DO MORE! Pt. 2 (A Rough Start)

the short story

2017 gets a rough start. But, one out of five ain’t bad, right?

Right?the long storySo a few weeks ago, I set up some resolutions for myself for 2017, and here’s the first update of them as they evolve. To recap, they were:

  1. Read 2 1/2 books a month to satisfy by Goodreads goal of 30 books in 2017.
  2. Try going to a gym.
  3. Write 400 NEW words each week.
  4. Write a new post every week.
  5. Pick a song to cover, and practice once a week.

And how did I do? Well…

I read ~4 1/2 books in January. Two of them were audiobooks: Ready Player One and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. In hardcopy, I read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, I’m almost done Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, and I’m halfway through The Bad Beginning of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

I did not go to the gym. Most of my time in January was consumed with schoolwork, and I blame myself for not making time for exercise. To be fair though, I had to work harder on certain days to make room for trips to the local mountains for snowshoeing, which was a solid workout of hiking in snow for several hours. I even tried skiing with my roommates as instructors and by the end of the day, I made it down a green run without falling, so I consider that a win. (And a sufficient replacement, in my opinion, I am incredibly sore right now.)

This isn’t sustainable, in terms of the time dedicated to go to the mountains and the money spent renting gear, but I definitely enjoyed the sports. For February, I need to find a more sustainable way of exercise.

And now we’re getting to the sad part of this post.

I wrote a whopping 150 words of my story since I wrote the initial post a few weeks ago, and I am disappointed in myself. I was in sort of a writer’s block this month, but I do have some world building floating around in my head, and I need to get that down on paper.

I wrote one other post last month, meaning I only wrote one post in two weeks. I’m about 50% of the way there though, so not too bad. Like the story-writing goal, I have ideas in my head about what to blog, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

And the most disappointing of all, I didn’t even touch musicI listened to plenty, but I didn’t touch an instrument this month. The closest I got was singing to Adele with my roommates.

So for February, what’s the plan? Mostly, it’s the same, with a slight modification to (2):

  1. Read 2 1/2 books a month to satisfy by Goodreads goal of 30 books in 2017.
  2. Find a sustainable form of exercise and perform regularly
    1. Try a gym
  3. Write 400 NEW words each week.
  4. Write a new post every week.
  5. Pick a song to cover, and practice once a week. 

Funnily enough, I found that while snowshoeing, (less so with skiing due to a fear of falling) I was able to get out of my head, and it was great for my mental health, which wasn’t so great this month. I’m not diagnosed with anxiety or depression, but I know I can overthink things and it fills my head until it affects my decisions and physical health. But snowshoeing definitely got me out of my head more than meditation (I’ve tried meditation–all I got was a ton of ideas swirling in my head).

Hopefully I can keep up with them for February. Wish me luck!

Did you make resolutions for 2017? How are they going?

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Afraid to Fail, Afraid to Try | The Last Year of University Pt. 8

the short story

The last term of university starts out a little less than ideal.

Mostly because I chose to put myself in an uncomfortable situation.
the long story

It’s been a difficult first few weeks of term. Between getting organized, a mountain of reading, and trying to find balance in my life style, it’s been hard to find time to blog.

I’ve been stressing out a lot about one class in particular: a seminar of advanced techniques in biochemistry. I registered for it because I wanted to learn more about the novel and diverse technologies that are now available in research. I wanted to get up to date with my field of study.

Unfortunately, that means reading scientific papers.

What’s worse, that means presenting scientific papers.

This course gives me a lot of stress and anxiety because the entire grade is based on class participation and presentation skills. Twice a week, we meet up and a pair of students present a scientific paper, followed by discussion. This means reading two scientific papers a week, which is terribly time consuming and mentally challenging.

My love of reading novels did not prepare me for reading academic journals and research papers, which are of an entirely different format, scope, and difficulty. I need to read a paper at least twice to get a gist of what’s going on, followed by extensive background research as to the mechanisms and terminology so I can understand what’s going on.

I hate it.

I also hate presenting. Public speaking is not my forte, and the idea of saying my opinions out loud in discussion makes me nervous. It’s really bad–my heart starts beating really hard and I become inarticulate.

So why did I do this to myself?

Because I hate discussing and presenting so much.

These are skills necessary in science and in life, and I am terrible at them. I hate feeling so nervous when trying to speak up. I’ve thought about why I find it so nerve-wracking  and it’s boiled down to one thing:

I am afraid to failI am afraid I’m going to say something wrong or unintelligent. I am afraid of looking stupid. I’m afraid of messing up. And I’m afraid of people seeing me this way.

And this is a dumb fear. I am human. I am have shortcomings and make mistakes. I don’t know everything.

This leads to a second fear: I am afraid to tryCan’t look stupid if I don’t put myself in a position where it might happen. Therefore, trying = possibility of failing =  scary.

This too, is an irrational fear. How the heck am I supposed to succeed if I don’t even try? I can’t. No one can.

Our professor warned us that if we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position of discussion and public speaking, we could drop the class, because the waitlist is really long. And I considered it. I really did.

But after realizing my fears, I decided I should stick with this course. Sure, I might hate it, but it forces me to get over my irrational fear of trying. It forces me to try.

And I know I can do it. I’ve done it as a co-op student. I’ve presented other papers and my own work to my peers and my supervisors, contributed to discussions, provided feedback and taken criticism.

Maybe it was scary. And it will be scary. But so are rollercoasters, and heights, and going to job interviews.

And I love roller coasters, and views from cliffs and ziplines, and–well, let’s not talk about job interviews.

The point is, it’s the things that seem scary that can lead to some of the greater joys. (Yes, even interviews, since I need a way to pay for those roller coaster tickets.)

DO MORE!, part 1 (or, my resolutions for 2017)

the short storyI vow to do more in 2017.

…after procrastinating thinking really hard about it for the first two weeks. the long story

I wasn’t prepared for 2017. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but really, I wasn’t prepared for what 2017 meant. I’ve never been prepared for what the New Year brings.

January always has this feeling of change in the air, and for the most part, I tended to ignore it, probably because I thought it was dumb to vow change on an arbitrarily picked beginning of the year.

But if the date was what bothered me, I never really made an effort to make changes at other times in the year. I’ve been so…stagnant for so long, in so many ways.

When I thought about what made 2016 really bad was that I was always focused on work or school. While I was at work, I reserved all my energy for work and nothing else. When I got back to school, I reserved all my energy for school and nothing else.

I’ve done this for years, especially after I finished high school. In high school, I was able to balance school work, student council, badminton, countless novels, and play guitar. And somewhere, I fell off the wagon.

This really hit me last term, when I was in a constant state of indifference and stress. I suspect I put so much effort into my final project for my English class because it was a happy change from constant studying. (Fun side note: my project was a series of songs about Game of Thrones, one titled “The North Remembers”, which I made up a demo of, and you can listen to here.)

And so this year, I’ve decided to do more–not necessarily in energy or how much time I spend in my day (I don’t want to wear myself into the ground), but I want to do a greater variety of things.

And I’m going to start small. Proclaiming I’m going to do something for the next 12 months is a large commitment, and that’s kind of scary. I think at the beginning of each month, I’m going to restate my goals for the year, with changes as necessary.

For January (and the two weeks I have left in it) my goals are as follows:

Goodreads reading goal: 30. I can change this number as the year continues, but I think 30 is good number to aim for at the moment–about 2 1/2 books a month.

Try going to a gym. Of all the things I’ve neglected, it’s always been my physical fitness. I was actually a bit better since I started cycling to school, but then it got too cold and icy to cycle. I would prefer to just cycle in the nearby parks, but it still is cold in Vancouver. And the rain is going to settle in soon. I haven’t tried going to a gym before, but I might like it. If not, I’ll look for other avenues of exercise.

Write 400 NEW words each week. This isn’t to say blogging isn’t writing, but I read somewhere (I think this is Terry Pratchett’s writing advice) that 400 words is the minimum for a scene. Committing to 400 words means getting to the cusp of a scene and therefore likely writing over that to finish and flush out the scene. I also tend to be circular in my writing by editing instead of writing new material.

Write a new post every week. (Not including this one.) When I first started blogging, I was so enthusiastic about it. I would post several times a week. It enhanced my reading experience, it made me self reflect and think. I want to be able to do that again, without feeling like I’m dragging myself through a post.

Pick a song to cover, and practice once a week. Something simple. Something I know. It doesn’t have to be fancy or a special arrangement. But I know I need to start somewhere.

And that’s it for now. Looking at this list makes me feel both over- and underwhelmed.  I’ve very aware that I’m studying to graduate this May, so school might get in the way, but the overall goal is balance. I want to be able to do all these things, eventually, and hopefully at a higher level than described here. But even a little progress is progress.

10 Awesome Things That Happened in My 2016

the short storyBecause 2016 wasn’t all that bad…

…despite being really bad.
the long storySo, most of us can agree that 2016 was a dumpster fire that needs to be put out and disposed of. From an onslaught of celebrity deaths, to terrorist attacks, to wars, to Brexit, to one of the most shocking American elections, to the servers being down in Pokemon Go, 2016 was pretty much one bad event after another.

But there was also that weird dimension where everyone seemed to have a really crappy year on a really personal level. And I don’t really want to get into it, but this year did kind of suck, beyond the worst semester of my life.

Except, some pretty awesome stuff happened this past year, on a global and personal level. And while its easy to search the internet for all the awesome things that happened internationally this year, it doesn’t alleviate the personal level of suck this year had to offer.

So here’s a list I made for myself: 10 awesome things that happened in my 2016.

Working in cancer research

My second work placement was this year and I got to work in a lab at BC Cancer. I can’t go into a lot of details about what exactly I did, but I learned so much and worked with some really excellent people. I learned a lot about not just research, but what I like doing and gained insight about what I want in the future.

Going to my first concert

For my birthday, my sister took me to my first concert, of my favourite band in the entire world: Young The Giant. It was such an amazing experience to watch my favourite band live, with everyone cheering and dancing and singing along.

Watching the beautiful animated stories of Yuri on Ice, Your Name, Moana, Steven Universe, and Finding Dory

I am a sucker for animated anything and I absolutely loved the animated films and shows I watched this year. Where do I even begin? The touching stories? The phenomenal music (which I listen to often)? The stunning visuals? The general need to re-watch immediately after I finish?

I cried watching these and they have become personal favourites of mine. (Seriously, comment below and I will talk with you about Yuri On Ice for hours. OH MY GOD YURI ON ICE. OH MY GOD VICTOR AND YURI. OH MY GOD.

Visiting platform 9 3/4

Well, visiting London as a whole, really. I loved being in London, and the only shame is that we only got to stay there for a week. But going to Platform 9 3/4 was especially cool. We also got to go inside Buckingham Palace, and took day trips to Bath and Edinburgh.

One of the more prouder parts of the trip was that I did most of the planning myself. I was also my family’s tour guide…I led all the walks and planned the day’s events.

Studying A Song of Ice and Fire at school…and getting top marks!

I wrote a post about this yesterday, but having a class about Game of Thrones made the worst semester of life bearable. It was a definite GPA booster, and it was a great switch of gears for my brain.

Playing Pokémon Go 

I wasn’t the kid with a GameBoy Advance playing Pokémon. I was the girl who borrowed her brother’s nintendo DS to play his discarded Pokémon games. I was also the kid who watched the dub when it first aired in North America, and wanted a Pikachu so bad she got a stuffed animal larger than her torso.

So the release of Pokémon Go on mobile was a pretty big deal for me. I knew right away I wanted a Bulbasaur and my brother and I played a lot. Of course, being awful at video games that I am, I no longer have the app on my phone, and I probably didn’t get past level 7. But one of my favourite memories this year was arguing with my brother while I was driving because he was catching Pokémon while I had to focus on the road.

Starting the works of Victoria Schwab

I CANNOT WAIT FOR 2017 BEAUSE THAT MEANS I AM CLOSER TO GETTING A CONJURING OF LIGHT. I read Schwab’s Darker Shade books and This Savage Song this year and I absolutely loved them. I need to reread A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows again before the last book comes out in February, I love the story so much. The world building and the magic system and the characters and…oh, I could go on. I even bought Vicious just because I loved her other books so much, without even reading the blurb! After these, I’ll probably get around to the Archived.

Listening to Hamilton

Hamilton has been a highlight of 2016 for me. I listened to the album like mad, I fell in awe of Lin Manuel Miranda, and I got connected with one of the coolest fandoms on the planet. That musical is a phenomenon worth reckoning. It cheered me up when I was feeling down, made me cry with emotion, and all together is an experience…without even watching the actual musical!

Moving to be closer to school, and ending up with pretty awesome roommates

So I moved away from home to be closer to school in September. I’ve been saying I would do it for years, but I finally took the plunge this year, my final year.

I was actually kind of desperate and anxious about leaving home, and at first I was feeling lonely because I was the only student in the boarding house. But over the course of September, the rooms filled, and to my surprise and delight, I get alogn with my roommates really well. None of s knew each other before we moved in, but I’m happy to call them my friends.

Becoming more confident in my future

One of the biggest things I’ve had to think about this year is what I’m going to do once I graduate university. People kept asking me at work, school, and home. And I knew I couldn’t push the subject forever. I did a lot of thinking this year, and while I don’t really have a set plan, I’m more comfortable with the malleability of my current one. And I’ve rarely felt that way. But this year, I’ve come to feel that way a lot more.

So…that’s my list! Tell me some awesome things that happened to you in 2016 in the comments below!

With The Volume Turned Up | The Last Year of University Pt. 8

the short storyFor once, I liked wearing make up.
the long storyI don’t like taking photos. Even more so of myself.

But I’m graduating this year, which means I have the option of taking professional photos for the display in the Department of Biochemistry of my graduating class and for personal use.

Professional photos are even worse than regular photos. I hated photo day in grade school, because I’m not particularly conscious of my appearance. When I graduated from high school, I had to take professional photos and my mom took me to a salon for hair and make up. There was a lot of foundation involved, and my hair was curled and held in place with spray. I hated it. I felt like a doll, painted and molded.

There are two reasons I don’t like having my photo taken. First and foremost is that despite the premise of taking photos to preserve the memory, I rarely go back to look at photos for the memory they preserve. When I do go back, they are incredibly useful, but it’s a rare occasion when I do.

This is emphasized by how many useless photos I take. I started going on walks around campus to take breaks and I tried taking photos of the sunrises and the forest paths I walked through. Bu they didn’t really capture the place…it just made me want to go back.

Secondly, I am not particularly photogenic for a number of reasons. I always wear my glasses, so the frames cast shadows on my face. I don’t like wearing makeup and I always have bags under my eyes from staying up late and waking up early. And my past experience with physically prepping for photos had not been pleasant (see above).

So when I booked a hair and makeup appointment at the local salon for the pictures, I was prepared for an afternoon of being uncomfortable and not touching my face. But when I got back I was pleasantly surprised.

I knew I liked it best when I got back from the salon and my sister said, “You look the same.”

I disagreed. To quote Rainbow Rowell, I felt like me, with the volume turned up. My baby hairs were sitting still for once, but still shaped in my daily bob. The redness in my face was gone and the bags under my eyes were hidden (though looking back at some photos, I looked sort of tired).

And to be honest, it felt great. I was wearing a simple, vintage-style dress that I’d picked out myself, I didn’t feel like my face had been smeared with makeup, or that my hair was crunchy from hairspray to hold in curls.

I felt utterly like myself.

And it wasn’t just my appearance. I realize that at this point in my life, I’ve been the most sure of myself and what I’m doing. I’ve constantly been feeling lost and unsure…and I still am. But I am more comfortable with that.

Frankly the most unsettling part of the experience was seeing myself in a cap and gown. It hasn’t properly dawned on me that I am graduating and it was a strange shock of reality.

Only four months left…