When I was younger, maybe five or six, I used to imagine my future self thinking back at the specific point in time that I was having the thought "my future self will be thinking back to me thinking about my current self". This was one of my favourite thought games as a kid - to try to predict the future by manipulating the variables in such a way that I could control them. And of course, it would happen that in the middle of some kind of mindless task my brain would trigger a: "here I am thinking back to when I had the thought that I would one day think back on!" response. Inevitably leading to the conclusion that yes, I was right.
Of course, I wasn't. And of course, I couldn't really predict the future.
But it was fun to think about at the time.
Now, I generally spend too much time anticipating the future to brood over my past, but recently I've felt quite forced to reflect. This upcoming month is full of changes: at work, at home, in school. The adrenaline and caffeine are equally responsible for keeping me afloat (and for that, I am eternally grateful), though it's been slightly trying given that many of the tasks that I have been called upon involve me to consider aspects of myself that I would otherwise like to forget. Feeling like i have no solid basis upon which to build my future vision has given me this weird bloated feeling, like a helium balloon rocketing towards space with no direction but full velocity.
I feel full of energy and void of purpose.
Those that know me well will likely think that this is rather peculiar - rarely do I dwell on things like "purpose", or "calling", or these sorts of things. But being asked to constantly provide evidence - either through performance reviews, grant applications, you name it - that I do have an internal drive pushing me towards some "greater goal" has had me doing a lot of mental reviewing and a lot of value-inventory.
The funny thing is that I think about the future a lot. From my mind games when I was a kid to a slight obsession with speculative fiction and sci-fi, I seem almost unhealthily fixated on thinking about a world after capitalism. But I still can't picture myself in it. I've been trying to create little scenarios in my head and play out what the next few months or years will look like, but I just keep drawing blanks.
So this is where the reflection begins. And i suppose that I am writing this post because this reflection makes me feel uncomfortable, and it makes me feel vulnerable. I am trying to hold myself accountable by posting something that is technically public, but for all intents and purposes quite private. In an ongoing attempt to use this adrenaline and caffeine-fueled buzz to my advantage, I'm going to try and be deliberate in my world-building and use this blog space as a platform from which to start exploring a future that I haven't yet wrapped my mind around.
And I would be remiss to do so without a soundtrack.
I'm leaving this here because I really enjoyed it, and I plan on writing a full length post shortly on my thoughts about post-work. I've had lots of trouble recently trying to pull my thoughts together, and after recently taking a short break from things I'm beginning to piece them together (slowly).
Working on some posters for an upcoming talk. This one is from an online template and is based off of Dr. Tom Keenan's book cover of the same name. I tried to use the same elements where possible.
One of my favourite things about my job is getting to work on things that are creative or give me the chance to learn some different skills. I think that in another life I'd like to be a designer!
This screenshot is a sneak-peek from another article that I'm working on based off of a student's presentation. I'm trying to get a little out of my newsletter comfort zone of just using geometric shapes and pictures that I've taken. I created the graphics here with some photos that I took during the presentation.
Friday Song Swap, now actually on Friday:
Neil Halstead - Digging Shelters
Lilly Wood & The Prick (ft. Robin Schulz) - Prayer In C
Nicki Minaj - All Things Go
Iron & Wine/Calexico - She Lays In The Reins
Showtek & Noisecontrollers - Get Loose
Two Steps From Hell - Protectors of the Earth
Leighton Meester - Heartstrings
Selah Sue - Alone
Belle & Sebastian - Dress Up In You
Belle & Sebastian - The Blues Are Still Blue
Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day
Belle & Sebastian - To Be Myself Completely
The Shivers - Beauty
Alt-J - Breezeblocks
Alt-J - Left Hand Free
Chain & The Gang - For Practical Purposes, I Love You
Alt-J - Warm Foothills
I haven't written a proper text post in a while. I have a lot of excuses, from being just far too busy to focus on writing anything coherent or of value, to the more honest excuse that I'm almost terrified to put any of my opinions on the internet for fear of being wrong (especially thanks to my crash course on discourse and semantics). I prefer to weigh my opinions and test them far more than I enjoy going with my gut, but I read an article recently which set off my internal dialogue and has left me with little to no space for other thoughts. I'm going to attempt to comment on it here as a means to get it out of my head with at least some level of deliberateness.
The article was in the most recent edition of University Affairs, titled "University students struggle with the perils of perfectionism." The mundane and uninspired headline struck me in the way that this "news" article struck me a few months ago: this is not news. There was nothing relatively shocking about the article itself either, just the same tame rhetoric about generalized anxiety and stress targeted by a campaign run by another student at-risk of burn-out. We recognize the problem. We applaud her efforts. We return to normal.
What exactly is this normal, though? What shocked me - what was resonating in my head this week - was my own reaction to the article (that of a shrug and scholastic apologetics). When it comes to issues of race, gender, class, or politics, I've conditioned myself to think critically and systematically. When it comes to education systems - the one community where I am most grossly entwined - I find I try to distance myself as far as possible from the debate and think more abstractly about Ivy Leagues or the values of a Bachelor of Arts, neither of which I have first-hand experience with. I devour journal articles, think-pieces, and the like on "my generation" without ever really grounding myself in the argument and placing myself on the continuum.
Without disclosing too much about my personal life, I think I can largely attribute this psychological phenomenon to my experience both being "the perfectionist" and advising "the perfectionist". What masks itself as rationality and reason is, in reality, absolute fear of the unknown while struggling to be the voice of objective experience (ie. generic advice on success based on theory). This feels incredibly hypocritical, not only because I was NOT the student I am telling them to be, but because I'm not fully convinced that the things I am telling them will help them 'succeed' [I refer to 'success' here as a proxy for financial comfort in a capitalist system, which should be telling of where this argument is going]. To use an example, there are students who divulge their sleeping or study habits in ways that can only be described as harmful and unhealthy. Their context is generally one where their 'success' depends upon their adherence to the "new normal" described in the article - that of the student who has a high GPA, runs several clubs, studies abroad at least once, participates in athletics and enjoys a healthy party or two to celebrate their achievements on the weekend. To obtain this, they believe it is "unrealistic" (actual quote) to expect "more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night" or study "less than 2 hours per class, per day". While their math may be better than mine, I'm still certain that their days only have 24 hours and running on high with that level of sleep is dangerous at most and ridiculous in the least (and this is only what they are willing to disclose via internet, I am sure the actual picture is worse). But are they wrong?
The advisor in me is screaming a resounding "YES!!!!!". Success is about who you know, it's about your values, it's about you as a person and doing what you're passionate about! It's about self-care and sleeping, mindfulness and meditation! Work-life balance! This is what the studies say! This is what literature proves makes the happy, well-rounded person employers and grad schools seek! But the student in me is not as sure. Heck, the student in me ran on 5-6 hours of sleep and was fueled by the toxic combination of anxiety + adrenaline + caffeine. She reads the unemployment stats and sees her friends go from Honours program to hostessing. She is STILL dealing with the consequences of self-harm and an internalized disapproval of underachievement. Admittedly, the student in me is proud of where I am now, and is trying to untangle causation from correlation from coincidence to figure out whether I achieved these goals because of my unhealthy habits, or in spite of them. And I still can't answer that question. But I am starting to work out my role in this conversation, and it is not in the cozy position of "ally" (where I should be stepping back), but rather as an educational byproduct who experiences, to quote the article, the "perils of perfectionism" every day. To continue this post would be running the risk of exposing far more than future-Caillie would appreciate, so I'm going to end with some Neil deGrasse Tyson, my favourite (and most quotable) expert on education: "curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not."
My gift, to you:
And: a life lesson from the animal kingdom
It's been a whirlwind of a month...
Robyn - Criminal Intent
The Chamber Brothers - People Get Ready
Caravan Palace - Beatophone
USS - Yin Yang
DIVERSA - I Love You For Existing
Arctic Monkeys - I Wanna Be Yours
Arctic Monkeys - Snap Out Of It
Volor Flex - Foretime
Kim Churchill - Canopy
Kim Churchill - Window To The Sky
Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around The Block
Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Marakesh Express/Blackbird
Marina & The Diamonds - Froot
Mt. Wolf - Life Size Ghosts
Elle Varner - Fuck It All
Thumpers - Unkinder (A Tougher Love)
Emily Browning - Sweet Dreams
Chromeo - Hard To Say No
Bombay Bicycle Club - Home By Now (Live)
Milo Greene - What's The Matter
Bat For Lashes - Daniel
The Radio Dept. - The Worst Taste in Music
Chromeo - Jealous
Son Lux - No Fate Awaits Me (Feat. Faux Fix)
Made In Heights - Murakami (essess remix)
Kishi Bashi - Philosphize In It! Chemicalize In It!
The Shins - Red Rabbits
For the first time in a long time, an up-to-date song swap!
Andrew Belle - Pieces
Logic - Buried Alive
Arcade Fire - Exist
Echo Smith - Cool Kids
Karl Zero - Ca Va Aa Va
Bonny 'Prince' Billy - Quail and Dumplings
Bonny 'Prince' Billy - I See A Darkness
Tanlines - Real Life
Tanlines - All Of Me
Tanlines - Not The Same
Tanlines - Brothers
MAGIC! - Rude
Sharon Van Etten - Give Out
Shakey Graves - Daisy Chains