Do yourself a favor…

And read these books. Like, yesterday.

Recently I finished a young adult trilogy and I highly recommend it. Michelle Hodkin wrote an incredible series, including a little piece for everyone – the star crossed lovers, the forbidden romance, thrill and a pinch of horror. Sci-fi is used delicately in this saga with a dark and twisty ending. Hodkin is, by far, one of the more creative and inspiring authors in which I’ve had the pleasure of indulging.

Read more about the Mara Dyer Trilogy here. 

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Musings from a Professional Learner

A mere two days ago, I completed the first semester of my second year in University. It doesn’t feel like it though. It doesn’t feel like high school commencement was almost two years ago. It doesn’t feel like I’ve learned all that much since that day. It’s funny how all the memorization, stress and anxiety of university doesn’t feel like it made a major impact after the fact. University, or College, or really any path post-secondary is full of unexpected, insignificant pleasures.

High school students, take note: the four years of high school probably won’t be the best four years of your life (the person who originally said this peaked in high school and was so, so wrong). I used to believe the four years of my BA degree would be the best time of my life, yet I’m sitting here, writing this. I’m not so sure that high school, or post-secondary, or any stage in life can truly be deemed the “best,” and here’s why.

Of all I’ve experienced in my nineteen years of life, I’ve learned one thing that I am absolutely sure of: I know nothing.

This isn’t a reflection on the people around me, or their influence on me. This isn’t about the books I’ve read or the words I’ve heard from experts or teachers or friends. After a lot of thinking and reminiscing, I can say with complete certainty that I am certain of nothing. And that’s okay. My job, as a student, best friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, and barista, is to do the absolutely best that I can in every aspect of my day. Then, and only then, can I feel pride in myself for a hard day’s work. My job is not to cure cancer, give life-saving advice, or write self-help books. I am not a CEO or a surgeon. I am a learner. My job, as far as I’m concerned, is to know nothing – and that’s why each day is pretty great. As a professional learner, I have the opportunity to learn from professors, friends and family, and superiors. The chance to embrace the knowledge from all these wonderful people in the world is right now. It’s there in high school, and at your part-time job, and at your College. It’s from your parents and your favourite Aunt and your annoying little brother. Although your friends may be just as unknowing as you feel, the opportunity to love them and learn from their choices – both good and bad – is here. Each and every single day is an opportunity to learn and grow, and in turn, improve yourself to allow you to do the very best you can in every aspect of your day.

I’ve learned so much in the last few years, and I know nothing. This is good, it humbles. Be a student for your entire life and allow every person you encounter to be your teacher.

High school is not the best stage of your life – each stage is what you make of it.

High Key Portraits

GUYS, an aspiring photographer friend of mine needed help with an assignment recently, and since I know just about nothing regarding photography, I assisted by wearing some makeup and looking at the camera – it’s also more commonly known as “Modelling,” and it was super fun. See the photos here: High Key Portraits.

A very special thanks to Samantha Marie Photography. As expected, the pictures turned out phenomenally and the talent shines through every frame. Thank you.

Lies, Loathing, Loneliness.

Is lying to protect the people you love worth it? Is sparing someone of information that will break their heart actually sparing, or lying?

I’ve always known that withholding is equivalent to lying. And there’s no doubt – if someone cheated on another, and simply neglected to tell their partner, you bet your bottom dollar that’s a big fat lie. That is literally the epitome of lies. It’s the epitome of a lying liar who lies.

So lately I guess I feel like I’ve been lying to three people by withholding. One of which I don’t speak to anymore – not since January, at least. Another I see infrequently but think about all the time, and when I do see this person, it’s like nothing’s changed. We pick up right where we left off, we’re best friends. At first I thought it was only these two people that I’ve been lying to, but I’ve also been lying to a third – my other half.

Feelings of disgust, guilt, self-loathing, and sadness have been festering inside my heart since Valentine’s day, and lately I’ve felt both euphoric and depressed. It ranges daily. It really seriously does not help that three midterms are looming over my head until the end of next week. And all this brings me to right now, and after my last conversation with my other half, the only thing that has been ringing through my mind:

Loneliness is the worst feeling. Especially when you’re surrounded by people who claim to care, who want you to talk, but who will ultimately never understand. 

War

We’ve all lived through moments of delirious happiness. We’ve all, as humans beings, inevitably experienced complete disappointment, loss, suffering. Each one of us has had our trust broken and our hearts twisted. The thing that keeps us going, that one driving force that we forget exists sometimes, is hope.

Inner conflict is something I never wish upon anyone. Instability is another burden that I wouldn’t wish, even on my worst enemy. In moments like these, we do not feel the happiness or loss. We simply feel stress. Limbo. Stuck between two choices that can ultimately change everything creates this state of nothingness, where every other thought is plagued by the choice and every emotion you feel throughout the day reflects the war inside your head. There is no way to tame it, to escape it. There is nothing anyone can say or do to ease your mind when it is in limbo, because the only thing that can affect your mind at this point is yourself. These are the kinds of choices that determine a future. What school to go to for college. What city to move to, should you move at all. Which people to keep in touch with, and which to block out eternally. Which people to love.

The funny thing about inner war is that, although I control both sides, I have no idea which side I’m rooting for.

Things First Year Taught Me Pt. 2

In light of the tsunami of University and college acceptances on social media sites, I thought it would be a good time to add to one of my latest posts about first year and the truth of how university is. My hope is that maybe one anxious seventeen-year-old will see these, and perhaps it will help in their decision on what university to go to, whether or not to go into residence, and what to expect when the first semester begins.

#4: Time is money.

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Post-secondary is a breeze to some, insanely challenging for others, and stressful for all. How much stress each person feels varies along a massive range, but I can guarantee that everyone feels it at some point. The key to managing stress–and I say this with confidence as I’ve spoken to a many professional about it–is to manage your time. If you procrastinate constantly, don’t keep track of due dates and don’t plan ahead, you are setting yourself up for a pretty bad time. After you get the hang of time management, everything else feels easier to tackle and you’ll enjoy the first-year experience much more and with a hell of a lot less stress. This leads me into my next point.

#5: Studying is your new best friend.

You can party, go out to dinner, or watch Netflix for hours at a time (that’s my personal favourite). If you happen to have a midterm coming up, or a significantly weighted paper due soon, then doing sweet dick all is probably not the smartest choice. Put your phone on silent. Close your laptop, don’t check Facebook or texts or clean your room. Sit down and open your textbook and read. One of my friends recently bombed a midterm just last week, and has learned the lesson the hard way to actually do her readings. These are important. Lectures are not enough. Skimming is not enough. If you seriously desire education, read your books. Study. Make cue cards and get a friend to quiz you and read and re-read and by the time your midterm is over, you’ll be sitting at a 95 in the course and thankful that you put your social life on hold. You’ve got the rest of your life to socialize, but only a few chances to kick ass in school and learn a thing or two.                          

#6: The hands you shake > the grades you make.

Yeah, so that’s not entirely true. If you get shitty grades, you probably won’t get the chance to shake any hands in the first place. That being said, I’ve gotten myself into a Research Lab through the university and it’s a great way to get experience, build connections and maybe someday the head researcher will write me a reference letter for Grad school. Take risks and get involved – it will help you later.

 

Things First Year Taught Me.

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Among the public bus etiquette, how to make adult/important phone calls and who to shake hands with, here are the five main things that I have learned from my first year of University (so far). If you happen to be starting University soon, it may be worth your while to check this out. 

#1: It’s not that big of a deal.

Yes, the expectations increase and the sympathy from professors decrease. However, what most people will neglect to tell you is that, as far as the workload is concerned, post-secondary isn’t all that scary. Keep in mind, I’m not a residence student, so that would probably have an affect on how big a deal it actually is. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you travel five minutes, five hours, or five countries to get to your college/university. It’s important to keep reminders around that reassure you to keep your head in the game and breathe. Your entire life is not riding on this. Any future plans you have may change – and that’s perfectly okay. Remind yourself of the bigger picture, because of 60+ more years of your life, the first year of university is one. You can get through it.

#2: Positive people are attracted to other positive people.

If you want to be a nasty, clipped, rude person, go for it. Keep in mind, with that tactic, the only people who will be gravitating your way will be strangers who are rude, clipped and nasty to you. The same goes for the reverse. If you want happy, kind, positive people in your life, then be kind, happy and positive to others. It’s like a brilliant instant karma, and several of the friends I’ve made this year are evidence in favour of this theory. Be kind, receive kindness. It’s as simple as that.

#3: Be wise financially, and you’ll thank yourself later.

I honestly cannot count the number of friends that have chosen to move into residence and gone away for school. We are in Canada, so that’s a plus, because the price of our tuition and residence is around $16,000/year, as opposed to the $20,000/year of tuition that those poor students in the U.S. have to pay. Books ain’t cheap either, folks. Neither is food, or that scarf from the mall that you love, or the long-distance calls to your family back home. I know people who will have spent over $20,000 in total by April this year – and we’re only first year students. They plan on staying where they are for the entire degree. So, roughly, we’re looking at $80,000 for a degree from a school in Canada if you go into residence.

To put this in perspective, I’ve chosen to stay at home to save money. I also made an 87% average when applying to my school, and in turn, they gave me a $2,000 scholarship. Renewing that, and other Government funding I receive, and my tuition at the end of my degree will probably be in the neighbourhood of $4,000. Yes, you read that correctly – four years for an honours degree will only cost that much, simply because I made smart financial choices from day 1. I’m very pro-saving, so no matter your choice, make a smart one for yourself.

the little things.

The other day I stopped after an evening shift to get gas. The tank was straddling the horrific orange “empty” line, so either I coughed up money or I would have had to push my car roughly ten km. Unwillingly and in the freezing cold, I stopped at the closest gas bar and didn’t have anything except a debit card with me. No problem, just insert the card and pull it from the savings account. 

Declined.

Alright, okay, no sweat – try again. Might have been a machine malfunction.

Declined.

Starting to get worked up a bit, my fingers are solid icicles at this point, I really don’t want to push my car, there’s literally no other way to get home, insert card again and–

Declined.

Seriously?

Now, this next part made me jump out of my skin – the pump I was at suddenly came to life when the employee from inside came on some weird speaker thing that was apparently hooked up to my pump. “Sorry pump five,” the guy said kindly, “Don’t know why it’s not working. Go ahead and fill up and try paying inside after.” Part-relieved I filled my tank with only like fifteen dollars worth because the fear of being declined and 100% screwed was real. Better $15 than $45 that gets declined, right?

So I lock my car, close the gas tank and shuffle through the snow and wind to the little store attached to the gas bar. Embarrassed and feeling bad for making this guy’s job harder, I approached the young man and he explains what the deal was very kindly and makes me feel a bit better and not so much like a complete idiot. His decision to go above and beyond with the extra smile, the thorough explanation, the friendly small talk and the jokes turned my entire day around. Suddenly the rough shift I’d worked not twenty minutes before and the fact that my card was declined three times and the overall cruddy day I’d had didn’t matter. This one person, with five minutes worth of kindness and smiles and making me laugh turned my entire day around. Who knows what he had to deal with that day, yet he still made an effort at 9:50 P.M. 

I have no idea who he was, or how long he’d been working, or what kind of person he typically is – regardless, I’m grateful to look back on that day and feel happy instead of cruddy. 

Appreciate the people you encounter – whether they’re a family member or a stranger at a gas bar – that make you leave with a smile on your face. There will always be people that push you down, but it’s people like Gas Bar Guy that pick you back up. Say thank you. Smile back. Show the kindness that this person showed you to someone else. Pay it forward.

You’d be surprised how many people will be kind to you if you show a little kindness first.

 

Quote

“I vow to help …

“I vow to help you love life. To always hold you with tenderness, and to have the patience that love demands. To speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they’re not. To agree to disagree on red velvet cake, and to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.”

The power of positivity.

Really quick – to remind people of something because there seems to be an abundance of forgetting a very very important thought. There is always something to look forward to, there is always someone who has a more difficult time than you, and there is always someone who looks up to you. There will be hard days, but the easier ones will follow. Smiling is contagious, and for the sake of cliche, laughter is the absolute best medicine. So in the midst of the crazy time of Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), finals week, and the new year, remind yourself to stay positive. There truly is no stronger force than the power of positive thinking.

It’s all about how you frame it. Be thankful, say “I love you,” “Thank you,” and “Good job,” at least once a day, and keep smiling.

Happy Holidays!