When University Turns Your Life Upside Down

Hi all! It’s been a busy start to my third year of university. I’ve been less active on this blog, but it hasn’t been forgotten! Below is a post I wrote for a website back in the spring. I never heard back from them on whether they wanted to publish it or not, so I’m going to post it now on my own accord. Enjoy!


When I was 4 years old, I had a dream. I wanted to be a teacher. I lined up all of my stuffed animals in rows on the carpeted floor, and dragged my toddler sister to sit in front of me and my little blackboard. “I’m Miss Carole,” I said cheerfully, writing 2 + 2 on the board. “Let’s learn some math!” Of course, the stuffed animals said nothing when I asked them a question. My baby sister got bored and wouldn’t listen to me. But I continued to teach as if I had a class full of engaged students.

When I stepped foot on my university campus in September I had a goal. I spent all of grade 12 preparing for this moment. After a lot of hard work (and a lot of tears) I had made it to my dream school, Western University. I was going to get a degree in music and a minor in English, go to teacher’s college, and teach kids forever.

I’d grown up in a small city. My view of the world was small. I was always excelling. Always at the top. When I came to university, that all changed.

I was suddenly aware of how many people were in the world. I was meeting people from all over the country who had just as many accolades and awards that I did. Suddenly my big world plans felt so small.

The truth is that university is just a taste of how big the world is.

I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to touch hearts, and instill love in a way I knew how; through music. Here I was, trying to make my dreams come true, and here were 100 other people just like me that wanted to do the same thing.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something that everyone else was doing. This wasn’t a bandwagon fad, like temporary tattoos in elementary school. This was my future. But it led me to wonder, what else was out there? Was I destined to a life that I thought I wanted, because it was the only thing I knew?

I was having a crisis. I didn’t know what I wanted out of my future. I didn’t know what I wanted to be anymore. Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was. I defined myself by what I thought I wanted, by the goals I thought I wanted to achieve. But suddenly the world was big and full of opportunities I had known nothing about, and I didn’t know what to do to get them.

My academic counsellor recommended I visit the university’s career counselling.

I learned a lot of important things there. The most valuable lesson I learned? There are two kinds of jobs in the world. Those that require special education: doctors, teachers, firefighters, architects, etc. They are the jobs we see most often, the ones on TV saving the day, pulling people out of fires and performing surgeries. But behind them is an even larger work force.

The ones that build their career on networking. Who don’t have a plan spelled out right in front of them. The ones who go out looking for jobs with a degree in their hands, no specific plan in mind, but a desire to work and be flexible. All my life, I’d grown up thinking you needed a plan, but in reality, not many adults do. I grew up in the house of a nurse and a mechanic, both immigrants, who had pretty specialized jobs. All I ever knew was I wanted to provide for them the way they always provided for me. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t explore all that life had to offer.

After that, I wanted to have learn more; to have more life experiences, and to take away as many different experiences I could from my undergrad. My life changed. I was less laser focused on a goal, and more open to experience.

Was it hard? Yes.

Letting go of control and allowing myself to just live in the moment was, and still is, scary. I’m a perfectionist. I want everything to go according to plan, but the reality is, life never goes according to plan.

When I stopped worrying about it all; my grades, my career, my future, that’s when it all started to click into place. I expanded my own horizons, joining groups that I aligned with. I joined my faculty’s music council, which opened me up to student politics. I joined the faculty peer guides, where I was able to connect with younger students. I joined the Western chapter of Active Minds and took part of so many activism movements toward mental health on campus, in my community, and onwards.

I wouldn’t have met any of these opportunities had I not gone to university. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have tried them out, if I had been so focused on sticking to my plan. The goal was to go into school, get my degree, rack up some teaching experience, and get out. But I’ve learned so much from opportunities I risked passing up because I thought there was only a linear way to success. Going to university turned my life upside down, and yeah it was scary. There was nothing more terrifying than doubting everything I’d ever wanted for myself. But going out and trying to find the things I love and am passionate about, meeting new people and making new connections is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

I think part of the reason I failed to notice this so soon is because I was taught as a child to have an end game. We start school at 4 years old and are expected to keep going until we can land ourselves a full-time job that will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Students just like me have long since forgotten that school is supposed to be a place to learn, not just what we need to have a full-time job in the future, but to learn about ourselves, and the things we love, and the people around us. Often, we find that the things we learn in school don’t hold any applications in our real life. After all, who really uses the quadratic formula in real life anyway? But the connections made between ourselves, other people, the things we are passionate about, and the life skills we learn from our education and all the opportunities that come with it? They are priceless and are skills that I know I will use for the years to come.

– Carole

 

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Uni 101: Academic Life

Hi friends! My original plan was to publish a blog post a week for the month of August in preparation for back to school in September. Clearly, that didn’t work (August was so unimaginably busy I just simply couldn’t keep up with the blog), but I’m going to continue my series anyway.

I’m currently sitting in a dark classroom with no windows and only one set of lights on by myself because my tutorial was cancelled but no one told me. Regardless, I feel like with my hour of free time I now have because I’m not in class, I can write a bit about academic life.

As many people know from previous blog posts of mine, when I was in high school, I had an unhealthy perfectionist mindset and basically front loaded my life with my academics because I had the time to do it. Once I was in university though, that all changed. I recently saw a presentation at my university about how incoming students from high schools have a grade average of 90.1%, which is incredible! In fact, that was my exact high school average when I was leaving grade 12 to go to university. What’s shocking is that by the end of first year, that average drops to about 73%. That’s about 17%! When I first saw that statistic, I was gobsmacked.

There’s no way that’s going to be me, I thought to myself. I’m a smart kid who works hard. I can do this.

How naive that is! Now granted (and not to toot my own horn or anything) but my final grade average in first year was 84%. Was it easy? Was I happy with it? At first, no. I was anything but happy. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to understand the arbitrariness of grades, and I’m here to provide insight as to what these numbers mean, and how to find success regardless of what the numbers say.

1) Grades don’t mean the same thing they did in high school.

In high school, I was kept myself to a 90%+ average. I thought to myself, if grades are measuring how much of the course content I understand, I want to know 90%+ of the material. In high school, 90s are base line for knowing the material. Getting 70s, even 80s, is devastating to our self esteem. I know for myself, seeing anything below 90% caused me to burst into tears. But this idea is dangerous and far from the truth. The truth is, 70% means that we are meeting the requirements. We understand what’s happening, and we are learning. Anything 80% and above means that we’ve exceeded the expectation for what we’ve needed to learn, and demonstrated that we’re well beyond the learning outcomes of a course. And we don’t need to be like that in every course. One thing that was hard for me to accept, but is liberating is that getting 70s is okay. My choral conducting professor explained it well. 70% means you put in the effort and you’re meeting the expectations. 80% means you’ve shown that you’ve put in an exceeding amount of work that wasn’t necessarily required of you. 90% means that you’re an expert and could present to the experts in the field.

It’s okay to be a 70s student. Don’t break your neck trying to get 80s and 90s. If you are doing well and getting those high marks, that’s great. If you’re not, thats okay too. When you’re out of university and trying to get a job, no employer is going to ask you what mark you got in a first year psych class.

2) Studying is not something you can cram in the night before an exam.

I’m 100% guilty of doing this in high school. The day before my exams I’d be on the phone with friends as we quiz each other on our 3-4 page study sheets we made together, trying to cram in all the information that we could. It’s easy to do this when you’re in high school because honestly, there isn’t that much information to cover in one semester. Don’t get me wrong, high school is extremely difficult for some people. There were definitely moments in high school where I thought I was in over my head. But compared to university, the vast amount of knowledge you have to learn in a 4 month semester is absolutely insane. I’ve learned the hard way that it is thoroughly impossible to fit in everything from the semester in a couple of hours.

One of the most useful things I’ve learned when it comes to university academics is how to study. MAKE A SCHEDULE. I can’t stress this enough. I know it seems stupid and you don’t want to follow it, but trust me, it helps. I usually allocate myself a couple days to write study notes, which helps me refresh my brain on the material, but I also give myself days to study with friends and quiz each other. Did you know one of the best ways to learn information is to talk aloud? Having a study group of friends that just quiz each other and hearing and speaking the material out loud together is immensely helpful. I 100% recommend it.

3) Asking for help is okay. Even if you were the “smart kid” in high school.

When I first came to university, the idea that I could ask for help was all but literally forced down my throat. “Ask upper year students, talk to your profs, schedule meetings with your TAs, have a conversation with your academic counsellor…”, you name it, I heard it. And yet, my younger self thought that I couldn’t ask for help. Perhaps it was my pride, and believing that I could do everything myself, because heck, I was living on my own for the first time. I could do this.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s okay to ask for help. And when you do, it’s incredibly helpful. I took an English class in first year where we had to write 2 essays. I wrote the first one, thought it was pretty decent, and submitted it. If I were in high school, an essay like this probably would’ve gotten me anywhere from an 80 to 85. It’s no surprise that I was shocked to see a solid 72 in my grade book, and a copy of my essay literally mauled with red ink. My head started spinning at 100 mph. What did I do wrong? How could this happen? What do I do? Our next essay was coming up soon, and I definitely wanted to see an improvement from this essay, to our next essay, which was worth a LOT more.

So of course, I swallowed my pride and e-mailed my professor. I asked him to meet with me so I could discuss my next essay, and what exactly I could do to make it better. So I met with him, and within an hour, I felt enlightened. The standards in university are different than they are in high school, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I was focused on the wrong things, and needed someone to point me in the right direction so I could meet the requirements of what was needed AND exceed and succeed. It’s no surprise that my second essay got me a nice solid 80%.

4) Your academic life shouldn’t take over your whole life.

I’ll end with this point. You go to university to learn. There’s no doubt about that. BUT, university is also meant for so much more than that. This is something I really wish I knew when I first started. University is a time where you can learn so much beyond your course work. It’s your first time out in the world when people expect you to start figuring things out on your own. It’s learning to create social connections, it’s learning to find new experiences, to develop skills you can’t learn without trying. It’s the time to join clubs and meet people that share the same passions as you. It’s a time to find out who you are, what you like, and what you want to accomplish in life.

And you can’t do that if your head is down, reading books, and studying all the time. Your academics are important, yes. But they’re not everything. So get up, stretch your wings, and fly. Even if you fall, you can get back up, and learning from our mistakes is the way we grow.

– Carole

Uni 101: Residence Life

Hello all! As the summer wraps up, I wanted to start a series on my blog about entering university! I’ve had a lot of people ask me in the past for tips on what to expect when transitioning between high school and university, and as per usual on my blog, I’m here to share my personal experiences.

A lot of people I know are going into their first year of post-secondary (whether that be college, university, whatever you got going for you). If y’all are anything like me, it’s both incredibly exciting and terrifying! It’s exciting going off to do a new thing (especially if you’re moving away from home), but the unknowns can be daunting. This blog post is a list of tips and tricks from me, that I learned during first year, that hopefully can be helpful to you! In this first section, I’ll start with rez-life. It can be overwhelming to live on your own, but there are lots of people to help you, and little tips and tricks that will make your life a lot easier!

I lived in a “traditional-style” residence (basically, a floor with ~100 people, separated into 4 wings of ~35 people, with 3 common bathrooms [women, men, gender-neutral]) on a “living-learning community” wing made up of only music students.

Many of you will have very different experiences to mine, and by no means am I an expert, but hopefully some of the things I learned can help you out. Nothing I say is set in stone either, if something doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to use it, or you can modify it to suit your needs better!

Rez-life will be different for everyone. It all depends on who you are as a person, what kind of people you live with, what kind of building you live in, etc. Personally, I had a lot of fun in residence! I met my best friends from first year in residence, and we’ve had a blast.

I mentioned before that I lived in a traditional style residence, which for me meant that my dorm room was literally just a bedroom. The door opened right up to the common hallway. I had one roommate, and basically the room was split in half, where we both had 1 closet, 1 twin-size bed, and 1 desk with a chair. Like this:

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Here are some of things I found really helpful/useful.

1) Creating extra storage without taking up more space. You can kinda see in the picture above, but I had 3 plastic storage boxes under my bed. 2 were for clothes that I was able to fold (1 for tops, 1 for bottoms) and 1 was for snacks (non-perishables like microwavable popcorn, granola bars, etc.). I don’t have a picture of the closet in my room, but if you’re anything like me (and have millions of clothes), trust me when I say THEY WILL NOT ALL FIT. Having them stored under my bed made sure it didn’t take up any more space (you might as well use the space under your bed for something), but also let me have more of my clothes while I was away. I folded all the clothes up like they were in a dresser drawer, kinda like this:

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Pro tip: If you’re looking for a way to downsize your closet or fold clothes in a more compact, efficient way, I definitely recommend looking up the “KonMari” method!

The nice thing about having more of your clothes with you too means that you don’t have to do laundry as often (unless you run out of underwear or something LOL), which will save you lots of money, bringing me to my next point:

2) Laundry day.  For some of you, laundry will be something you’ve always done at home (like I did!) but for some of you, it’ll be your first time. It’s really useful to have some sort of laundry schedule to follow so you can make use of your resources and time most efficiently.

Pro tip: If your building uses high efficiency laundry machines (you can typically find out on rez tours or by calling the front desk) I recommend you buy liquid detergent instead of the Tide pods that some schools (like mine) recommend.

Mostly because:

  1. If the washing machine is HE, you don’t need to use as much liquid detergent as you think, meaning it will last you for a lot longer than you would think (I had 1 bottle of liquid detergent that lasted me all year).
  2. Some of my friends had experiences where the tide pods wouldn’t completely melt, and the plastic casing would get glued onto things, and they’d have to wash things again (wasting laundry credits and their time).

At my school, all residents got their first 29 credits for free (both the washing machine and dryer were 1 credit to use once) which can last you all year if you try really carefully. In total I added $10 to my laundry card, I believe, at the end of the year.

For me, I only did laundry every 2 weeks, and I only used about 3 credits at a time. I like to wash my light clothes separate from dark coloured clothes (to prevent colour bleeding), and I found it was helpful to wash both simultaneously (in 2 separate washing machines, beside each other), so that I could toss both loads in the dryer together, to save myself from using the dryer twice, when a lot of my clothes I had to hang up to dry anyway.

The best way to accomplish this is to do laundry on a weekday. Absolutely EVERYONE tries to do laundry on weekends, which can make it really difficult to do this when you live in a smaller building (my floor [which had about 100 people in total on it] only had 3 laundry machines and dryers). I liked to do my laundry on Thursday afternoons, since I finished class at 3:30.

Pro tip: The laundry machine should lock when your load is running, meaning you can leave to laundry room to go do other things instead of waiting in there. People can and will take your clothes out and dump them on the floor or on top of the machines if you don’t come back to get them though. Set a timer on your phone a few minutes before your laundry is finished so you remember to take it out and move it before that happens.

Another great way to conserve laundry credits (or not use too much money) is to take your laundry home as much as possible. This can become more difficult the farther from home you are, but if it’s possible, I would definitely recommend it. First semester has tons of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) so typically, I would try to hold off from doing laundry until I was going home so I could do it at home for free. This won’t always work for everyone (my parents picked me up in their car so I could bring my laundry bin home, if you’re going home on a train/plane/bus, this won’t be incredibly ideal), but if you get the chance, definitely take it!

3) Living with a roommate. Sometime is you’re lucky, you’ll end up in a single room in residence. If that’s the case, you don’t have to share the space with anyone! But if you’re like me, you may end up sharing half of your room with someone else. Having a roommate was definitely a pleasant experience for me, though I know for many of my friends, it wasn’t. Here are some tips that I’ve compiled from living with my roommate and hearing stories from my peers.

  • Borrowing Things from Each Other: if you don’t want your roommate to use your things, let them know what is okay or not okay for them to use. My roommate let me know that I could use her mini-fridge to hold any food items that I needed, but I never borrowed any of her other things without asking right away.
  • Giving a Heads-up: there’s nothing worse than coming home to your residence  with a complete stranger in your room. You may be comfortable with having a friend, family member, or significant other hanging out in your room, but that doesn’t mean your roommate will. Always make sure to ask your roommate(s) if its okay if you have guests over, and respect their decision!
  • Respecting the Space: always remember that you share your room with someone, which means respecting the space in a way that makes your roommate feel comfortable. You may not be phased by leaving your underwear on the floor, but your roommate might.
  • Communicate Right Away: If your roommate does something to bother you, don’t let it simmer until you’re angry and bitter (trust me, it’s exhausting to be that mad all the time). Talk to your roommate calmly about what upset you, and hopefully you two can reach a compromise. This works vice versa as well. If your roommate approaches you with something, try not to be too defensive. Listen to what they have to say, so you can (hopefully!) reach a calm compromise. If that doesn’t work, your residence staff member can help by mediating a conversation between you two.

A lot of people may have grown up with their own bedroom that they didn’t have to share with anyone. Having roommates is a wonderful chance to learn what it’s like to live with someone else, and you may end up making a friend in the process! Remain calm, and keep a clear head. Your roommate is probably equally as scared to live with someone else as you are. No one is looking for trouble!

Pro tip: Most universities will ask you to fill out a short survey about your lifestyle, such as what time you sleep, if you are tidy/messy, etc. and match you up with a roommate accordingly. Trust the process no matter how scary it can be! People who are matched up by the system, rather than trying to find a roommate online find that they end up with a much better match.

4) Food and nutrition. While it may be exciting to move out for the very first time, make no mistakes. Mom and/or dad aren’t there to cook for you anymore. Many residences offer in building food in their cafeteria, and it’s great! For the first week that is. After a while, you can get tired of the food the cafeteria serves. I recommend you buy a mini fridge (or coordinate with your roommate) so that you can bring food from home too. Every time I went home my parents would bring  me food, whether that was homemade bread from my grandma, or cheese that my mom bought on sale.

Overall, residence is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that are very special. Make the most of it! Everyone’s needs are different, and these are only a guideline of what you can do, but hopefully they help!

Do you have any tips for people living in residence? Or do you have any questions about residence?

– Carole

Of 2016, Part I.

Happy New Year everyone! After ages and ages of 2016, we’re finally moving into a new year, that is full and teeming with potential. We stand at the forefront of this precipice. And it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do.

2016 was by far one of the most eventful years of my life. Looking back on 2016, I see a mountain behind me. When I look ahead, there is yet another mountain to begin climbing up. Here I am now, in this eerily quiet valley between.

I decided to start the new year off on this blog, to reminisce about the things I’ve done in 2016. As a forgetful person, I’ve gone through the effort to go through my twitter archive to find the most important moments of my 2016 life.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that it’s increasingly difficult to get a whole year to fit into one blog post, so this is part I, January to June, aka the first half of the year.

(Also, I’m aware that it’s February, it took me a whole month to finally scrap up enough time here and there to finish this monstrosity of a blog post [it’s about 2100 words long, so brace yourselves].)

Let’s get started!

My 2016: January-June

January

January was an interesting month for me. I find that every January that rolls around, I find myself in a rut. 2016 was no different. I was finishing my first semester of grade 12, exams were looming over my head, there were no holidays, it was always cold, I walked into school before the sun rose and left after it had already set.

The start of the new year challenged me to figure out who I was, led to some serious doubt, and watched me struggle to come to terms with who I wanted to be.

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My biggest goal of life is to make people feel something. I want to share joy, and happiness, and prosperity. Music is my medium for doing that, and back in January, all I wanted to do was pursue that dream.
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To achieve that goal though, there was a huge hurdle standing in my way. It was getting accepted into a music program! The New Year heavily burdened my thoughts with the prospect of this being ~audition year~. Despite the comforts from my teachers, my friends, my family, I couldn’t help but be nervous that I wouldn’t get into a music program. Holding on to this much doubt did terrible damage on my self confidence.
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Yet, through all this self doubt and lack of confidence, I began to find peace. It definitely took a long time, it still does, but when you begin to value yourself for yourself, you can begin to treat yourself to the things you deserve. I found joy in preparing for my auditions. I remembered that singing is what makes me come alive. I believed if I could just channel this joy, the audition panel would share in my enthusiasm and potential.
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By the end of January, half of my senior year was almost over. This tweet is very interesting to me because it documents just how much I’ve changed in high school. I remember being a quiet, shy, scared young girl. I didn’t like talking to people, didn’t like any social interaction, but here I was now, on the cusp of adulthood, flourishing in time spent with others, valuing lasting relationships, and spreading joy and positivity.

February

What a month February was! While January holds a lot of new change with a new year, February really kicked it off for me by starting a new semester. I always find at the turn of the semester I feel very unsettled.

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I’m not one that actively seeks out change. I prefer things to stay the way they are. Establishing a new routine, new classrooms, new coursework, new classmates, all at the beginning of February always threw me for a loop in high school.
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Though something that has never changed was my goal to be a teacher.
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February was also a very busy month because of the first ever CKSS Variety Show! I was super happy that this whole project came into fruition. Myself, along with our music council, had been planning the event since the beginning of the school year. After long countless meetings and an unbelievable amount of stress and setbacks, we were able to finally launch a new CKSS tradition, in order to share our love for all kinds of art. Not only that, but the whole even was completely student run, and an absolute success!
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February was also the month I realized how fast time was passing. The end of the school year was approaching at a crazy speed, it was almost scary to try and process it.

March

March was a very eventful month for me. I was accepted to 2 of 3 universities I applied to! The first acceptance letter I got was from MacMaster University for their Humanities program. If I wasn’t going to get into music, I was going to fall back on English, my second passion in life.

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MacMaster was my third choice university. But it was still a big step for me. When the email came in, this sort of numbness washed over me. For the first time since I had applied to university, it felt real. An actual university had received my application, reviewed my grades and decided to accept me! It was a strange feeling. I was both so excited, but very unsettled and nervous at the same time.
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Another huge milestone of March was, of course, my very first university music audition. It was at Wilfred Laurier University, in Waterloo. I won’t go into much detail right now, as that’s a story for next time, but I was a wreck the whole week leading up to this audition. I was studying so hard for their theory placement exam, reviewing my pieces over and over again… I barely talked to anyone that week because I was obsessing over this audition. But all my hard work came to fruition. A couple days after my audition, I got an email from the dean of music. My audition was a success.
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But it wasn’t over yet! I kept working through the month. The big day was coming. My Western University audition in April. This would be arguably, the most important day of the entire year.

April

April was honestly a blur for me. After my audition passed, the whole month disappeared like chocolate cake at a kids’ party.

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I remember the whole week leading up to my Western audition was absolute hell. My throat has this weird tickle and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to sound right for my audition. I gargled salt water every night, I would randomly start to cry because I was so nervous… But at the same time I was feeling a lot better because I had already done one successful audition. I remember going to bed the night before, trying to get in a good night’s sleep, feeling my heart beat so hard and fast I thought it would leap out of my chest.
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My Western audition came and went without much fuss. To be honest, it went as well as it possibly could have. I thought I had a really good chance of getting in when I left, the panel was super ecstatic, they told me they couldn’t wait for me to come to school at Western. I remember finding out I had gotten accepted. I was working on my final project in my social science class when I heard my email notification go off on my laptop. But I was so engrossed in my work I decided I would check it after class. Flash forward to the end of the period, I opened my email and my heart just about stopped. I read the first few words and screamed. My friend Thomas immediately asked me what was up. I just pointed at the screen, feeling tears stinging in the back of my eyes. I’d done it. All that time, stress, tears, all was worth it in that moment.
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And suddenly…. Everything changed. After I got accepted into the school of my dreams, my whole future began to change. Up until that point it had been “what ifs” and “maybes” but now, it was set in stone. I was moving away from home. I was going to study music for the next 4 years. I was ecstatic. I had been in one place with the same people for so long, it was exciting to think about venturing off for new adventures. But at the same time, I was so happy being with my friends, and being at my high school, and feeling like I actually belonged somewhere. I felt caught between two different worlds. And it felt like I would have to sacrifice my old life to get my new one.

May

May probably holds some of the most important memories of my entire high school life. In May, my school music program experienced different firsts and lasts.

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I’ll start with the lasts. May 5th marked my last spring concert, and last concert ever for that matter, at my high school. It was such an emotional day for me. I remember our first concert, we crammed everything into our tiny theatre, and people’s parents came and watched us perform. And here we were at our last concert, filling our school gym. We’d come such a long way, built such a big music program literally from the dirt. I cried so hard after our last concert. I wanted to live in and nurture this program forever. But I was leaving it to the students under me. And it was a crazy emotional time. May also marked our very first out of country music trip. We went to Chicago, Illinois, for 5 days and I will never ever forget that trip. I made so many memories there, just getting to spend a trip of a lifetime with my best friends doing what we loved most: music.
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The year was coming to an end super fast. I accepted my offer to Western, and was suddenly swamped with final assignments and exam prep. I worked myself to the bone, convincing myself that I had to make the most of high school while it was still there.

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June

And then… There it was. The last month of high school. June was full of so many lasts, so many things I would never get to do again. But it was all so worth it. There’s so much I could say about June, and I’m full of nostalgia, but hopefully these tweets will kind of capture the mood I was in that month.

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Everything felt like it was coming to a close in June. It felt like I was tying all the ribbons on the presents, ending the giant chapter of my life novel. Suddenly, I could count how many days of school and how many days I had left at the tutoring centre on my fingers.
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But of course, the school year can’t end without a bang. On the last full day of high school, my best friend Michael totally threw me for a loop and promposed to me with one of my favourite songs from High School Musical 3, with flowers and everything. It was basically flawless (save for Thomas screwing up playing the music in time) and totally surprised me.

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And finally, prom came and went, my friends and I danced our hearts out, and kept going till our feet were sore. We stayed up all night playing cards, and woke up to make waffles together. Our days together were all drawing to a close. Graduation came, and I surprised myself by not crying. It all felt surreal. High school was one of the most beautiful times in my life, senior year especially. It was my whole world for 4 years. I thought I would wake up and just repeat the process again. But this was it. I was moving on to bigger and brighter things. And I wouldn’t change my high school experience for anything.

And while it feels like a just shut the book on the entirety of 2016…. It wasn’t over yet! I still had another entire half of the year left. While the first half of 2016 was full of lasts and endings, the second half was teeming full of new beginnings that have helped me grow into the person I am now, writing about my 2016. Hopefully…. That part will be coming soon!

– Carole

Why Musicians are Basically Engineers

I’m sorry for being gone for so long! I really didn’t mean to completely abandon this blog as school started, but everything has just gone by so fast, it’s almost impossible to believe the semester is almost over already.

For those of you who don’t know, I moved away at the beginning of September to study music at the University of Western Ontario (more commonly known as ‘Western University’). Throughout this entire semester, I can honestly say that I am so incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work, me and all my fellow music students have to do.

And I’ve discovered in these 2 weeks, musicians are like engineers. How?

In university (or at least here at Western), we go by a credit system, 0.5 credits being a semester class, 1.0 credits being a full year class, for a total of 5.0 credits a year (approx. 2.5 credits a semester).

Well, for most. Music students are 1 of 2 programs that do not take 5.0 credits a year. We take 6.0 credits, plus ensemble: either choir or band for 4 hours a week (so basically, another credit without actually getting a credit).

Here, we have a grand total of 7.0 credits.

What is the only other program that has 7.0 credits? You guessed it, it’s the engineers!

Why am I telling you this?

I feel like in today’s society, the value of a music education is so drastically underrated. Let’s not mind all the benefits that comes with learning music (improved memory, time management and organization, etc.) but down to humanity’s simplest form, we’ve always had music.

I recently learned today about how music can change lives for people. Some people with Parkinson’s can regain part of their mobility when listening to music, those who can’t remember more than 7 seconds of their lives at a time due to brain damage still remember how to sing.

Music is a powerful thing.

Life as a music major is an interesting world to navigate. Somehow, the whole world has opened up to this beautiful wave of sound I never quite noticed before. With an understanding of music comes an understanding of sound. Of human connection to sound.

People always joke about how horror movies aren’t scary, funny even, without the sound. But have we ever noticed what a TV show or movie would sound like without background music?

Can we imagine a world where we live in silence?

Where we didn’t connect to one another through sound and the universal language of music?

Isn’t it fascinating that without any prior knowledge, we can tell a sad song from a happy song?

I find that now more than ever, art is under persecution. And this is so sad. We will always have science, and math, and law, and medicine… But what will we do if we lose music?

I felt burdened when helping with my university’s fall preview day by the lack of people that wanted to pursue music full time. I’m sad that my craft is under persecution for fear that a life of music is a life “unsuccessful” or “unfulfilling”.

Music was once the joy of the rich. Now we have so much music available to us.

To all you artists out there, never give up.

Music may be a demanding program. It may feel like there’s no point. Why do we continually push ourselves to keep going, if there are always improvements to be made? Why don’t we just crumple the sheet music up, toss it in the trash, and walk away?

Music people, we are engineers for humankind. We engineer emotional structure. We bring people together under a roof where they can feel safe. I remember reading once that doctors fix hearts, but musicians fix souls. A doctor can spend hours in surgery to save someone’s body, their livelihood. Musicians perform, we carry a message, for an hour, maybe two, and we help make that life worth living.

To all you artists out there, never let anyone tell you you’re insignificant.

Your voice, your song, is unique to you, and you only. Every note, every melody, every word adds to this beautiful music library of life.

Let’s never let it burn out.

– Carole