It’s been a tough term; the toughest one yet, and hopefully the toughest one to come. But who knows.
This term, I’m taking 7 courses and I’m an Exec for a charity club (Tanzania Heart Babies’ Project, THBP). Until I received my disappointing midterm results, I was working 2 part time jobs (so up around 20 hours a week). Halfway through the term I quit my job at Club Monaco (a Ralph Lauren retail brand) but decided to keep my job with the Learning Commons (which I genuinely enjoy if I’m not running on 2 hours of sleep). Last but not least, I just moved to Yaletown with my elder brother after having only ever lived on UBC campus with friends, so it’s been an additional struggle figuring out bus times, getting used to the commute, and making time to catch up with the homies.
Consequently, I spend most of my day on campus either going to classes or doing coursework in between or working at the CLC. When I get home at night I go to the gym or yoga or both, and by the time I finish having dinner it’s time for me to go to bed and I rarely get more than 6 hours in. I haven’t been to a “Pit Wednesdays” since September 3rd, and my weekends are almost as hectic as my weekdays; they just start a couple hours later.
If you knew me in previous terms, you would be surprised at this drastic shift. When I lived with my friends in Marine, I was jokingly assigned the role of “Social Coordinator” because I was always inviting people over, hosting predrinks, and coordinating schedules to “chill” with other people or people groups. In a term, I was at Pit Wednesdays more often than not, and at a house or apartment party at least every other weekend. Despite all the fun I was having, I had good grades, which made me all the more comfortable with the way I was living.
However, this past summer a couple of my plans fell through. I was initially supposed to spend 3 months in Costa Rica with two of my roommates for an International Service Learning (ISL) program in Sustainable Economic Development but UBC terminated its partnership with the community organisation there. Very disappointed, I decided to sign up for a meditation retreat in India instead, but I couldn’t arrange the money in time so that fell through as well. I spent the following week of my summer utterly depressed. I genuinely wanted my summer to be centered on personal growth and development. My desire to be productive was such that I refused to go home to my parents (in Mauritius) because home is too comfortable and I associated this with stagnation. Furthermore, I thought I had to go far away from wherever I was or wherever I had been in order to grow.
Through my miserable week of spontaneous crying and existential crises, I learned this: it’s not about where you’re at, not where you’re at. By that I mean: where you are physically does not define where you are psychologically; the two do not go hand-in-hand. Nothing particularly happened that week that made me realise this; it’s just a truth that resonated deep within me when I tried to pierce through my troubled mind by sitting in silence. It allowed me to jump back onto my feet once again and say “yes” to life. I decided I wanted to live every single day as though it were my last, and that growth could happen right here, right now. To prove this to myself I chose to stay in Vancouver for the summer, which had initially seemed ludicrous to me and to other spoiled International Students like myself; isn’t the point of summer to do cool things and brag about them? I realised how unrealistic and unsustainable this mindset was, and in choosing to live each day fully, I established a daily routine of rigorous exercise, yoga, and meditation; and in August I did my 200-hour, teacher training certification program with Semperviva Yoga. During this time, I was probably the happiest, healthiest, and most clear-headed I had ever been in my life. I felt extremely intelligent too. I don’t know what was happening to my brain and if I imagined it all, but it felt as if I was sober for the first time in my life—like I had been high or half asleep for the past few years and finally I was sober or awake again. I felt so energetic, I understood everything I read, I began noticing synchronicities, and I felt deeply connected to the world around me; I had more compassion for people and animals and as a result I decided to become vegetarian. I felt invincible. When summer was coming to an end, I realised I used to party to fill a gap in my life; I had no concrete goal, no concrete direction, so I was just going with the crowd. I realized that to do something great I had to stop doing mediocre things; I needed to find my own passions and commit to my own responsibilities, so I loaded my schedule to make sure I had no time to waste.
I succeeded in giving myself no time waste, but I also succeeded in overloading my schedule to the point where I could only perform marginally in a lot of areas, rather than optimally in a few areas. This was bad. I often felt tired, overwhelmed, bored, and increasingly disconnected to everyone and everything around me. On one such day, after mourning over an exam I thought I failed, I sat again in silence. The silence spoke to me, and what I realized, or remembered, was that it’s all about perception. My resources as a person are limited but my potential is boundless. I’ve learned to embrace my limitations rather than get frustrated by them, and seek out ways to be more effective in whatever I do.
To say I’m busy this semester would be an understatement by most standards, so it’s time to raise my standards. It is perfectly normal for someone else to have even more responsibilities than I do and yet be able to manage their lives effortlessly. I’ve had the opportunity to learn so many skills in addition to the ones my “responsibilities” are already teaching me. I’ve learned, and I am continuously learning, time management. I realised that time management is one of those things you never really stop learning from or about—kind of like life; which makes sense because our lives here consist of our time here, so by managing our time we are essentially managing our lives. I’ve learned to study on a Friday night. I’ve learned to enjoy commutes. I’ve learned how to dress warm enough so the weather doesn’t affect my mobility. I’ve learned that to be efficient and at peace I had to be present, and this is probably the biggest challenge of them all. .
“Live each day as if it were your last!” “It’s all about perception!” These are such cliché things to say, yet it’s the smallest things that can be the most difficult, I learned. As soon as we choose to be happy or content our mind interrupts this pursuit with reasons for why we shouldn’t. “You’re single!” “You’re broke!” “Your grades aren’t good enough!” “You haven’t accomplished anything yet! You’re worthless…” “You failed your Econ exam!”
We’re social creatures and the downside of this is that too often we look externally, rather than internally, when making decisions or creating goals. We make other peoples’ desires our own and loose integrity within ourselves, resulting in unnecessary stress and distress. How can we enjoy the present moment, the only moment that exists in reality, if we’re constantly comparing, living in the past or in the future, in depression or in anxiety?
By sitting in silence, I had the opportunity to learn about myself and what I wanted out of this life. I learned that a calm, present mind and efficiency go hand-in-hand, and I learned that every experience is a learning experience if I decided to see it that way. If I experience the world around me through my sense-perception, I can definitely mould my perception into one that will give me the highest utility; the challenge comes in breaking away from past conditioning and allowing myself to experience life anew.
As term papers approach their due date finals are around the corner, I would just like to remind you, as I remind myself, a few things.
• Every night, die to your past, and wake up born again. Do yourself a favour and don’t carry the weight of one day over to another.
• If you feel distressed, take deep breaths to de-stress; also, if you were thinking of trying a yoga class but never had the time, exam season is a perfect opportunity to reap the benefits that comes with the practice. A lot of studios have very reasonable prices for first-timers, so check them out!
• It’s almost over, but for now, you’re in the water; don’t waste your breath complaining and instead, just do it—swim your way to the shore; it’s within the horizon.
• Radiate with unreasonable joy and laughter every second of your day effortlessly; life is too short to be constantly remembering the 25k+ things on your to-do list that are still incomplete, so make a schedule, align your thoughts with your actions, and stay focused on the positive.
The infinite potential in me bows to the infinite potential in you. Stay fresh, stay healthy.