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.