Monday, July 3, 2017

BE MAD

Look, to start off, I really do like the mindset of "don't let yourself get mad about things you can't control." That's a pretty general summary, but it is a good philosophy. There isn't much point in getting steamed up about the fact that, I don't know, your favourite chips aren't in stock, you dropped a nice mug full of hot tea, that someone stole one of your shoes from a gym locker (I really suck at examples here). Being mad in these situations isn't going to fix anything. It's not going to get you those chips. It's not going to fix your mug or clean up your floor. It's not going to get your stolen shoe back. It's exhausting and unpleasant and worthwhile to avoid getting mad when it has no legitimate purpose... just that I think people take this too far.

I'm not trying to call anyone out here, either, but I'm so tired of being told, when I am angry and upset about something stupid, that "it's not worth it to be mad." I know that. But guess what? I'm mad. I'm already there, I need to deal with it, and you are not helping by saying this. In the future, could I proactively try to prevent myself from getting worked up? Sure. Is it realistic to expect that I'll be perfect at that? No. Furthermore... it's not always bad to be mad.

I saw a critique of this once somewhere. Someone pointed out how ridiculous it was to focus on trying to cultivate happiness and only happiness. It's a good goal to try and be grateful and see the positive in things, but it's unrealistic to expect that your only emotion is happiness. Newsflash: humans have emotions and we literally can't change that. I agree with the viewpoint expressed in the critique: it is far more useful and worthwhile to deal with your emotions and manage them so that they don't get in the way of your life than it is to try and change them or force them to be something they're not.

The OTHER facet of this is that sometimes emotions like anger are useful, and complacency/ "not letting it get to you" are not. We all know I'm deeply interested in feminism and the feminist movement. That's only become MORE obvious now that I'm out of school and able to do whatever I want. I spend a lot of my day engrossed in feminist analysis, trying to make myself think. I haven't figured out how to make it useful yet, but it's fun and I really enjoy it, and I feel lucky to get to spend so much time engaging with it. One thing I heard recently on this front was someone expressing frustration that women are not mad. "I want women mad, I want us furious." (I'll try to find the credit again; I really liked the post). The post was in response to "choice feminism"- the idea that anything a woman does is OK if she "chooses" to do it. This approach acts like all women make choices in a political and social vacuum, and that apparently they were raised in this vacuum too. Obviously there's nothing inherently wrong about liking to put on a faceful of makeup, but I'm deeply suspicious of the idea that only women like to do that just for themselves. (And that's not me saying women can't think for themselves... but we're all products of our environment, myself included, and it's useless to pretend otherwise). Their argument was that because of this kind of analysis replacing earlier feminist analysis which was extremely critical of femininity and the female gender role, women are now complacent in their own oppression. And they didn't want women to be that way- to think "oh, well, if she chooses to wear makeup it's her own choice." They wanted women to think "why the fuck should I have to wear makeup to look professional, but a man doesn't? Why is that standard in place? It means countless more hours of time and money put into getting ready over my lifetime. That's unfair!" and people tend to be mad when things are unfair (even in cases where things aren't unfair for them in particular). AND THAT IS FINE AND GOOD AND USEFUL. Anger can be a good motivator. Anger causes rebellion. Anger can cause revolution when used correctly.

Which is why I don't feel so apologetic for caring about this shit so much. So many people tell me they don't get involved because it makes them too upset to think about. To which my response is... yes. And it's fine to know where your limits are, take breaks, remember that not everything is bad and that progress has been made. But that progress wasn't made by people who were happy with the way things were. Yeah, this shit makes me angry. But I'm angry because it's unfair. That seems, to me, like a good reason to be steamed about shit.

Of course, women's anger (or really any emotion beyond happiness) is written off as hysteria and we all know that people who are angry about things are always too clouded by their emotions to be clear, rational, or correct about what they're talking about... which further complicates the matter (and also makes no sense. I'm mad about GMOs being labelled as Bad And Evil to the point that companies produce "guaranteed GMO free" products to make money because it makes them Look Good.. but that doesn't mean I don't have a point).

I'm just really done with complacent feminism that insists that everything is fine and women are Free Agents Making Choices With Complete Freedom now and it's all good, you guys. Fuck That. I'm mad, I'm going to always be mad, and I want people to know that it's okay to be mad, I'm mad with you. Your anger can be powerful and a force for positive change, if you figure out how to use it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

This is failure

I did it. I've failed. I slipped up. I fell.  There is a path laid out for people like me that I wanted to follow and I fucked it up.

What I'm referring to here is the whole research path. I was doing really, really well: back to back summers of research experience, undergraduate research courses, all that. I've graduated with an excellent GPA, I have great references.

Yet here I am

The fact that I spent this past year wanting to kill myself on an almost daily basis from November onwards if I did do this is really something, because I'm very clearly still here. Like... this is what I was so afraid of. And yeah, it sucks. No one wants to hire me. I'm paralyze with fear about what happens if I procrastinate, which makes me procrastinate. All I want is more time- more classes to take. I pushed myself to just GRADUATE, GOD DAMMIT. In a little over a week, that's gonna happen.

I've applied for a lot of jobs, but I haven't been doing it daily. I've made lots of cover letters, and spent so long sitting on them convinced they had to be perfect that I've lost out on opportunities I maybe could have gotten. The longer I wait, the more creative I will have to be with my explanations. And when they say there's a stigma against mental health, what that means is that if a potential grad supervisor asks "why didn't you talk to me in January?" I could say "I was dealing with a chronic medical condition that required a change in treatment" if that were the case, but I can't say "I was too busy trying not to kill myself out of an intense fear of the unknown that has manifest itself into a depression in me" because that makes me a bad candidate. I can't tell people I didn't talk to them because depression made me numb and useless. That's the stigma.

I thought finishing school would make things better, and it has in some ways. I'm not stressed anymore. But in other ways, it's worse. I have no routine now, and I thrive on that. I was easily able to make it to class and to the lab. I lived on a meal plan, so even if I didn't have the energy to cook, food was there for me, so I ate regularly. Now, I have no routine. Some days the only thing that gets me out of BED is my boyfriend asking me to come meet him for lunch. Some days that's the only food I eat that isn't some kind of shitty junk food crap from my bed. And yeah, there's nothing wrong with junk food, but when all I eat in one day is brownies and popcorn, I'm not taking care of myself. The only thing I can seem to manage to do is drink enough water.

So yeah, I kind of feel like I've failed.

This is the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE I have failed at something. I am at such a weird crossroads. I don't know what the best road is and everyone seems to have a different opinion. My dad says I should just focus on grad school this summer and volunteer if I can, but don't worry about working at McDonald's or whatever, because that won't look good on a CV since it's not relevant to what I want to do later in life. My mom thinks I should get a job in the meantime, but keeps encouraging me to apply for ones that are a little cushier than waitressing or retail- jobs I am never quite qualified enough for. My boyfriend keeps telling me to go to a mall and hand out resumes, or apply online, and focus on grad school at the same time. Everyone seems to think their option is best and I don't know what to do, and now the option of more classes has come up. It's all I want- all I know how to do is be a student.


And I'm sitting here writing this when there's a dance going on. I completely gave up on swing dance this semester, just stopped going to meetings, to dances, to practices... I let myself slip away because it was easier, because I did not have the mental energy and didn't want to force myself. I still have to shower before I can go, so I'll be late, but... god dammit, if I show up, that's worth something, isn't it? That's me trying to claw my way back, right? That's something.

So sure, it's failure. It's not scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel failure. It's not the worst I could do. It's not the worst I will face in my lifetime. And I know here I will be defined by how I get the fuck back up again. And if that means it takes me three months to find a job and seven potential supervisors at every school I try to apply to because the first six don't like my explanation of why there's a monthlong gap of nothing then that has to be okay. If that means I have to spend money going to therapy with a psychologist because my thought patterns are broken that's okay. If that means I have to run even after I read an article saying it's not good cardio because I actually like to run, that has to be okay. If that means I show up an hour late to a dance that probably won't last that long, that has to be okay.

I have to try.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I'm still unemployed

God, ok, I know everybody thinks gosh, wouldn't it be great if I could just sit at home all day and watch Netflix? That would be the best. Which I think says more about our work-life balance, but hey, I can't really comment on that at the moment. But god, you really have to be careful what you wish for, because I am so bored. And lonely. And I know my roommates are probably decent people who don't care about this but goddamn it sucks to be the one roommate with literally nothing going on. Where's swegan? Oh, in her pajamas. Still. Why? Because she has no job, no classes, no volunteer things going on (until tomorrow, anyway, and that's if I can figure my fucking car situation out) (long story short my car is a huge fucking mess thanks to some bitch that hit me back in SEPTEMBER but nobody knew it was a mess until now and now it's "unsafe to drive" so I have no car and this CITY IS TOO BIG TO NOT HAVE A CAR)... I am the lazy roommate.

I mean, I've been DOING stuff still. I leave the apartment once a day. I built a dresser. I panicked and washed every machine washable thing in my apartment yesterday after a bug crawled out from underneath me ON MY BED. Not the kind of bug where there's just one bug, either. Not that I've seen any more-- but that was my day yesterday. Maybe if the fucking idiot bitch I rented this place from (the subletter, not the landlord) had bothered to, I don't know, clean ANYTHING before she left... that's a whole other can of worms not discussed here, my "sublandlord" being the hugest bitch on planet earth. Thankfully once she moved out I discovered her other roommates hate her too, and so love me by default, and that the landlord doesn't like her on top of that. But anyone who tells someone to "pipe down" when they point out that possession at noon does not mean possession at 2:30 and then straight up threatens them with homelessness after is not someone to deal with lightly ("you'll pay me now or you'll hand over the keys until you do" says the idiot bitch who forgot to ask for payment before throwing the keys across the table at me and saying "here's your keys" before leaving for 2.5 hours.... like....? you're not that smart are you). Supposedly we're getting the locks changed soon. She owes utilities since November. That kind of person. Anyway.

All of this just reeeeeally makes me want to be back in school when everything was simple and I had nothing to worry about except things I knew how to deal with. I don't know how to meal plan, at all. I'm literally cooking just for me now, which is nice since I have leftovers for DAYS and can experiment because no one will suffer except me. It's less nice to think that I'm going to end up wasting food before I figure my shit out. Oh, and our microwave's broken too... this place is honestly a mess. There's a light that's been burnt out possibly for years on some very dark stairs. The carpet hasn't been vacuumed in a long time, and the vacuum does sfa. There's literal, actual mould in the dishwasher, which by my roommate's own admission "doesn't work very well, so just rinse your plates first." All of which makes this place sound like a dump, but it's really very nice and in a very good location, so... can't win em all?

I wish I was 10 again and worrying about the Great Email Scandal of Fifth Grade. At the time I was so worried that would follow me forever. Sometimes I think of it to give myself perspective. That, and the time I cried during a chemistry exam in high school, cried when I lost a scholarship competition last year, cried after my chem 102 exam (chemistry and I have a bad history), cried for literally like an hour when my extended essay supervisor insulted my essay MORALLY, when I cried on the first day of first grade and sixth grade, and when my plans for fulfilling the A part of CAS in high school fell through. None of it mattered in the long run; in fact, almost none of it turned out poorly. But, of course, hindsigh is 20/20, and I hope that one day when I'm stressed out about, I don't know, getting children to school on time, or a big project at my job, or completing my Ph.D, I can look back and remember when I was stressed about this.

I know that adulthood is mostly just stumbling around failing at things until you figure out how the world works, but we could probably produce adults who stumble a little less.

yer pal,
swegan

Monday, April 24, 2017

I'm writing this from a bus

Lucky me, I managed to find a place to live. No, not the bus, but a place just a block away from where I currently live. I managed to negotiate the rent down $100. It has a parking space. It is very close to a grocery store, albeit probably the shittiest grocery store in the city. Unfortunately, I don't get to move in until April 30.

I've spent about 6 hours looking for a job at this point, cumulatively. I applied for four jobs online after writing a cover letter and having someone look at it. I pounded the pavement for 3 hours handing out resumes and making notes, and learning where else I should apply online. Seems big chains don't like people applying in-store these days. Of course, the benefit of applying in-store is that I don't have to have a cover letter.

How the fuck does one write a cover letter to work at David's tea? Especially how the fuck does one do this without any previous retail, hospitality, or service industry experience?

People have been making recommendations to me about where to go where they'll hire me without any experience. Earls, Boston Pizza, the Old Spaghetti Factory. And I've applied at all those places... in person. Despite the fact that the online applications say they only want a resume, the overwhelming advice of the internet (and my personal gut feeling) says that a cover letter is really a good idea. It's just so hard to explain why I think I have good customer service skills when I don't have any experience to back it up that's technically directly relevant. Thank god I bothered to start my own club (with the help of Carina, beautiful angel that she is (I say this because she really covered my lazy ass a lot this year as my co-prez)), because I feel like that looks really good. What evidence do you have that you're a self starter? Oh, only that I started something. It doesn't get much better than that.

But seriously, almost every job I look at says that prior experience is an asset. And if not that, then it's a fucking requirement. I keep saying I wish my parents had made me work a summer at a dairy queen or a store in the mall or something in high school, but the lab experience I gained helped me get MORE lab experience- more summer jobs, more research opportunities, and likely it will help when I look for grad school. But of course, lab experience peters out once you, y'know, graduate. Fuck, the number of additional things I could apply for if I was just continuing as a student next year... almost makes me second guess my decision to graduate on time.

So, this is the way it goes: if I'd gotten some service industry experience, all my lab experience would have been harder to come by (especially since my grades are, somehow, not competitive), and I would have defaulted to service jobs anyway. Since I didn't, I got a lot of good undergrad opportunities, but now that I'm about to graduate with a very bare-bones plan, I'm fucked. Nobody wants to hire someone who's in their early 20s who's never waited a table before, and I know if I was 16 they'd be more willing to overlook that. I mean, 16 year olds have to start somewhere, right?

The thing is, nobody has bothered to tell me what the real world is like. I'm forced to figure it out on my own, like this, like I guess everyone was. But nobody explained to me that a bachelor's degree in science in and of itself is nothing more than a stepping stone. I can't get a job in any scientific field with just a B.Sc. And nobody, and I mean nobody, bothered to mention that while the whole world was encouraging me to go into science because what are you going to do with a degree in the arts? Well, what the fuck am I going to do with a degree in genetics? I have a few options: 1) start my own company. 2) work in an unrelated industry 3) more school. The fact of the matter is that everybody has a bachelor's degree now. Why the fuck do you think it's so much harder to get into medical school?

I guess the point of this post is some advice: university isn't a mistake, but please, for the love of god, do stuff while you're there. If you take 6 years to get a degree, it won't fucking matter. Try and find some internships, or relevant work experience. Volunteer as much as you can, join clubs, take on exec roles, start your own club. And do stuff in the community if you can- volunteer, or even work. Don't just go to school and get good grades- that's important, but it's only one tiny piece. I'm glad I went to school; I don't regret getting a degree. I will find a way to make use of it, because my goal is to go back to school. But I am so, so, so glad that I pursued different and interesting opportunities while I was there. University is full of these things, these chances to get involved, they're literally thrown in your face and so easy to take, so TAKE THEM. Fuck, even my two years with the engineering group were good- it was Management Experience Lite (TM) and now that that same group just launched a satellite, it makes me look even better. Sure, I ended up leaving once I discovered it wasn't for me- but that's okay, because I tried in the first place. The club I co-founded this year might not have worked out either, but at least I would have tried and learned something. And it did work out! And now we have this amazing new group of execs ready to take on the second year of operations, and I get to say- look. My time here meant something. I did something here, I left a legacy at this school, however small. I helped fill a gap that needed filling, and I did it with one of my best friends. How many opportunities are there to do that in the real world? I'm about to find out.


In the meantime, my research project report is still due on Friday and I'm not quite finished. I'm hoping, though, that this recent uptick in blogging is a sign that I can get back to this in my time away from school. Perhaps I can just leave bizarre life advice here every couple of weeks.

-swegan

Friday, April 14, 2017

It's been a while

School has been far more intense than I could have imagined, and this last year has been especially hard for me. I've been doing a lot of intense thinking about what I want to do next year, once I no longer have to work towards a degree. Should I really have shoehorned myself into all these classes in a desperate attempt to graduate in four years? Maybe not. But here I am anyway, powerless to stop it. Despite the fear and trepidation, I registered to graduate, took my grad photos, and have made it publicly known in my social circle that I Am Graduating. And also, that I'm taking "a year off."

I don't even know if I can really call it that, since it's not like I'm taking a year in the middle of a degree. It's become rapidly apparent to me that if I wanted to be in graduate school next year, I would have had to put more effort into finding a supervisor. When I did summon the courage to email one, she encouraged me to explore my options more (and then come back to her if I was still interested- so it's not like she just wanted to get rid of me). I realized as I left her office that she was right. If I'm going to spend 2-3 years working closely with a supervisor, I need to make sure they're someone I want to work with, and also that their research will be something I can stomach. The only thing I'm sure of so far is that I can get behind almost any research- it's all interesting to me, especially translational research. But I know I can't devote the time I need to to that, and to finishing my degree. Hence, the gap year.

It does make sense, I suppose, to take my time and carefully consider this decision. Do I even want to do traditional science grad school? I still think I do, but there are other options out there. Either way, I'm giving myself an academic year. I don't want a year off spent waitressing (or potentially doing something more interesting I can't imagine) to turn into two, or three, or ten. I want to go to graduate school. I know I have what it takes, despite what it sounds like. Geez, she can't even handle classes and planning for her future, some may think. Why does she think she can handle the stress of a graduate degree? Which is something I've thought myself more than once, but honestly... it just doesn't make sense anymore.

I've come way too close to the edge this year, way more than I'd like. Being on the precipice of the rest of your life is completely terrifying. Don't I owe it to myself to take it slow? It's not like I'm graduating and being like "whew, no more science for me!" My degree wasn't a waste of time, it was a learning experience and a tremendous opportunity that allowed me to gain lots of relevant skills I plan to use. I still want to be working in that area. But if trying to pursue the "traditional" path is... not working for me, why not modify it for my life? Pushing myself down that road would ultimately end poorly. I'm choosing myself, and my own life and health, by stopping for a second to breathe.

That being said... is this year going to be sunshine and rainbows? I highly doubt it. Am I going to get rejected a lot? Well, doesn't everybody? The worst thing I could do now is curl up in a ball and refuse to face the world because I couldn't do it "properly." Would I really look back on one odd year as a horrendous mistake that ruined my life? I don't think so. I'm not going into this because "ugh, the real world has GOT to be better than school!" but more because "I need time and space where I'm not concerned about my final grades to make sure that the next educational decision I make is the right one." I'm not going on a year to "see what happens" so much as it's to take time to evaluate my next steps, keeping a goal and a deadline in mind. THAT being said, I don't want to be so rigid that I refuse to let life happen. Obviously having a goal and a deadline will help me keep this year to just one instead of three, but I still don't know what could happen. When I look back at my life as it's unfolded so far, great things have come where I least expected them, and not everything turns out as I expect. That satellite project didn't get me anywhere, but I can still put it on my CV. Deciding to take the leap and pursue undergraduate research paid off in more ways than I could have imagined. Even last summer turned out wildly different than what I expected. Heck, this YEAR did.

My point is: I can't predict where I'm going to be a year from now, but I'm still in the driver's seat. I can still steer, but I don't know what's ahead on the highway. I'm hoping that by keeping my seat buckled, speed limit reasonable, and a destination in mind is about all I can do. I don't know if there's construction ahead that leads me down a side road, or a slow vehicle I get stuck behind, or a gas station just when I'm about to run out. I can't pretend I'm not afraid that all that's ahead of me is a giant boulder blocking my only path, whatever that looks like when it's not a metaphor. But it's not like I can stop driving.



With all of this being out in the open... I'm really trying to think (in between studying for my finals) about what I want to try and accomplish next year. I figured maybe one of those things could be a blog. Sure, maybe no one would read it, but if I could find someone's blog right now full of their experiences on a "year off," especially a year off that's NOT spent teaching English abroad (not knocking that, I just have no interest in doing such), I'd really appreciate it. Maybe this will be the last you hear of me for quite some time, but I hope it's not. I guess we'll see how it goes.

-swegan

(a side note- quick but very heartfelt shoutout to redbeard for helping me through all of this, time after time after time. He's heard the most about it and been unwaveringly supportive, and I appreciate more than he knows)