Let’s make something amazing! #joyatuoft

So, last Monday at around 10 a.m. after a very late night and a very early morning, my restless pursuit of coffee through the Bahen Centre was met with this:

YES. It was like MY DREAMS HAD COME TRUE: my very own foot-piano! Delighted, I tapped out a little “Gin and Juice” before texting a very good friend and promising him I would serenade him in a way unlike any other if he would immediately make his way to Bahen Centre. This month – in the middle of winter, as Singles’ Awareness Day looms on February 14th – the office of student life is on a massive campaign to get students talking about how we find joy on campus. For me, joy is in the things like this; it’s something we can create.

As a result, my dear lifeatuoft readers, I propose a challenge: this month, make something. Make something cool. Make a piano you can play with your feet. Or whatever. Make something that no one’s going to mark you on but it doesn’t matter because it’s awesome. In high school, I used to paint and play in a garage band and build things in the tech wing of my school. Coming to university, many of us forget our old hobbies. So, I’ve compiled a list to get you started. Some of these are semester-long commitments, while (for the low commitment folks among us) some are only one-time workshops, and none of them are more than $10:

There’s a part of me, deep down inside, that wants nothing more than to be a documentary film-maker. As luck would have it, the U of T Film Festival is the perfect place to blaze my trail to cinematic glory. Submissions are due March 2 at 5pm, with screenings and awards on March 22.

They’re taking over. Make yourself their master before it’s too late. Check out the University of Toronto Robotics Association to make all kinds of ridiculously awesome robots, some of which have even been featured on the Discovery Channel.

Open mic night at Hart House.
Make some noise! Poetry, comedy, improv jazz – whatever you do, come do it at Hart House. The next event is at 7:30 pm on February 16th, and it’s free. Bring friends!

Poetry workshops.
Some of you may remember that I blogged about one of the workshops with our Poet-in-the-Community, Ronna Bloom, in first semester. It was amazing, and that woman can make a poet out of anyone. Her next workshop – literally, “Writing your way out of a paper bag” – will be on March 2 at 12pm in the Hart House East Common Room. Free.

A masterclass in low-budget animation, $10 on March 20 at 6pm, Hart House. “Understanding the Illusion of Life” is a beginners’ workshop where we’ll learn how to make an animated film from brainstorm to final cut. Excited.

A very active and amazing campus group, the Hart House Camera Club is currently accepting submissions of photography for their annual exhibition. If you’re still looking to develop your prints, they’re offering a “Darkroom Days” event thus Sunday (February 12) at 2pm.

If you like to grow food, you can get involved with Dig In! Campus Agriculture, who are an amazing student-led group committed to growing sustainable food on campus. They even do beekeeping! If you’d like to get busy in the kitchen, I suggest you check out Hot Yam, a student-led group where you can cook (or just eat!) healthy, delicious creations on Wednesdays at the Centre for International Experience. It’s okay if you just want to show up and eat their stuff and then run away. That’s what I do, and it’s delicious.

Every Thursday at 11am in the Hart House Reading Room, come get crafty, for free. Next week: friendship bracelets. Or, study group bracelets, should you feel so inclined.

Life drawing.
The Victoria College Life-Drawing club meets Tuesdays at 8:30pm in EM108. You can join them to draw, OR you can even get semi-naked for them and watch all kinds of student artists draw your luscious body. Your choice.

Overall, I’m excited for all of the opportunities this month. With graduation and my future looming in the approaching not-so-distant future, a friend and I were chatting about what I intend to study in grad school. I listed a few of my ideas but told her that I couldn’t seem to decide which one, and her advice was to go out and create something in each discipline, and see which one felt right. In academic life, it can be easy to forget to stop abstracting and start creating, but maybe doing so is a great way for all of us to rediscover ourselves and see our interests in a new light.

Any other suggestions? Feel free to add them in the comments below!

In the meantime, show your classmates what you’ve been up to! Post your adventures to the Joy at U of T blog!


Replace my body with bits of metal: into the future

I am slowly becoming Darth Vader

It’s not just that I knocked my teeth out in a bicycling accident and had to replace them with titanium implants. It’s not the molar fillings, either. It’s not even that both my tonsils and appendix have been extruded and incinerated, my body complete no more. It’s more than that. 

Every year the Force gets a little weaker. The Dark Side pulls a bit stronger, whispering to me from my bedside: “You don’t know what you’re doing,” when I wake up in the middle of the night. I’m a little more uncertain about the golden path I used to imagine was my future and I trust the efficacy of my happy space-ship (this humanities degree) decreasingly with time. 

It all started when I was 22, had returned from travelling around the world and decided that it was time to get a proper education (much to my mom’s supreme relief). I tried for Ryerson’s photography program, was admitted, and enrolled. Three weeks in I realized there was no way that I was going to become a photographer, let alone finish the degree. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my camera anymore or the 4×5, and I enjoyed spending my days in the darkroom. I just knew that photography wasn’t where I wanted to be professionally, and it was school that allowed me to make that differentiation. 

So at the end of the year I switched programs, applying to U of T and registering in Arts and Science, with an interest in pursuing history. All went blissfully well for three years, my head filled with terra cotta dreams of grad school and a long life spent deep in dusty archives, reading long-forgotten texts from behind circular bifocals. But it was this year, the last year of my degree, that a voice started to nag.

“Come hither,” it would say, beckoning me to the other side. “Look what I can offer you: a B. Sc. One more year at U of T, and this future could all be yours. Come with me, Mary. You cannot escape your destiny.” The Dark Side has a way of calling, an enticement hard to resist. 

I admit that it’s partially the imminent reality of getting out of school that has led me to consider staying at U of T one final year. I also love my science classes, which when trying to convince myself to get out of school, has proved a disadvantage. Simultaneously, however, there is also a contradictory fear, the fear of never making up my mind, that shouts at me to simply accept my degree, stick it on my wall, and move on to other more diverse galactic battles. Meanwhile my mom, who bugged me for years to get into school, now phones me the odd evening. “Get out of there!” she bosses, like she can’t remember ever thinking any other way.

Futures are tricky beasts, murky places. A few people know exactly what they want to do in life and how they mean to get there, but I don’t think they’re the majority. Most of us have to make pretty big decisions without the prescience necessary to know if we’re doing the right thing. You just can’t trust the Force so much as you get older.

Some days I think it would’ve been easier to have simply stuck it out at Ryerson. I would have graduated by now, could be working, making money, be well on my way to living that adult life. But then that life materializes in my mind, and it is a continuous reality in which I do not love the part I play.

In retrospect, at 80 (with a head fully replaced by black tin), I will probably realize that the choices I’m making now are not as big as they seem. I am getting older, I do have relatives pestering me to graduate, but in the end, it is only one more year; a brief interlude by the end of the saga, and one that holds a whole new host of potential futures, of fantastic destinies.


– Mary