walls of gray

broken down by my inadequacy

I don’t know how to face it anymore

they say nothing

but I feel it by exclusion

I no longer pretend to feel welcome

beyond those doors

though I struggle to accept

this hollow state of mind.

 

I keep on pushing through

just a few more months

one week at a time

but it’s really all too much

even my best efforts

to numb these currents down

are fruitless

I lie shattered

broken and weathered

unable to pick myself up

unable to hold on

to that sliver of hope

and so I find myself engulfed

entranced in inhibition

privy to these crushing thoughts.

 

I cannot see the horizon

beyond these walls of gray.

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148 – dreams shatter, but we carry on.

I fell into a deep slump last semester. Burned out from classes and research, all I could do was try my best not to let depression get the best of me. In November, it took all I had not to burst into tears every time I stepped into the lab. I dropped one of my courses and felt really out of my element even in classes I thought I would be comfortable in. My ability to write in a fourth year level course was questioned and even now I’m not sure I have the confidence to say I’m a good writer anymore. Without a doubt, this has been the worst year of my undergrad, exceeding the horribleness that was my turbulent first year in which I spent every month at the doctor’s with another physical illness.

Still, I’m halfway there. I’m sure I’ll make it through somehow. I haven’t gotten all of the details worked out quite just yet, but I’ll get there. One way or another.

My absolute lowest moment came from a rejection email from UBC. With that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill my goal of studying back home. With that, I began to doubt whether or not I was even good enough to have my dream become reality. I thought then that maybe I wasn’t smart enough and that I should be considering an alternative career. But those negative thoughts blew away when I talked to my mom over the telephone. She assured me that even if I got rejected from every school that she would support me trying again or taking the time to find a new dream. I’m really lucky to have her support. She also told me that she’d come live with me for a year if I got into med school somewhere else – though I’m not sure I’ll take her up on that offer since I don’t know how well my brother can handle living alone (despite being five years older than me…). Regardless, failure became an option for me and not the end. Just another possibility that I needn’t be afraid of.

Things have gotten a little easier this semester, but not by very much. I’m still struggling in the lab, but have gotten more or less numb to disappointment. I still hate the thought of letting down everyone the lab, but my inability was shattering every inch of self esteem I had left. I think it’s best not to think about what others think of me. Especially if they’re not good things.

I think my perspective has shifted a little – especially after hearing that one of my old high school teachers has struggling with untreatable cancer – something he dedicated a lot of his time and effort into raising awareness and money for. I’ve always had the mentality that the present is more important than the future – to enjoy the small, happy moments as they come, but I’ve also placed a lot of my hopes on the future, on the life that I spend day-to-day fantasizing about living. I think hearing the news really shifted the timeframe of my mind a little bit more to what’s happening right now. Along the same train of thought, I decided not to apply for graduate school in Chemistry. It wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy and life’s too short to be spending everyday of a year or two on something that I wasn’t thrilled about. There are other options out there that I think I would enjoy far more even if taking a “gap year” is sometimes considered a waste of time (I disagree with that sentiment).

I got an interview invitation from McMaster so that’s one blessing that’s been thrown my way in this really tough year. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared for that – it’s given me both hope and confidence that my dream doesn’t have to stay a dream. The interview, however, is a few days after the poster session for my thesis project – so I’ve only got so much spare time. Nevertheless, I want to make it through these next few arduous months with no regrets. If that means sleepless nights and caffeine-powered study sessions, then so be it. I’m ready for you, 2017.

147 – focus? focus.

I entered this fourth year thinking it would be the easiest and most relaxing year of my university life. Oh, I’ve never been more wrong in my life.

I’m drowning in a sea of stress and disappointment and it’s taking all I have to stay afloat. At the same time, I am beginning to become more and more numb to failure and disappointments as everything I attempt to do in my research project just seems to go wrong. And although I understand that is the nature of scientific research, I also know that most of what’s going wrong is due to my lack of experience and skill in the area (i.e. I’m messing up somehow).

Alas, I have discovered that I am an awful chemist and should probably not pursue graduate studies in this area. If med schools choose to reject me this year, I’ll probably take a year to reassess, take my GRE, and consider cognitive science (my new found love – I wish I had known about this in first year) for my future.

The end of term is nearing, but there’s still so much to be done that I can’t really afford to slack off now. I’m mostly writing this so I can organize my thoughts and approach the rest of the month in as organized of a way as possible.

————–

Coursework

I dropped one of my courses last week so I’m only doing three courses in addition to my year long research project.

Assessments left to do: one PSY essay, one PSY midterm, one CHM essay, and a handful of CSC assignments. Manageable.

Also have to do my mid-term presentation and status update for the research project – it’s coming up soon and I have nothing to show for all the hours I have put into the lab. Except maybe impure NMRs and a multitude of problems….This will not be fun.

Commitments

Brain Day: in-class announcements, bookmarks, trivia night, meetings.

CSU: pub night, academic seminar, first-year help session.

music lab: hand in my hours form, train the new RA so I can’t stop being overcommitted to things (even though I really like the new project…ugh)

sprql: ensure the next lab sessions go smoothly

volunteering: xmas events, change weekly timeslot for next semester

exercise? life? TBD….

————-

Now that I’ve listed everything out – it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s definitely manageable. I just need to find my focus somehow. I meant to go to an academic motivation seminar last week, but totally forgot about it. I think I really could’ve used the reset on my mindset.

So instead, I now have to try to find it within myself to finish everything. I suppose motivation, in the end, has to come from me. Somewhere inside of me is the strength to get me through all of this. I can do this.

Hopefully my next update is not a list of things to do, but a list of things to be thankful and happy about. I’m yearning for the day that I feel glad that this is all over and done with. I’m sure it’ll come sooner than I think it will, but for now, it feels like an eternity away.

But it will come.

Someday, it will come and it will set me free.

146 – Today was interesting.

Today, half of U of T was locked down because apparently, there was a man with a rifle near the ROM.

This resulted in a flurry of “do we have class today?” comments and posts on our course facebook group. I didn’t get much of a resounding answer from Facebook but decided that since this was UTSG, which never closes down even when the other two campuses are closed for snow days, that class was probably on.

The lockdown, coupled with the soccer thing that started at 3pm (I’m clearly out of touch with football), resulted in a fair number of people missing class. Our professor was ruthlessly kind enough to gift is with a mini in-class quiz anyway (though to be fair, it’s only worth 1%). The class is interesting and all, but I’m still irked by the fact that our final exam falls on the first day of exams, only three days after our last lecture. Not nearly enough time.

After class, I went over to the Psych lab I’m RAing in and started prepping for a session. I’m finally getting used to the process, but I started to get frantic when my partner didn’t show up twenty minutes before the session. Turns out the session was rescheduled to Wednesday due to the uncertainty of the lockdown. I must’ve appeared horribly awkward to the new RA that was in the lab tabulating data. Silly me for not checking my email, right?

Nevertheless, this awkwardness pales in the face of the recent tragedies in Orlando. Both the night club shooting and the murder of Christina Grimmie, a YouTuber and singer I loved and had spent hours watching, have left me flabbergasted with US gun policies and wholly disheartened. These events are indicative that something needs to change. Counselling needs to be more accessible and gun security needs to be more tightly regulated. However, in the face of the current state of American politics, little change is likely to occur.

The lockdown today comes in clear contrast to American policy – the simple appearance of a gun has a good chunk of downtown Toronto in lockdown. It should never be okay to wield a dangerous weapon in a public area when you do not have the authority to do so. Sure, you can have your guns for hunting, for private property (home) self defence, but the moment you bring it into a public venue, you should be locked down. No one should feel in danger when at a concert or a club, but these recent events express otherwise. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased.

On a happier note, my Facebook feed has been flooded by photos of friends graduating. These photos remind me that this time of the year is supposed to be joyful and a breeding ground for new beginnings and new adventures. Although this cannot erase the shadow of these recent tragedies, the thought of my friends going off into these diverse paths and making their mark onto this world leaves me with a serene feeling of hope. Maybe change won’t seem as impossible of a task in the incoming generations.

145

I ended up dropping one of my courses and I think it was probably the best option for me considering 1) it’s not a required course 2) I can use the money I save for med/grad school applications 3) I can always take it in the fall when I have to pay tuition anyway and 4) I’m not sure I could handle doing two courses in such a compressed timeline.

So that’s one weight off my back. It’s a shame because I actually found one of my friends in the class last Thursday and it would’ve been so much more fun to take the class with her. I’m considering sitting in the lectures with her, but I have to prioritize doing well in the other class and starting to study for the MCAT again. So we’ll see.

Shadowed an experiment in the new lab I’m RAing in – it’s really interest seeing physiological data being recorded from the participants and I’m excited to be a part of the project. I really hope I’ll be able to do well…I’m really clumsy so I’m a little worried that I might put electrodes on the wrong place or make the participant uncomfortable. I *should* be okay though.

Completed Standard First Aid and CPR this past weekend and it feels good to know that if an emergency situation ever arises, I have the general knowledge to deal with it. I’m awful under high pressure situations, so I don’t know how useful I would be if it came down to it…but the knowledge is there.

Bought a bike from a friend today…and biked my way home. Was out of breath from the 25ish minute ride. Signs that I’m really, really unfit. Also, I didn’t really know the turn signals too well or when it was appropriate to use them…I think my mom would be terrified for my life. As someone who’s never biked on big/main streets before today, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. Definitely a little intimidating. Going to try to bike more this week.

My mom and brother have booked flights to visit me so that’s something to look forward to at the end of the summer. Just gotta get through all the work along the way.

I can do this. 🙂

143 – Conflicted

I (1) love (4) you (3). Can’t unsee the number to word association.

It’s been a while.

Lots has happened, though much of it isn’t very interesting is talk about/reflect on.

Last week was really rough. A cup of coffee on Monday led to a two-day long migraine. Couldn’t function with it. Slept through most of it. I suspect a bad reaction to coffee…but I’ll need to see a doctor about it to confirm.

Next week promises to be worse with 2 assignments and 2 final exams (in-class ones). The joys of university.

Amidst the past few chaotic weeks, some thoughts have come to mind that I thought were important to address as they may prove essential to my attitude towards others.

And these thoughts mostly have to do with my less academically-achieving/driven friends. I don’t like to group them up under this label as I think they’re all brilliant in different ways and they’re awesome people to be around, but in order to address these thoughts, I have to highlight the source of my inner conflict. As someone who went through high school with academically driven friends (through IB and Middle Years & with friends in the regular program that tended to get more As and Bs than Cs), I’ve more or less been ingrained that anything less than an A is just not good enough. Because of this mentality, I’m not sure how to react when my friends are happy with getting a B/passing. On one camp, I’m happy for them since they’re satisfied with that level of achievement. On the other hand, I have this nudging feeling that if I express elation from such a grade in others that I too will become complacent with a grade below my expectations.

The best way I’ve found to counteract this problem is to simply not make comparisons between myself and others and to instead, focus on self-comparisons. Therefore, instead of thinking “I could’ve done just as well as them if I tried harder”, I try to redirect my thoughts to be more in line with “I could do better than I did last time if I studied harder” or “I didn’t do as well as I normally did – this needs more work”.

For most cases, this solution seems to solve the issue – I applaud others for their personal success while working towards my own.

However, in situations that are more limiting, I feel conflicted.

That research opportunity that I missed the deadline for? I got in. By pure luck, the undergrad advisor accepted my late application. If it were any other situation, I wouldn’t even be considered. But I made it. This made me beyond happy on Thursday as it was a nice gift at the end of a rough week. In my excitement, I posted in our Facebook chat that I got in. But instead of “me too!”, all I got was “grats :)”. This implies to me that my friends didn’t get in despite the fact that they actually handed their application in time. Or they may have gotten in and were just happy for me. The latter I have no problem with but the thought of the former does.

Because the former just seems a little unfair. Obviously, I’m thankful for the opportunity and am not about to bite the hand that feeds me, but I also feel uneasy because I was given this despite my disadvantage.

In the end, I’ve decided to take it as I deserve the opportunity despite my mistake and not think too much of it. I’d much rather focus on whose lab I want to have my experience in. 🙂

[As an aside: watching Lee Sedol take a game off of AlphaGo gave me jitters for hours after the stream had ended…(and through my sleep). It’s so inspiring to see someone of such calibre putting everything they have into a game with odds against them. I think that’s a very beautiful thing – the ability for humans to give their all even if it’s a losing battle. That’s something I don’t think machines will ever have as they will give up once the probability of winning becomes lower than a certain threshold. It’s foolish to fight difficult battles – but in many cases, it’s well worth it.]

139 – some “back to school” moments

Woke up at 6am this morning in order to make it to ultimate practice (at 7am) in time.

Had never been to the Hart House gym.

So…Awkward moment #1.

Called Kimmy ’cause I figured I would get lost on my own.

She laughed at me for not knowing where it was and was not a whole lot of help.

Gave the phone to Felichia who attempted to help me, but didn’t have a good idea of where I was.

Luckily, Aly was on her way in and found me and pretty much held my hand into the locker room.

Have learned not to trust Kimmy when genuinely lost.

Karen told me to call her next time instead. I think I will, if only to save myself the shaming. 😦

At least I’ve gained the confidence to get there on my own now. And I guess, at the same time, the confidence to walk in there and work out instead of being lazy ol’ me all the time.

Hung out with Felichia for a bit after practice (I desperately needed water as my water bottle is MIA at the moment). It was a pleasant experience to actually know her a bit better – we found out that we’re both language lovers (of French and Japanese) though my language skills have decayed to the point where I can no longer maintain a simple conversation. Time to brush up on both, I guess.

————-

Obviously if there’s an awkward moment #1, there is bound to be a #2 – otherwise numbering it would be kind of pointless.

So #2…

Walked into the Human Memory (and Cognition?) class.

Grabbed a seat towards the end of the table and started reading the syllabus (the format of this class is my favourite so far).

A girl sits down beside me – good so far, as I never mind making new friends.

As the instructor struggles with technical issues, she tells us to introduce ourselves to a person sitting near us – to make new friends.

So I introduce myself to the girl sitting next to me and we shake hands and become new friends and talk about the course – the standard protocol when making a friend in a classroom setting.

Then I suggest that we add each other on Facebook so that we could proofread each other’s assignments and help each other with the course.

She types her name in…

And we discover we’re already friends on Facebook.

Yup.

“OMG, I totally didn’t recognize you”

“Oh yeah, we met in first year at the Dr. Freud competition that we won together”

Awkward level went up significantly.

Felt like there was now another layer of ice we had to break.

But when the awkwardness subsided, it was interesting to have someone I already knew in the class with me.

Kind of like the pleasant surprise I had yesterday when I found out Sarah (my lab partner from first year whom I got along with really well) was in Psychology and the Law with me. Was originally going to drop that course for another one, but now I’m considering staying in it. That is, if I can get a copy of the textbook without paying an arm and a leg. Canadian versions really kill the wallet. The American version is half the price and there’s an eBook available. *sigh*.

Buying textbooks stresses me out. ):