Lucy’s Life Rules

Making generalizations is an inevitable part of life. When I was still young and innocent, I used to pose Great Questions that I had thought were oh-so-intellectual, but as it turns out, the rest of the world (aka philosophers) had already thought of them tens and thousands of years beforehand. When I found that I couldn’t get through Plato’s “The Republic” without falling asleep, I realized that becoming the world’s next Sartre was an impossible dream. So instead, I now turn my hopes to the next best thing: a desperate attempt at becoming the world’s next Dr. Phil. For centuries humanity have not just been posing Great Questions, but also proposing Great Answers. Surprisingly, this system of thinking can be very well applied to an undergraduate’s life at UofT. I shall demonstrate: Great Question: “What the hell am I doing here?!” –a common angry outcry among many first years (and some fourth years). Great Answer: “To reap the fruits of higher education, and to be enlightened by knowledge.” –a typical pro-academia answer not common among any student body. Which is bad. After all, as students, many of us are close to living in subsidized housing because of heavy tuition costs, and on top of that, we are paying all this money in exchange for the even heavier amount of work required for us to do well in courses, and ultimately get our degrees. So I thought about it, and I realized that unless we adopt an optimistic way of thinking which truly values our education for what it is and not what it would eventually lead to, our diplomas would indeed be as just useful as toilet paper. Therefore I devised the following: Lucy's Top 5 Life Rules at University of Toronto 5. Have some crazy fun once in a while. It’s easy to be constantly bogged down by schoolwork. The trend tends to be that you get stressed by “all the stuff” you have to do, yet when it comes down to actually doing it, you procrastinate and let time waste away. Facebook, MSN and TV shows are common culprits. Instead, try following the motto “Work hard, play hard”, so that whatever it is you choose to do, you are completely absorbed in the moment. Also, periodically scheduling something fun to do allows you to look forward to something exciting, to work towards something, and thus making those tedious readings and problem sets more bearable for the time being. 4. Be brave, be very, very brave. So you’ve picked a tough spot to be in. Actually, one of the toughest undergrad institutions in the country. Think of this as a time that tests your resilience. In my first year, my very first term test was organic chemistry, and my mark in it was a 65. In the same week, I got back my fine art history essay and my mark in that was a 68. Having consistently been a 90s student in high school, this was a huge shock to me. The day I found out my chemistry test mark, I sat down on the floor of Lash Miller below where my grade was posted, and cried. I actually cried a lot in my first year, for every failure and extreme success I had encountered or brought upon myself. (Corollary to rule #4: it is okay to cry.) In the end, it is important to keep things in perspective, and realize that when one door closes, another opens. Don’t be scared, and have faith in your abilities. After my horrible first term test mark, I literally worked my butt off for my second term test. My mark for that one was a 94. Moral of the story? When you put your whole self into achieving a certain goal, magic happens and the universe opens its doors for you. 3. Be open to love. Love comes in many forms. We love our parents in one way, friends in another, and perhaps that significant other if you are lucky. Treasure your relationships with others, no matter how far away or how close they are to you. As I continue my undergrad career, I’ve come to realize the true importance of social ties. Knowing that there are people out there rooting for me is what got me through some of my darkest moments. Keep in touch with those high school buddies, and remember to call your parents once in a while even if it’s not for monetary purposes. In a lecture, talk to the stranger sitting next to you not just when you want their lecture recordings, and don’t let all the conversation with your roommate be on conflict resolution. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Moreover, love yourself no matter what. Someone had once compared self-worth to a 10-dollar bill. No matter how hard you crumble it, its worth doesn’t change and it’s still 10 dollars. Similarly, no matter how badly you end up failing (a test, a course, a relationship, an opportunity), unhappy incidents should not break your inner core of belief for who you really are, and you should never allow you to fail yourself. 2. Know thyself! This is cliché but so true. Without having a deep understanding of who you are, it is impossible to decide on a direction in life (that you would not end up regretting). Four years of undergrad may seem long at first glance, but time stealthily creeps away. For everything you do, ask yourself how this experience would benefit you, and ultimately, make you a better person. There’s honestly so little time but so much to do. Knowing what you really want in life prevents you from taking unnecessary detours later on. Also, knowing who you are and where your limit is helps you to keep on feeling good about yourself when faced with tough competition who look like they might one day rule the world.

1. It’s the process that matters, not the end result. Life—and education—is what you make of it. Both are better to be treated as a process than as a means to “get somewhere”. Most of the time it’ll mean work—tons and tons of work—and the reward that comes with it would mostly likely be glorious yet brief at its best. So what do you do? You can’t quit, because anyone who’s ever tried to quit knows that even choosing to quit isn’t as easy as it sounds. Since we are all stuck with the process anyway, we might as well as enjoy it. To me, the mere understanding that I’m choosing to take part in this process and taking on challenges along the way means much more than what would ultimately come out of it. So slow down, and enjoy what you are actually doing, instead of rushing through each day as if you can’t wait to get it over with and move on to something “better”, be it law school or med school or making babies. Recently, I’ve realized that whenever you only have one goal in your mind and temporarily put down everything else in the name of achieving that “something greater”, even if you do end up achieving that goal in the end, you’d still feel that all that time was “lost”, because while you were fighting for it, you didn't have the chance to appreciate all the other aspects of your life that nevertheless deserved your attention. So focus on today, and have faith in tomorrow.


9 comments on “Lucy’s Life Rules

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  1. Oh Lucy, what r u doing in science, u should be in an arts program! lol… j/k, u’re an amazing write and i love reading ur posts!

    “It’s the process that matters, not the end result.” —> reminding me of that long conversation we had a while ago~~ <3

  2. I got a bad mark in low 60s in org chem for 2 term tests – I moved during this time and it really affected my mark. I don’t know what to do since I can’t drop the course now. I am thinking of moving to Scarborough.

  3. Dear Raj,

    First of all, don’t panic. Personally, I’ve always been bad at chemistry (it’s genetic I think…my mom still dreams of failing her chem exams in undergrad). I totally understand how hard it is to juggle school and everything else, when things happen in your personal life, and trust me, I’ve been there. What you need to realize is that thinking of a way out (i.e. Scarborough) at this point is JUST as time-consuming as if you were to put all your remaining energy and gusto into acing the final. In fact, it’s very likely that because now you think you have this additional option, you just end up giving up and let everything else fall to pieces. In this way, backups are not good to keep.

    I also took CHM138 in the first semester. Browning is hard and some of his questions can be tricky. But other profs, I believe, will go easier on you in terms of the difficulty of their questions. Also, looking back, I realize that what he emphasized in class, he does tend to test it. So try to focus on those. Maybe photocopy notes from a friend who’s doing well in the course to get a better idea of what THEY think are important concepts. I remember he emphasized things like (oh god trying to remember) how resonance allows for more electron stability in a molecule, etc, via double bonds, etc. And he used some oxygen-containing molecule as an example? =S Not very helpful eh…

    Anyway, there are several things you need to keep in mind at this point:

    1. If I remember correctly, there are 2 ways of calculating your final grade. Your one option makes each term test worth 12.5% or something? And the final worth more, with labs worth a HUGE chunk of your final mark. In that sense, getting 60’s in both term tests doesn’t really mean the end of the world. Your mark might not end up brilliant, but so what? First year marks generally matter less than other years, and even if you are thinking of med school (taking the example with the highest requirements), understand that different schools calculate your admission average in VERY different ways, and take UofT for instance: you get to drop your lowest 1.0 credit’s mark for each one of your 4 years of undergrad, provided that you take a full course load (5 credits) every year. If you want to know more about this, go to Biome and I’m sure ppl would be happy to answer your questions. Grad schools are even better: they usually only look at your last 2 years of marks.

    2. Who said that you’ll end up with a bad mark anyway? Work hard on studying for your final and don’t be scared of not being able to understand the material. I remember what I did (very time-consuming and totally idiotic to others but it worked for me) was that I read basically all chapters of the textbook that were assigned, made stacks of hand-written notes that basically regurgitated whole chapters (see…not the smartest study methods but oh well), and then I synthesized the material, by picking out the mechanisms and using large sheets of paper to make this huge chart that covered things like: (a) name of the reaction, (b) general formula, which can be found in chapter summaries, (c) mechanism, with arrows and all that jazz, but not with general molecules like “x” and “y” but using examples demonstrated in class, and (d) Notes, a space I used to designate whether the reaction was syn or anti, regiochem (Markovnikov or non-Markovnikov), and stereochemistry. Synthesizing is a really important step for CHM138, because by the end of it, you’ll end up with so much little details that knowing where they fall into the big picture becomes critical to recalling things.

    My friend’s at the Nano program at UW, and he’s in LOVE with orgo. What he told me was to UNDERSTAND, not memorize. Sometimes, even if they don’t ask you to know the mechanisms (like for oxymercuration), it’s still good to read up on it (McMurry is great because each chapter’s so short lol, so it really doesn’t take that long to read) to understand why the products of the reaction are what they are.

    They WILL test Sn1/Sn2/E1/E2. Study that soon and don’t leave it to the last minute. It takes a while to get it into your head. If you don’t find MCMurry to be helpful, there’s this other chem textbook I used (as recommended by my friend) was:

    [Organic Chemistry, Solomons and Fryhle] I think they have a copy of it at UTM library, and also one’s available in the toronto public library network, so you can request it online and pick it up at a branch close to you.

    But don’t be intimidated, and don’t get into a mindset where you think you CAN’T DO IT. BECAUSE YOU CAN. You know why? Because I took CHM247. And trust me, when you compare the two courses…CHM138 is like heaven. Half of it is background knowledge, not even hardcore organic chem (there’s so little mechanisms involved and not that many reactions to learn at all). It’s important for you to know that you can do it. I know the “holy crap I’m blanking out gonna fail” feeling you get when you get a test and just feel like dying when you look at it. Seriously, it’s all about self-confidence. I know you can do it. Surprising (but true), CHM138 is very basic, very fundamental knowledge. 🙂 It takes a while to master, but you still have time!!

    Make sure to practice. Do lots of questions. Do textbook ones first because they are easier, and you have full solutions in case you don’t know if you are doing it right. Then attack past exams. The formats are usually pretty similar, and if you are resourceful, you can *probably* pay someone who went to a PREP101 course for the exam answers. I think ASSU might also have a collection of past exams, but I’m not sure. If so, they might have answers as well because they are student-donated.

    3. Ask for help!! Ask your profs, ask ppl in your lecture, ask UTPT (University of Toronto Peer Tutoring), ask upper years who have taken the course, ask upper years who have taken CHM247. I have a friend who’s a chem major as well as a UTPT chemistry tutor (really smart guy, really really nice too). I can introduce you to him if you want.

    FINALLY: they might bell-curve it up if the class average ends up being too low. The chem department never announces such things, but sometimes, miracles DO happen! Especially if in your year, both term tests have experienced lower averages than usual. They don’t bell the term test marks, but they might, for the final mark on ROSI. (however they never bell CHM247)

    4. Scarborough: lock away the thought for now. If the only reason you are transferring is because of this course…I don’t think it’s worth it. Again, this is a huge decision and definitely needs some time to be finalized. I suggest you focus on school for now and work hard on studying for your exams. I mean, you’ll have to write the exam regardless of your decision, so you might as well as do well on it and see what happens.

    Phhewwwww that was really lonnng!! I hope it was at least a little bit helpful…if you want, let me know if you want to contact me personally. In the meantime, hang in there and be a fighter!! Seriously, CHM138 isn’t one of those UofT courses that’s out to screw you over, and I’m 100% sure that if you understand the material and memorize what needs to be memorized, you’ll be just fine. Good luck and study hard!!!


  4. Oh I just remembered something: the CHM138 exam gives you plenty of time to think over your answers. Most ppl would finish in 2 hours, or 2 and a half or something like that, so don’t worry about running out of time during the exam! Hopefully that’ll ease the pressure a bit. 🙂

  5. Hey Lucy,

    I read everything you wrote and I wanted you to thank you for taking the effort and time to guide your juniors in making the right decisions (entering UofT next year) and just…acting as lighthouse by providing us with your knowledge…obviously you have learned a lot from your experience and are sharing it here and I must say you are a very motivational speaker (atleast now I’m not fretting about not being able to manage my time; I have grown quite confident after reading this. So thank you Lucy, you truly are greater than Dr. Phil 😛

    – Akshay