Fun Times at the UC Date Auction

At five minutes to eight pm, Sammy’s Pub at Hart House was bustling. There was a constant chatter coming from every table, as everyone talked and laughed waiting excitedly for the night’s entertainment. Last night I attended a University College organized Date Auction, the proceeds of which went to support the Toronto Humane Society and the UC Water Dragons.

The pub, in the lower level of Hart House, was already packed when I arrived. At the front of the room there was a line-up of eager students, all holding their 19+ I.D.’s to receive a free drink ticket. On the left side there was a round table of free catered food. Yep, all free!

Watching new people arrive, as they spotted friends and hunted for seats, I was filled with a really good feeling. It was the kind of event one would expect from a smaller arts college. But I suppose that’s exactly what it was, replete with college cheers, “Hey UC! Can I see you [ I probably can’t write this]“. There was a strong sense of school spirit, community and friendship, and I was glad to be there.

The hosts of the evening, Paige and Sarah, could be seen dancing on the stage, priming themselves for the task of guiding the show. The music, once it started, promptly changed several times in mid-song, but everyone was still smiling and laughing. There was a wonderful vibe of amateur, improvised style, which is exactly how a college event should feel. It’s about having fun, expressing oneself and being involved.

Once the music started, everyone settled into a seat (sometimes two per seat). That seems to be a universal signal that the show is about to begin. The “auctionees” had been clandestinely whisked away into the hall, the food platters were devoured, everyone had a free drink, and we were ready for the show!

First off, the hosts explained how the auction would work. They accepted all forms of payment, except human sacrifice, and the biddings would begin at twenty dollars. Then, in came the auctionees!

There were ten of them, a good group of brave, adorable souls. But they were more than pretty faces. Each one had prepared some talent or other to help encourage their bidders. Also, the dates were complemented with gift-cards to restaurants and bars, such as The Keg Steak House.

I stayed only for the first three rounds, but right from the start there was singing and sparkler-lit dancing. These auctionees wanted to be sold. And the audience didn’t disappoint. The first auctionee went for $170! People were throwing hands up all over. With a good cause, such as an adorable kitten, even starving university students can be charitable.

I have faith that the rest of the event went off without a hitch. I did hear, from someone or other, that Michael Mousa’s friend, Michelle, stole the show. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great time. I was certainly laughing, which is all I ask for from any live show. There are many free and exciting events like this happening all over campus all the time. All you have to do is look for them and then #TryitUofT!

Stay Diamond,

Stephen!

Thinking About the Future

Just before we begin, let us take a brief pause. This is a fine moment in the academic year, before second semester really comes on full swing, to consider where we are, what we’ve done, and what we’d like to do next.

I am coming to the end of my university career. This semester I have two courses, both of which are electives. This is my fifth and final year, and I do feel that I have come a rather long way.

I can remember reaching the end of my first year and having to enroll in a Subject POSt, and deciding then that I wanted to study English rather than International Relations. I can remember the spring term of second year, when I scrambled to meet the early application deadline for the English Department’s creative writing seminar. And I can recall the end of my third year, when I discovered 4th year Independent Study course options, but was too late to apply for one. If only I had considered the matter earlier.

Once it starts, these next weeks are going to vanish into April. There is still a little bit of time right now, however, for proactive consideration of the future. The new Degree Explorer and Course Finder can help. So can looking through the Course Calendar. This is something, honestly, that I never did, but that I wish I had. Yeah, I still fared okay. But I’m certain there were many opportunities that I could have seized, and could have benefited from, if only I’d thought to look for them earlier.

I’m currently in the process of applying to Graduate School. It’s hectic and hurried and definitely cause for some unneeded stress. All because I didn’t think about it earlier; well, I thought about it, but not thoroughly. I never actually invested any time in the thought, rather I mused on the idea of Grad school. Now, I have to pay for my negligence, my indifference, my whimsical attitude towards my university career.

And it’s not just academics that can benefit from a moment’s consideration. Joining clubs and groups, trying out for athletic teams, applying for summer jobs, internships, or work-study programs with the university; there are many sides to life at U of T. For instance, this semester I’d like to visit the U of T Public Speaking Club to test my rhetorical skill, and frighten myself!  It’s not all about courses and grades. But whatever your goal happens to be, a little bit of forethought will certainly help focus your efforts.

It’s true what some of my fellow bloggers are saying; January is both the continuation of the academic year and the beginning of a brand new year and a chance for new opportunities. So take a few minutes, on the weekend maybe, right after breakfast or just before bed, put on some good music (I’ve been listening to this dude named Bach because it calms my grad school insanity), and think about what you might want to do next. And feel free to share your plans and pieces of advice with the rest of us at #TryitUofT!

 

Good to be back, U of T! Glad you stayed diamond!

-Stephen

Keep your books close, keep your friends & family closer

I’m a huge advocate of the notion that we are constantly learning just by virtue of living and it is up to us to be open to  the lessons, knowledge and wisdom that is presented to us every day. I learnt an important lesson over winter break that most textbooks don’t outline: keep your books close, but keep your friends and family closer.water

U of T has a reputation for being anti-social and is stereotyped as a school where students lock themselves up in a library or in their room in order to produce A’s (note: social isolation is not healthy!). This is often joked about on-campus—but every joke has a grain of truth to it, I think.

When my last final rolled around I was tired but glad that I could finally put my textbooks down. My schedule was suddenly free from the burden of essays, assignments and exams. I took a plane home and was immediately greeted by friends and family. It felt like I hadn’t spoken or seen them in such a long time.

Precisely because I hadn’t.

As the end of the break drew closer, I thought about how I would miss being surrounded by friends and family once I returned to school.  My last day at home was laced with sad goodbyes as my friends all left for their respective universities.

That’s when it clicked!

The holidays were time away from my books to be spent with loved ones but should a semester at school mean the inverse?

As I played back the events of the past semester in my head, I noticed that communication and interaction with my friends in Toronto had dwindled with the progression of the term.  We would set up coffee dates weekly, but eventually they would be pushed back further and further until all talk of seeing each other vanished.

I realized that a school semester shouldn’t mean an end to my social life. Unlike stationary, inaminate objects that are textbooks, my friends are interesting and dynamic and the times when our lives intersect are precious to me.

So this realization was a lesson for me and became the basis of my resolution for 2014:  to maintain an active social life throughout the semester and to find more balance between studying and socializing.  I plan to do this by not only scheduling but keeping time set aside to meet with friends, as well as planning study time that involves groups.

Did you do any reflecting over the break? Did you make any resolutions for the New Year? How do you plan to keep them?

Gloria

Stepping Back to Lead

At U of T and in Toronto more generally, we are taught that one becomes a leader by taking the lead. If there is a club or company you think should exist, you start it. If there is a comment that needs saying in class, you say it. If there is any need for leadership, you step forward to lead.

How we're often taught to be a leader. (via www.innislife.utoronto.ca/programs/leadership)

How we’re often taught to be a leader. (via www.innislife.utoronto.ca/programs/leadership)

I, myself, have often become very wrapped up in this “leaders take the lead” mentality. I joined course unions, committees and teams like nobody’s business. I spoke up in class and wrote articles for newspapers about things that I thought needed saying.

But while wrapping myself up in this mentality, I forgot an important lesson: that leading from behind is an equally effective style of getting things done.

The first time I learned this lesson was from a friend who had a significant martial arts training and who hadn’t grown up in North America (both important as I think they offer different perspectives on leadership).

As we were discussing the different styles of leadership, he gave me the example of a group on a hike where the lead and the ‘sweep’ (at the end of the group) communicate with each other to make sure no stragglers get left in the woods. The ‘leader’ in front and ‘leader’ in back are equally important in such circumstances.

Is this leading from the front or behind? Depends on your perspective. (via www.innislife.utoronto.ca/programs/leadership)

Is this leading from the front or behind? It depends on your perspective. (via www.innislife.utoronto.ca/programs/leadership)

As we continued talking, the friend told me that he sometimes found the ‘lead from the front’ style offensive as those that lead from the front are often there because they assume they know best.

I could see where he was coming from. Not everyone who leads from the front is presumptuous, but anyone who has been in a group project with one dictatorial group member knows what it feels like.

So while re-thinking this idea of leadership recently, I figured I should be more aware about how much space I take up in conversations (I can talk a lot) and, when necessary, step forward with others, not for them.

Facilitating discussions instead of leading them, particularly in an evaluative environment like school, can be a difficult transition. But I think it’s important to remember that the rat race environments that encourage certain neuroses aren’t the only way to approach leadership. In other contexts, it can be much more effective to listen to what’s going on and take a step backwards to lead.

- Kay

5 Things Alumni Taught Me

It’s called Backpack to Briefcase. The idea is that students will benefit from early experience with the professional world, such as listening to industry lectures, attending faculty events, and meeting U of T alumni. This year B2B is offering program specific breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for students and Alumni to meet in a comfortable, laid-back environment where they can chat and learn a thing or two.

A week ago, I was invited to one of these dinners. My first reaction was:

Source: http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/file.php?2,file=110290,filename=lame.gif

Source: http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/file.php?2,file=110290,filename=lame.gif

I just imagined a terribly forced, awkward party—lots of silent eating noises, uncomfortable small talk, stiff jokes, phoney laughter, bizarre ‘Faculty Club’ dinner etiquette—the kind of situation that made my wannabe Danny Zuko run for the hills!

So, of course, I went. I’ve learned the value of attending unexpected events. If anything, it would give me a story to write.

But it turned out all right. It was good. It was interesting. Much different and better than I had feared. And best of all, I learned stuff. Stuff is my favourite thing to learn.

I thought I would share a thing or two. Here are 5 good ones, I think.

1. It’s okay.

Source: http://nkayesel.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/no-its-not.gif

Source: http://nkayesel.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/no-its-not.gif

Yes. It is. That mid-term you failed, it’s okay. That club you didn’t join, it’s okay. That interesting-looking someone you lacked the nerve to approach, it’s okay. Everything you think you missed or messed up, it’s really, really okay. There’s always next time.

2. Undergrad is the opening of a door.

Source: http://masquefandom.livejournal.com/920.html

Source: http://masquefandom.livejournal.com/920.html

It’s a struggle. We have to muster all our strength to push it open, but once we do that door is propped. Nothing can close it. It remains as a base where we can stand and look out. It remains as a reminder of our hard work. It remains as an excellent first step.

3. Entropy is confusing.

Source: http://www.universetoday.com/51887/define-entropy/

Source: http://www.universetoday.com/51887/define-entropy/

Luckily, life after graduation is not a closed system. In fact, there so many options that at least one of them is bound to come together into some form of order. Of all the Alumni I met during dinner, only one had found that “dream-job” of her undergrad, and it was blind luck. But then again, it proves it can happen.

4. Success takes time.

Source: http://mrwgifs.com/ron-swanson-fist-of-feels-success/

Source: http://mrwgifs.com/ron-swanson-fist-of-feels-success/

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen overnight. Even if it feels like our true calling, we have to wait, and try, and try again. We have to keep our eyes open. Success comes in many different shapes and forms and sizes. We have to engage each opportunity with the same positivity, interest, and fulfilment as though it were success itself. Success is in every day, if we can find it and make it real.

5. People are people.

Source: http://www.geekosystem.com/google-adds-gif-filter/

Source: http://www.geekosystem.com/google-adds-gif-filter/

They like dancing. Or they don’t. They like talking. Or they don’t. They like ice-cream desserts, or hockey, or they don’t. I’ve heard that getting a career comes down to the people you know—your contacts. But I wasn’t listening before. Getting a career comes down to YOU. Networking is good and useful, but it’s not important. People are important. The woman with whom you have a conversation about Italy is important. The fact that she doesn’t want butter on her bread is important. Meeting people and actually getting to know them is important. (If you look away from dancing Abed, he seems to move faster!)

In addition to the B2B program, there is also a club called Dinner with 12 Strangers that encourages student, faculty, and alumni engagement. I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. If I get a chance, I’ll try it. I never know, I might learn stuff.

 

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond.

 

-Stephen

Get Your Laugh On (Finding Place and Purpose at U of T)

In my first year, I went with a guy from residence and joined a sketch comedy troupe. I was really nervous and I suspect he was as well, though he never showed it. He was from Waterloo and performed on Improv teams and was starting to do standup comedy at Einstein’s open-mic.

Anyway, we auditioned and we were cast, and then something changed. We were no longer just students. We became members of The Bob.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/353331631479221/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Source: https://www.facebook.com/events/353331631479221/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

The Bob is Canada’s longest running sketch comedy revue, hosted by Victoria College. There have been some pretty famous people in The Bob, over the years, even including Margaret Atwood. Any student, from any college, can audition, and if comedy or theatre or writing is your passion, I’d highly recommend it.

It was during a casual, September 2009 stroll with my dad, actually, that I happened to find a poster calling for auditions. I ripped the poster right off the wall, fearing I’d forget all the details otherwise. When I got back to residence I walked past my room and knocked on a door four rooms down from mine. The student who answered had shaggy brown-blonde hair and a cheeky, curious quality in his eye that gave me the idea to speak with a phony British accent.

“Good afternoon,” I said.

“Yes, hullo, and how may I help you?”

“I was wondering if perchance you possessed a fondness for performing comedy.”

“Yes, I may have such a fondness. What of it?”

I showed him the poster. His eyes scanned it from top to bottom. Then he looked up at me.

“Tonight’s the last call for auditions,” he said.

“It is,” and I could feel a flutter in the chest.

He looked me straight dead in the face and said, “Let’s do it!

We barely knew each other that first night. But at the audition something clicked and it seemed we’d been joking around together for a long time. Maybe it was a shared comedic sense, or maybe it was that we had both eaten the same meal-plan lasagna for dinner, but I like to think it was the realization that we had both just made our first real friend at university.

Source: http://gif-central.blogspot.ca/2013/05/sorry-i-annoyed-you-with-my-friendship.html

Source: http://gif-central.blogspot.ca/2013/05/sorry-i-annoyed-you-with-my-friendship.html

After that we were a regular duo. We wrote sketches together, went to shows and open-mics together, met different people, we were even the MC’s for the New College Mosaic. It was a much needed, and much appreciated, support-system for first year, though it never exactly seemed that way.

It was merely being a part of something. We were Bob’ers. We were friends. The name or size of the association was irrelevant, as long as it gave us a sense of place and purpose. U of T is really big, it offers a lot of options, finding something that speaks to you is, well, priceless.

Source: http://myerasmus.tumblr.com/page/3

Source: http://myerasmus.tumblr.com/page/3

I know it was my friend’s encouragement and enthusiasm that allowed me to audition for The Bob in the first place. And I’m much indebted because it led to a crazy-fun comedy ride throughout my second and third years. Not to mention a really great friendship.

Now, the time has come for The Bob to grace the stage again. The show is 7:30pm November 14, 15, and 16 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victoria College. I’ll be watching from the front row this year. But it gives me great pleasure that my friend, who inspired me to act, to be bold (and silly), is one of this year’s co-directors. Congrats, man!

 

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond!

 

-Stephen

Advice on Advisors

I don’t have any mentors. I’m not sure who, exactly, I should go to for advice – particularly non-judgmental, non-condescending advice about school and my future career. I’ll be completely honest with you all; I’m almost halfway through my university career, I’m confused, and I need to suck up my fear and my pride and seek guidance from people who know more than I do.

Maybe that’s because the advice you give yourself sucks. Look for it elsewhere sometimes, will you? (Source: http://rialeslie.tumblr.com/post/21574446724)

I decided to use this post as a learning opportunity. I asked 20 of my friends and colleagues who are enrolled in the Faculty of Arts & Science who they go to for advice about school and careers, and who their biggest inspirations are. I was interested in what they looked for in mentors – how they perceive them, the kinds of relationships they have with them, and what they learn from them.

The answers that I received were all very different, but there were a few recurring themes in who my friends look up to and who they go to for mentorship. These are the ones that stood out to me the most:

Real-life Experience
Every single person I asked seeks advice and inspiration from people who have been there, done that – older siblings and friends who are fresh out of school, parents in a similar field to what they hope to get into, seasoned professionals who have experience giving school and career advice, and high-profile individuals who are successful in their particular fields. Learning from the trajectory of others who are where you would like to be is invaluable, but we don’t have to literally follow in their footsteps. One student that I interviewed reminded me of something that I think we all need to keep in mind, especially when we get discouraged – “everyone’s path is different”.

They know me and have my best interests at heart:
Most of the students I asked sought mentorship from their parents, friends, siblings, cousins, and other individuals that they maintained close relationships with. I was given reasons like “she works hard to provide me with experiences she didn’t have”, “they are people I trust and want the best for me”, and “she’s always done her best to guide me”. I think this is why many of the sources that I seek advice from are lacking; yes, they are experienced and successful, but they are more interested in regurgitating information than having conversations, and I would not go to them with my real fears and insecurities.

Thank you for this, Lauren Conrad. (Source: http://inthelandofgifs.tumblr.com/post/10925626484)

Mentorship doesn’t end with the oft-mentioned school and careers. I think it’s important to open up to your loved ones, and learn from the world around you, in all areas of life. I’ll admit that for me, it’s difficult sometimes – I get so lost in my own head that I forget to look outwards. I forget that great mentorship doesn’t always begin with “Well, I’ve got some advice for you…”, and sometimes I just have to listen, learn, and interpret things for myself. Hopefully, that’s an obstacle that I can learn (or be mentored) to overcome.

Love, Hawa

Not Your Typical Dodgeball

Reflecting back on my school years before university, I realize that I had a love/hate relationship with physical education class. I loved it during my elementary years because gym class often meant little more than playfully hiding under a gigantic rainbow parachute. But with high school, came the beep test, where students would have to do a certain number of laps and drills in a short amount of time… in a nutshell, it is probably the worst creation by the kinesiology gods. But the “fun” sport that I grew to love/hate most was dodgeball. It was scary and aggressive, but also thrilling and rewarding—especially for the winners!

Last week while doing my usual search for local Facebook events, I found an event link posted on the MoveU Facebook page that was UTSC PACE-sponsored. UTSC PACE stands for Physical Activity Coaches & Educators. I hung out on the UTSC PACE Facebook page to learn more about the event. When I read the word “dodgeball,” I thought to myself, “hmm, that sounds interesting.” But then, after reading more, I found out that was not just any dodgeball, it was trampoline dodgeball. Even though I have never been to the UTSC campus before, I didn’t let my lack of tri-campus knowledge hold me back. I was determined to jump on those freaking trampolines. So off I went!

What I loved off the bat was that there was free transportation to the Skyzone Indoor Trampoline Park from the UTSC campus. The UTSC PACE crew also gave us free refreshments (“free” is one word that will never cease to amaze me). Once we arrived at the park, the realization that I didn’t know anyone coming into this event hit me. And I think the crew at UTSC PACE predicted that there were going to be a lot of students like me attending this event, which was why the mixed the group of over 50 plus students around and separated us into teams of virtual strangers. From that moment on, I was no longer “the loner kid who didn’t know anyone.” I was delegated to the blue team and we all had to find a way to make our team work while getting to know one another.

If only human sized pop bottles were such a thing. VIA GIFBIN.COM

The first few tries on trampoline dodgeball were overwhelming. Each zone was split in half with six trampoline pods on each side (one for each player on the team), along with side trampolines on the wall. Although it sounds easy, it was actually quite difficult at first. The trampolines were so bouncy that I had to find a way to become more agile to allow myself to turn around and aim my ball at a target. Nonetheless, I still had fun just jumping around and pretending that I was levitating (because that’s a childhood dream of mine). And I wasn’t alone, because while my team spent time getting the hang of playing dodgeball on trampolines, we kind of wiped out the first few times. However, we found a way to work the system midway through. Once a new game would start, we would alternate in each pod in zigzags while switching around. When one of us got out first, no one groaned at them for leaving early. Instead, we worked hard to catch a ball so that we could bring that member back in the zone. And our technique worked. We won our last game!

Lo and behold, the Skyzone Centre. VIA ISABEL GANA, UTSC PACE

Lo and behold, the Skyzone Centre. VIA ISABEL GANA, UTSC PACE

Afterwards, we were given the option to join around different mixed teams for more games, or to explore around. I decided to play trampoline basketball, and lived my dream of doing a slam dunk after five failed tries (yes, even with the assistance of trampolines). I also jumped into a foam pit because, hey, what’s a zone full of trampolines without any foam pits? It was hilarious to watch people jump in, get stuck, and champion their way out.

Yours truly, stuck in a foam pit. VIA ISABEL GANA, UTSC PACE

Yours truly, stuck in a foam pit. VIA ISABEL GANA, UTSC PACE

Even though I can be shy at times, I loved meeting fellow students beyond the St. George campus. I felt more connected to my university as well. It was refreshing to know that a lot of people agree that jumping on trampolines is fun, and that it’s a form of exercise for the kid in us. Also, aside from realizing a love for trampoline-related events, I’m now interested in tri-campus events. So I’m excited to see what else will come up this school year!

And yes, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, I probably have reached a new record in writing the word “trampoline” the most times in a student life blog post.

—Amanda

A Conversation with a Friend about Life

Last week I met a friend for coffee. It was the end of summer that I saw him last — O how that winged tyrant flies! — and it was lucky because he’s graduated and he’s very busy these days. It was nice to see him, and we had a really good conversation.

We said the usual how are you doing, what’s new? And then my friend said, “I’ve applied for an internship with the Canadian Embassy.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Did you get it?”

“I haven’t heard yet. They said they’d contact me within two weeks for an interview.”

“I’m sure you’ll get it.”

“But what if I don’t?” he said. “There are a lot of people applying for it.”

“Do you think you will get it?”

“Well, I hope so.”

“What did the application require?”

“Write an essay and submit a cover letter and my transcripts.”

“Did you do all that?”

“Yeah.”

“Was your essay good? Did your cover letter say all that you wanted it to?”

“As much as it could.”

“And your grades are fine, right?”

“They’re okay. Yeah, they’re good.”

“So you did everything that you had to do, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then what’s the worry?”

Because!” he said. “Everyone will have done all that stuff, and there are like two positions.”

“But you did all that stuff,” I said.

“Yeah, I told you.”

“Okay,” and I went and refilled my coffee.

When I returned, my friend said. “What? So I’m just supposed to forget about it and leave it up to the Gods?”

I laughed. “Essentially.”

“But what if I don’t get it?”

“That’s out of our control at this point.”

“But that sucks,” he said.

I agreed. “But unfortunately, it’s the truth.”

Rather than allow this revelation to dampen our spirits, we started talking about the idea of diligence and determination, and asked the question: Do these qualities actually pay off in the end?

It’s something my friend is experiencing, and many of us, too, as we reach the end of our career at U of T. Will all of my hard work lead to a satisfying career? The conclusion my friend and I settled on (I’m sure we could have conversed longer and more inquisitively) is that, at some point along the road, the decision of whether we become doctors, lawyers, professors, authors, sports-stars, or even astronauts, will be out of our control. And what is most important is that we pursue our goals up to that point.

My friend did all that he could for his application. I’ve known him since first year, and it was never his plan to work at the Canadian Embassy. But once the opportunity arose, he applied himself to the utmost of his ability, rallying the full breadth of his university experience and education, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

He did everything he could, and then surrendered to Chance. It’s funny that we recognize success only when its says, “You passed!” or “You’re hired!” or “Welcome aboard!” We fail to acknowledge that every day you go to class, by your own will, out of desire, or a sense of responsibility, is a triumph of our university education. Every time you commit yourself to learning, regardless of grades, is a success of your character and your development as a human being.

It sucks that four years at university doesn’t secure us a dream job. But being a university student means that we have the unparalleled opportunity to prepare and apply ourselves with every ounce of interest, intelligence, honesty, and strength that we possess to gain that desired career, before we throw our lives back into the hands of Chance.

My friend got an interview. I’m looking forward to seeing him again. Maybe we’ll have another great conversation.

 

‘Til then, stay diamond, U of T!

- Stephen.

Halloween: Celebrating Youth! . . . And Anxiety?

I recently read a BuzzFeed post that pointed out some of the apparent highlights of Halloween at university. Top of the list was looking sexy, shots, shots, shots, and making awesome group costumes. Now, I bet most of us can probably plead guilty to at least one of these. But we should also stop and ask ourselves why?

I absolutely love Halloween!

Because of these three ladies . . .

Source: http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/will-there-be-a-hocus-pocus-2

Source: http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/will-there-be-a-hocus-pocus-2

And for every replay of this . . .

Source: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/10/25/happy-treehouse-of-horror-day/586353_f496/

Source: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/10/25/happy-treehouse-of-horror-day/586353_f496/

And, do I really have to explain?

Source: http://www.harbordvillage.com/pumpkinfest

Source: http://www.harbordvillage.com/pumpkinfest

I love the smell of Halloween from the leaves on the street to the brisk night air like an invitation to breathe. Most of all I love Halloween costumes. The candy is good, too.

It used to be that all I cared about was my costume. I changed my mind every other week: Batman, Dracula, Batman, Dracula, a Mummy, a Zombie, Batman, wait I’ve got it—Dracula!

Then something changed. It became important to have a really good costume. A well-done, clever costume. An aspect of social competition had been introduced. It was no longer solely about me and my costume. It was about how my costume might impact them. Some of my friends started saying, “Halloween is lame!” It had become a social challenge that they refused to contest.

I think Halloween is a celebration of youth. A night for children to run around. A night for kids to eat candy. A night for teenagers and adults to put away their busy thoughts, and put on a costume. It’s a night to dress up like Miley Cyrus or Rob Ford or the cast of Orange is the New Black, if you want. It’s a night to act less serious and have a laugh.

But why do many university students say, “No, I’m not dressing up. I don’t like Halloween very much.” Is it really just for kids? Is putting on a costume so far below the seriousness of academia? Or is it a social issue that leads to anxiety?

I think the notion of celebrating youthfulness is unexpectedly stressful. As a university student, it’s like being asked to celebrate being you. It sounds nice, but it requires that you step out into a suddenly competitive social spotlight.

Some of us stay far away from this spotlight, others want to look sexy, or think they have to drink, or rely on the close company of a friend group. Either way, I think the anxiety drives us to miss the deeper importance of celebrating youth, which is to relax and have fun.

Last year, a group of friends and I dressed up like the characters from Clue. It was a lot of fun. Looking back I see how social anxieties were at play. They always are.Clue

This year we are being the villains from Batman. I have been working hard on my costume, and it feels almost as genuine as when I was a kid. I really do love Halloween. But I am not worry free, and I doubt I ever will be. But at least I can stop, take a deep breath of crisp autumn air, and think about why.

Happy Halloween, U of T,halloween

-Stephen