at News Hour every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.” Of course, this is not to say that Dr. Sacks is selfish or pathetic. He chose intimacy with his lover and readers instead of taking a stand on global issues when he knew his expiration date was soon to come. Isn’t it only normal for terminal patients to take their remaining time to enjoy the limited clarity of mind which comes with their condition to better face the unfair early death sentence put on their lives?

Seller’s altruistic reasoning and plan on what to do before death shames mine into inferiority. In the next few days, I couldn’t shake his article from my mind, and so decided to resolve my feelings. At the end of the article Sellers reveals his reason for going back to work. He is not just another faceless member of NASA’s staff. Rather, he was an astronaut who walked in space above the Earth and floated alongside the International Space Station. He did what many can only dream of doing, and it was continuing to live this dream which gave him the reason he needed to go back to work, even with cancer.

Like many of you who grind day in and day out for a minimum wage paycheck to survive, you bet that when I face death I will spend all of my time and money doing things I never got to indulge in: visiting foreign lands, skydiving, or just simply being lazy. I cannot even attempt to image what a fantastic life Sellers has lived; however, by finishing his article, I do seem to understand why he chose going back to work as the only item on his bucket list. His life experiences have trumped anything my supposedly boundless brain could ever achieve. Murakami liked to consider people as onions; he said if you peel people layers after layers, what’s left is pride. Reading Seller’s article is like dicing an onion; that burning sensation in your eyes is unmistakable.

I am not writing to condescend anyone’s choices or decisions, but rather to ask the question of how we should live our lives, even without immediate death sentences chasing our rears. Should we push our limits and expand our boundaries to the point that we have little happiness, or should we just be normal and even mediocre so that we can enjoy the present and not worry about how we will become the next Bill Gates or Charles Darwin? Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a 36-year old neurosurgeon, died of metastasized lung cancer. Just before his passing he wrote When Breath Becomes Air in which he said that he postponed learning how to live while he was becoming a neurosurgeon. When he finally stopped striving forward, he ended up spending the last moments of his life learning how to die.

I understand the yearning to achieve success, and surely everyone wants a piece of that pie. The question to ask yourself is: “what are you willing to forfeit and sacrifice for it?” It is not simply about losing a few hours of sleep, but your sanity. Often, our choices can lead us to the brink of collapse.

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Everybody loves poignant tales in which benign madness precipitates success. Van Gogh’s madness devastated his life and killed him, but it allowed him to see colors unlike anybody else before and after him. Depression made Sylvia Plath stick her head inside a carbon monoxide-filled oven, but one can also argue that her sensitivity granted her the ability to write some of the most beautiful and thoughtful poetry in contemporary literature. By the same token, alcoholism took Eleanora Fagan’ s ( Billie Holiday)’s liver and life, but she claimed alcohol loosened her up to produce some of the best of jazz vocals in the recording business.

Today, everyone is looking for this form of ephemeral and intelligent madness so that we too can become brilliant. Some of us work 24/7/365 to  convince this genius to visit us; others cheat their way through drugs,  seeking out-of-body experiences. We no longer take care of ourselves, nor do we pay attention to our surroundings, where love, content, and satisfaction all lie.

The question I have is why we all want to be the greatest when we know that there can often only be one in most disciplines. The Earth revolves around its axis with or without you, no matter who you are. If you don’t believe me, recall Albert Einstein, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandel, and more. People often forget that these great figures all stood on the shoulders of giants, as Newton once said. So I ask you: where would that shoulder be if we all want to be the ones standing on top of it?

I am not dissuading anyone from trying to achieve the best in themselves. I am simply saying that to enjoy your life while you have it you must pursue realistic goals, not egocentric ones. Naomi Shihab Nye wrote “I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.” So do try hard, but also do remember what Charles Dickens said in Great Expectations, “If you can’t get to be uncommon through going straight, you’ll never get to do it through going crooked. So don’t tell no more on ’em, Pip, and live well and die happy.”

Why I’m Terrified to Turn 20

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I’ve never had something consume me so much in my life as the thought of turning 20. To my friends and family, this seems like the silliest worry I could possibly be having (especially around exam season). I’m still so young! Why does this milestone mean so much to me?

It’s almost as if I’m going through a quarter-life crisis. Now that my birthday is fast approaching, I can’t help but feel sheer anxiety over how to prepare for the big day. As a third-year student, it doesn’t help much that my birthday is on a weekday and I have an exam the day after. Yet the niggling thoughts haven’t gone away: What should I wear? What should I do? Who should I spend it with? Am I ready for this?

19 was my favorite age. It’s the age of being a legal adult while still being a teenager. It’s the age where I wasn’t embarrassed about being a young adult, but celebrated it. There’s so much less responsibility at 19. This is the year I realized “whoa, I need to get a head start on my adult life.”

One of my biggest fears is ending up as the “twenty-something” that society and the media is constantly criticizing. For me, this whole year was preparation for turning 20. I know for a fact that I took risks, had new experiences, and put myself out there with the sole justification being that I was 19. Now that I’m almost 20, what will my excuse be? The worst is reading up on one of my role models only to discover that they had launched their career at 19, or seeing a young person kicking butt in their community and finding out they’re 19 too (or younger).

Maybe this crisis I’m having is due to my young brain’s selective (and short) attention span, but it still strikes me in the feels whenever I am reminded that my adolescence is almost over.

Prep Courses

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November sucks. The professors and course coordinators have all ganged up and decided to just bleep us all over for a whole month. It doesn’t get better. There will be the illusion of a break before the December exams hit, but it is only that: an illusion. Want to party for the last time? Exams are going to sneak up on your when you’re hung over. Need a break? You’ll be dreaming about your notes. If you’re lucky, you will relive a lecture in a dream, except your professor will be speaking in a dialect of Mongolian. Imagine learning about fly embryos in Mongolian.

If you are anything like me, you’re seriously considering all those multicoloured pamphlets about prep sessions that have been handed out to you around your classes, especially if you’re a first year life science student. I’ve had experience with a couple different prep courses and centres, and I’ve decided to break them down for you and maybe give some advice on studying I’ve gathered over the past two years. Continue reading Prep Courses

My Kingdom for a Course

At some point in the famous Shakespeare play “Richard III” the title character gets knocked off his horse and starts foolishly yelling that he’ll gladly give up his entire kingdom for another horse. Clearly, King Richard doesn’t know the first thing about haggling.

A key lesson in Haggling 101 is that you never, ever start out with your highest bid. You can’t just throw all your chips on the table at the start. That’s just bad bartering. Opening negotiations by offering up your entire kingdom for a horse robs you of all your leverage.

Instead of the whole kingdom, Richard should have kicked things off by coughing up a couple of manors and maybe a few towns. After intense discussion, he could  have sweetened the deal by throwing in a royal title like “duke” or “baron”.  The fact that someone was trying to stab Richard at the time not withstanding, you gotta play hardball!

I’m not a Literature student, and I haven’t studied Shakespeare since highschool, but right now I’d gladly give up ol’ Richard’s entire kingdom for a course in Shakespeare. As a matter of fact, I’d accept a course in a lot of things right now. In my final year before graduation, I need one more full credit to hit 20, and with all my degree requirements completed it can be in just about anything. Sadly, as of right now I remain a credit short.

I admit, I could have started my search for a course sooner. I could also have just stuck it out and taken a hard course no one else wanted to take that still had room. Ideally, I’d like to take an interesting course that isn’t the hardest course I’ve ever taken, but a rewarding learning experience. Something I find interesting, but haven’t had the chance to learn about while completing my major. It seems like all the good classes like that are full.

So yeah, this is mostly my fault, but I find it a little frustrating the insane number of people on waitlists for so small a selection of courses. For a guy in my situation, looking for a course in just about anything hasn’t been as easy as you’d think. Don’t make my mistake.

The Most Important Lessons You’ll Learn at University

It’s October, and for us fourth years that means it’s time to apply for graduation. Oh my. For many of us, we joke about our degrees and how we’re going to starve once we graduate and how we’ve spent so much time, money and sanity just to get this stupid piece of paper that says we’re smart. Or something like that. In any case, before you despair about the fact that you didn’t feel as if all that time, money and sanity was worth it, here are a few things you should think about and keep in mind before you graduate.

  • You’ve grown and developed as a person more than you might think.
  • The truth is, you’ll continue to grow and develop whether you’re at university or at work.
  • You are your own harshest critic.
  • You know yourself better than anyone else. Follow your gut.
  • Life isn’t all about the little numbers in your bank account.
  • It’s okay to be wrong sometimes.
  • Your educators are people too.

Regretting UofT? Don’t.

Let’s start off by saying UofT is an amazing institution to begin with, but it’s no secret university can be somewhat soul sucking. I know there are some of you who have regrets about choosing UofT, or feel as though university is not for you. Perhaps some of you want to transfer to a smaller city, or a more social university. Yes UofT can be very daunting and secluded, even with all the efforts the university makes to get you involved. I’m sure there are hundreds of student feeling the same weight and loneliness at UofT as you. Living in a huge city like Toronto certainly has it’s ups and downs.

Ups: Opportunities are everywhere and it’s calling your name. Any interests/passions you may have (music, clubbing, life-drawing, thrift-shopping) or not sure what your passions are, it’s out there. And last but not least, absorbing culture and diversity. Toronto prides itself on its diversity and it makes you a more humble person without you even knowing it. For example, if you are in the LGBT community there are hundreds of organizations/events that you can partake in. Not every place in the world would have that. Now the trick is finding where all these amazing things are.

Downs: Having a million things to do but not knowing where to go or what to do. Being invisible in a sea of people. Nobody caring who you are or what you do. Highschool for me sucked simply because it was not what I expected and I felt out of place and alone. There were no such thing as cliques or rumours at my high-school because nobody cared or knew you well enough to play the stereotypes. A lot of people from my residence who came from small towns, amazed me with their stories of how Americanized their schools were. You know that whole party, jocks, nerds, mean girls, scandalous gossips thing. And a part of me has always wanted that since that is what I am conditioned to expect through Americanized programming. But it was mostly community that I wanted, and I came into university expecting to meet people like myself, get connected, and feel a sense of community.

However that has not been the case yet, since UofT is quite isolating. The hardest thing at UofT besides the overbearing amount of work, is the lack of social-life. Funny thing is we knew coming to UofT would mean forfeiting our social-life. Even moving into residence was not that helpful since everyone is busy with their own lives and not everyone makes the effort. It’s difficult to network and build connections in such a vast city of over 5 million people and even harder if you were a commuter. All I have to say to you guys is don’t worry. Truth of the matter is, you are getting one of the best educations in the world, and though it’s challenging and it’s a lot of hard work, it makes you a stronger, more well-crafted person. The key is to find balance between work and play.

I know everyone says this, but seriously, it doesn’t matter if you graduate with a 4.0 GPA if you’re lacking the communication skills you need to nail an interview to land the job.