The Squirrels of U of T

My first blog post! On a blog that I know people actually read!

Hello everyone,

My name is Ishita and I’m going to be a blogger for Life @ U of T this year (like you couldn’t figure that out for yourself). I look forward to sharing the goings-on in my life at U of T!  My blog topics aim to be broad and inclusive and also mindful of equity and diversity elements in life at U of T.

Picture of a squirrel

The other day as I was walking home from class, I noticed a squirrel scurry down a tree trunk to grab a nut from the ground. Have
you ever watched a squirrel nibble on food? It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As I stared, another squirrel peeked through the bushes, eyeing the nut in my squirrel’s paws. Both of them stood motionless for a moment. And then my squirrel bounced over and offered the nut to his friend. I wish I’d taken a picture.

Sharing is caring, isn’t it? The concept is drilled into our heads over and over again by the adults around us in a well-intentioned attempt to engrain it into our lifestyles. And eventually, it becomes as natural to us as breathing, doesn’t it?

But sometimes, we forget the importance of sharing. The cutthroat environment of U of T has unconsciously forced some of us (myself included!) to adopt an “all-for-one-and-none-for-all” philosophy. Perhaps we need to take a minute to relearn an important life lesson from the squirrels of U of T and remind ourselves that there is value in sharing.

1) Share your umbrella.

Back in first year after I attended one of my optional tutorials (I know, don’t laugh), a small group of students herded out of the classroom. It was pouring cats and dogs and I prepared for the speed walk of my life. It took me a minute to realize that the rain wasn’t feeling very wet. Turns out a girl in my class had noticed I was umbrella-less and had rushed to catch up so she could share hers. Her casual gesture has become the yard stick by which I measure almost every act of kindness. Although I haven’t spoken to her since, I hope she continues to offer her umbrella to the umbrella-less. And I hope you consider starting.

2) Share your ideas.

We go to the University of Toronto, an institution that recently cracked Top 20 in world rankings ( Bragging rights FTW! UofT is the birthplace of insulin, stem cell research, and multi-touch technology (without which our smartphones wouldn’t be as smart as they are). Breakthroughs at this university have been the result of one person thinking “what if.” Don’t hesitate to be that person. Sharing your idea could spark a revolution.

3) Share your problems.

We’re supposed to be super smart, super focused UofT students. But if we did all the things we were supposed to do, we wouldn’t be human. You will run into roadblocks. Sharing your problems with friends, family, or trained professionals on campus will help you realize that you’re not alone. Exploit the services that the university offers ( and you’ll feel better in no time.

4) Share your passion.

School is important. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be spending bucket loads of money on our education. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to let it consume your life. UofT has over 400 clubs and student organizations. After graduation, you probably won’t remember the lectures you sat in or the all-nighters you pulled but you will remember the friends you made doing the things you loved (

We all get stressed. It comes with the territory. But I hope the next time you see a squirrel on campus, you remember to share.

Till next week,


The Romanticization of Passion

It’s a romantic thought, isn’t it – it seems we students are urged every day to “find our passion” and follow it relentlessly.

It’s a kind of novelty that is almost paraded more than it is appreciated, and is essentially another version of finding “the one”.

But how much do we begin to lose ourselves in the race to find and maintain these passions, when instead we could accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, not everyone is meant to have a passion.

We don’t consider this or even give it a chance in a world in which we are constantly told, “if you do what you love, it never feels like a job!” Since when did passion have to be connected to anything besides the enjoyment of participating in something? When did it become a matter of prepping your LinkedIn page, or polishing off your cyber-identity?

Now it would be dishonest to not mention how I thoroughly admire anyone who has realized his or her passion early on and was able to go for it. That consists of everyone I know (and don’t) who has dedicated a summer volunteering in Asia, interning in Europe, or saving wildlife in the Arctic. The fact that so many people my age have gotten so much figured out, to me, is nothing short of brilliant. However, my issue in this is a simple fact that is often forgotten: everyone is different.

I’ve been longing to find, discover and meet my passion for months now. I’m waiting for that spark, the one that will make me realize I want to dedicate my life to something. I knew it became a problem when I began to desperately latch myself onto every possible passion that was out there and formulate my persona around it. The very fact that I was constantly searching for a passion of my own in an environment in which I felt like every single one of my peers had something more, was becoming destructive. It turned into a hideously guilty habit that I couldn’t stop myself from doing, and that quickly turned into self-pity.

Eventually, however, the sneaking feeling of self-doubt and sheer panic at feeling behind settled in, and I felt ridiculous for the simple fact that I was treating my goals as if I had belonged to a larger race against time, and I’m barely 20.  The bigger question is, do you really need to find a passion in life, or isn’t it enough to have a bunch of interests that you love?

If there’s anything so many of us are guilty of doing, it’s all those late nights spent feeling like we’re falling behind with what’s going on in our lives while the rest of the world is farther ahead. The constant quest to find a passion can end up being a catalyst for doubt and an even bigger obstacle for our developing identities. The pressures of needing to find your unique passion as a brand for yourself to the world turns into a search that gets in the way of so many greater things, and it ultimately limits ourselves in the cruelest of ways.

Maybe it’s time some of us started rethinking the whole finding-a-passion thing.




dance, dance, dance

Off-beat bop. Wild shoulder shake. Index-finger-point with hip-shake. Y-M-C-A. Lawnmower. Sadly, that’s about  the extent of my dance moves. But I love dancing and take every opportunity to bust this short repertoire…in the privacy of my own home, of course. I’m sure my cat thinks I’m nuts.

So, readers, you can imagine how much I love watching great dancers perform. I become mesmerized by their grace, style and flawless ability to move their bodies like they’re part of the music. I start dreaming of the day, where after years of living room shimmying and shaking, I confidently declare “no one puts Shannon in a corner,” rush onstage, and wow the audience with my jaw-dropping talent. If only…

No one puts Shannon in a corner!

No one puts Shannon in a corner!

This past weekend, I watched my friend, Ali, along with many other talented U of T dancers in the Only Human Dance Collective, showcase their stuff in “Pieces: A Collection of Choreographic Works” at the Winchester Street Theatre. I was impressed with the range of dance styles – like hip-hop, modern, ballet and jazz – that the dancers fused together to pull off creative, energizing and passionate performances. But, most of all, I was inspired by the obvious love of dancing that came through with each step by every dancer on stage. Regardless of their level, experience and technical ability, it was clear that these dancers were having a great time.

The Only Human Dance Collective (OHDC) has “a unique all-inclusive mandate, which is to welcome all dancers regardless of experience and draw on all members of the university community – students, staff, faculty, and alumni.”  This means all dancers – from living-room hip-shakers like me to seasoned experts -are welcome to take part in classes and work towards a professional dance performance that the group puts on every year.

Initially, I was a bit surprised when Ali told me she was going to be in a dance show. I never would have described her as a “dancer,” just “someone who loved to dance.” Now, after seeing her talent and flair on stage, I’d say she’s a “Dancing Queen!”

Watching the range of skill levels that “Pieces” showcased made me wonder how many of us lovers of dance hold back from getting more involved out of fear of that we aren’t quite the “dancers” we see on stage, in movies or in music videos. But chatting with Ali made me realize how important it is to keep doing the activities we love to do, especially when our busy lives as students can cause us much stress and anxiety.

She got involved with OHDC after seeing a poster advertising the club at Hart House in September, which emphasized that, “dancers of all levels were welcome to join.” Since Ali loves to dance and thinks it’s important to have a healthy, active lifestyle, she went to an information session where choreographers led demonstrations of what their classes would be like. After sampling her options, she signed up for a weekly contemporary/jazz class aimed at intermediate-level dancers. This experience gave her the opportunity to meet new people, and forced her to take a break from her busy student life each week to do an activity she enjoyed.

If you’re someone who loves to dance, Hart House offers registered dance classes like contemporary, street jazz and ballroom dance so that beginner to experienced dancers can stay fit and healthy while doing something they love.

Readers, have you made an effort to get involved with a physical activity you’ve loved this year? What was it? Please send me your stories so that I can keep getting inspired to take my bopping, shimmying and shaking out of my living room! Or maybe, you’ll introduce me to a new passion altogether!


Not Very Upbeat at the Moment

Last… Thursday, I attended an entrepreneurship lecture entitled “”Exploring the opportunities and challenges of starting and managing a video games studio” by Tom Frencel, a U of T computer science graduate and president of Capybara Games Inc.

I ran to the designated lecture hall in the Sanford Fleming building, and surprisingly managed not to get lost. I figured the lecture (starting at 5) would go until 7; it was currently 6. Alas, it turned out I got there at the end. Q & A was wrapped up within 20 minutes. Had my sloppy time management led to my missing another enlightening experience? No. Upon leaving, I met with two other utgddc members; which was funny, because the lecture was the same time as the utgddc meeting. We engaged in chat, and I learned of the alleged dinner happening after the lecture.

“Are you going to the dinner?”

Hearing ‘dinner’, I pictured… a restaurant. Free food at a restaurant? Lunchless Liesl at 6:20pm? Am I right? Being me, though, I asked a bunch of paranoid questions; “Do we have to pay?” (as envisioned going to the Ritz) “Did we have to sign up?” “Will I be taking someone’s place?” “What if I have to leave? Would that be a waste?”

“Uhh…. just… just come.”

I got free dinner. Dinner being cold cut wrap things that were more lunch than dinner, but I’m not complaining! It was free lunch/dinner.

I cannot delineate the entire discussion to you. I have not the will, nor brain power at this precise moment. Nor do I believe you will enjoy any more game-related jargon/anecdotes. It was informative. Very.

It was almost too informative. I would rather experiment than read instructions when I can (e.g., when not operating heavy machinery), and I have a natural rebellious streak: not stereotypically loud and rude*, but resistant. I, at some magically triggered moment, can also be creative, driven and maybe even gutsy. One would figure I’d be just perfect for entrepreneurship. Maybe. Maybe not.

Anyway, I walked to the subway station with Katie (utgddc vice-prez, w00t). She’s also an artist, and turns out we have a lot in common.

“Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated with (such and such an artistic concept) when you’re trying to come up with (such and such a philosophical concept)?”



“It’s like I’m trying to work out the (such and such about a profound state of mind) and I wind up (such and such an artistic obstacle), every time!”



There was a lot of this. But one thing that stuck out for me was when Katie mentioned having enough passion to pursue art seriously. Surrounding this was a conversation on subject posts, what skills one would have/have not, outside influences (I think).

When something is your passion, it’s your life. It’s everything. You do it all the time, think about it all the time, whether you want to or not. It’s like breathing. It’s just there. You don’t hate, or love it, it’s just there. You are it. You should be willing to bite and scream and kick and eat people and fight the universe for it. I didn’t.

A couple of hours ago, I was confused, despite having not moved from my position in my room in front of my laptop surrounded by papers and books and stupid pens and mugs and my own general filth, and I figured maybe I could doodle to blow off some steam. Then I thought, “No. If I try to draw, I’ll get angry.”

Does that even make sense?

What was once my passion makes me… angry. What I used to get so much joy out of, to the point where did it whenever I was sitting; it makes me angry.

The plan was to continue visual art ‘on the side’, like it was my mistress, and by the end of ‘fourth’ year we’d be involved enough for me to apply to some kind of art college and do the artsy side of game design. I’m not improving. My demonic time management skills don’t allow for that. After all, it’s 4:19 am, I have an essay on existence due today, and guess what? THE ESSAY DOESN’T EXIST.

Even if I have artistic talent, I don’t have the diligence for it to go anywhere. That was announced to me a couple of years ago. And last year, when I decided to listen to my mom and dad when they said that a major or minor in art was a bad idea, would get me nowhere, of course, wording it as, “It’s your choice, but when we’re dead and you have no skills…”; that kind of proved it. Of course, one of them is now actually dead. If I had the passion, I would have done it anyway. Yeah, I’d have no practical skills. Hey, maybe it was a good idea I didn’t take it. But what kind of job is an English major going to get me?

Art is barely self-expression, for me, because I don’t have the technical skills to draw what I feel, nor the willpower/patience to make something look the way I envision it. Perfectionism has taught me that certain things have to look a certain way; a cat, an anime-styled eye, an abstract letter, my mental picture, doesn’t matter. It’s BS if it looks like anything else. Unfortunately, the true nature of artistic expression seems to be that you make something look as it does in your mind. You are not drawing the thing, you are drawing a representation of the thing. I can’t grasp this. I can’t even describe my own self-loathing, at my art and myself.

What does this have to do with an informative, overall pleasing lecture and game design club and school? Is this just a blown-up, self-centered extreme version of the second-year “omg i haz subject post iz it teh rite won” situation?

I don’t know what this has to do with anything. I think I just really want to finish and not-go to bed. I’ll believe in myself next week.

Don’t you love how any-pain-at-all’s credibility can be negated with the word ’emo’?