Final Exit Exams Vs. Experiential Based Learning

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The power of an argument lies in its potential to spark debate, critical thinking and reasoning in addition to forming new solutions and ideas. With that being said, today I came across an article on The Star which which proposed the idea of giving exit exams to university students which would test their basic skills in numeracy, literacy and problem solving as a result in the lack of their  “essential skills” — communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork. My immediate question was how will handing out a final exit exam better prepare a student to better meet these “employability criteria”? Taking a placement course this term in my final semester of my undergrad at McMaster in addition to a 4 year Strength and Conditioning internship that I have been involved in, this automatically sparked ideas that if a mandatory final exit exam could be made mandatory, why not employing mandatory co-op placements (a form of experiential based learning). As a result, a string of problems do come with such a proposal (e.g., financial costs, placement opportunities, etc.), so if this peaks further interest, keep reading below. I thank a friend (anonymous) for initiating such debate which has provoked much thought and truth is I learn the most through arguments, there is always something to learn at the end of the day. My advice? Argue, discuss, bounce ideas off each other and engage in the process of learning. It’s all about perspective and it’s the key to be a life long learner in a forever evolving world. It’s safe to say that at the end of this argument, I walk away from this debate not only with new ideas to work around problems but it has also opened my eyes to the realities of an “unequal system” that we are apart of. For the past few years of my undergrad, I have referred to university as a form of institutional confinement, a place where we are trained to think a certain way, which takes the creativity out of a well rounded thinker. To fast forward this argument, I end with the idea that: “We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”. Thats the power of an argument to spark an idea. Do not fit the mould of society, but mould society to fit your scheme, your greater picture, and ultimately your vision.

– Skyhigh

Article of Interest: 

http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/02/22/young-grads-need-to-brush-up-on-3-rs-employers-say.html

My Thoughts:

“Or here’s a better idea, instead of giving exit exams, how about institutions make co-op placements mandatory? I can’t think of a better way to apply traditional classroom skills to the real world. It would definitely be a step in the right direction.” ‪#‎ExperientialLearning

Anonymous:

“The entrance/exit exam idea isn’t a great solution but so is making coops mandatory. No way businesses and institutions want some dipshit 20 year old working a placement for them because its mandatory; that and not every academic discipline has clear out and out places in the ‘real world’ or workforce to send students. Where do you send a classics major for a coop for example? And are there enough spots at similar/the same institution for all the classics majors at UofT for example? Further, the article states that exit exams would be testing basic skills in numeracy, problem solving and literacy. Hardly skills that students could cheat their way around, though I’m still opposed to the idea.”

 

Me:

“I only said it was a better idea not the best and a step in the right direction (over an exit exam), making it mandatory was just said to be a comparison obviously at the end of the day, the people who want the most out of their education experience will be seeking these opportunities. As for finding placements, a classic major could possibly find someone to shadow or perhaps see a teaching opportunity for example, there are always opportunities its a matter of finding them in regards to your goals. I mean at the end of the day, you are eventually going to have to apply the knowledge you learned throughout your education in some way aren’t you? This is why some institutions are only suggestive when it comes to co-op placements or outside opportunities whereas other universities (e.g., Waterloo which does an amazing job: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/resources/integrative-learning/experiential-learning) place more of an effort and focus towards experiential based learning. At the end of the day, you cannot force someone to learn or make something mandatory to get the most out of the experience, but if there was a way to make students realize how valuable experiential based learning is and the application of this knowledge which frankly there isn’t an emphasis on.”

 

Anonymous:

“Yes I understand that but I’m trying to point out that equality of opportunity wouldn’t exist in such a system. If we proceed forward with your example of a classics student shadowing somebody or looking for a teaching position, how many placements would be available for such a position? You would have hundreds of classic students fighting for limited places, whereas in something like engineering coop opportunity is much more plentiful by nature of the field itself. You’d be putting students in particular fields at an innate disadvantage. I’m all for experiential learning but when the opportunity isn’t there, is taking a lesser position that doesn’t at all align with your career goals really a valuable experience? You’d be doing it just because it’s mandatory. And I don’t think you’re considering the other side of this enough, not every institution is going to want to pay students; the influx of students would be way too high and wouldn’t be realistically affordable. Back on that classics student example, can the workplace afford to be paying students? Would we be taking jobs away from graduates and more qualified individuals to give a try-hard student some degree of potentially irrelevant experience? There are many considerations that need to be made and practically every student would love to have some sort of experiential based learning, I can’t see a single individual who is passionate about what they study turn such an opportunity down but the fact of the matter is that affording students such opportunities isn’t that easy, though I do think that our institutions should be doing more along those lines.”

 

Me:

“At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism over pessimism. Think about all the other things that are made mandatory to fulfill an undergrad per say (we pay how much to take mandatory elective courses, etc.) why can’t the school budget part of the amount we spend towards extra courses to fulfill a placement, volunteer experience, shadowing experience, co-op placement in partnership with real world businesses, institutions or even perhaps mock real-life world situations (instead of exams) in that under grad degree. It’s not impossible, its a matter of time, thought, how money is budgeted and effort. Again, at the end of the day I do see university as a business, and it definitely will cost them more to send their students outside, and at the end of the day they will be losing “business” they could be putting back in their institution.”

“As for the arguments enough spots for a placement, think about it, once you finish your undergrad are you not going to be saying there is not enough spots for a position in your field? Or is it a matter of what have you been doing throughout your undergrad to best put you in a position to be employable. It isn’t a matter of spots in this world, its a matter of the effort you put in, the opportunities you seek and lastly, the steps you take to gain the real world experience.”

 

Anonymous:

“I agree that university’s should budget more for experiential learning, i’m right there with you on that but I think the latter part of your statement there a gross over simplification. There are definitely more ‘spots’ and workplace positions available in particular fields. You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be.”

 

Me:

“The equality of opportunity does not really exist practically in any system when you think about it at the end of the day. In that sense I will agree that yes some fields will have more opportunities available to them much more readily than others. I feel like there may be ways to work around that for example this idea of mock-institutions or just ways in which the university can teach these fields for example on how to apply this knowledge, I mean why do we learn if you can’t apply? I mean it would be a win-win for the university itself wouldn’t it? They wouldn’t have to send out students but rather create more opportunities within the institution itself for example, you are an english undergrad and want to be a writer for a newspaper, why not open up placements or shadowing experiences that provide educational credit for a semester per say to those who want to do that. Real world application of knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean co-op placements where you go to a business company and there are certainly different avenues in which you can seek them whether it be through a volunteer experience, shadowing someone, exchange trip (for those who have money). As for your statement: “You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be” thats exactly why we need more experiential based opportunities to see how what you learn can be applied. And experiential based learning helps hone this creativity in my opinion. You can’t find a job with a skill set to meet your needs? Become your own boss, create your own company or opportunity to show the world you can put your skills to use. We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”.

Sincerely,

The Wise & Rebellious Owl

 

Not Just A Workhorse

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Truth is, I’m a work horse, or a race horse to be precise, but one that has been chasing her dreams. Just like a horse has a stable that it goes back to everyday after training, I see the routine of life as a university student as the stable of institutional confinement. I wake up go to class, work, train, eat, sleep and the cycle continues. The end goal? A piece of paper worth years of invested time, refining short term memory, procrastination and how to stay awake on tea (coffee just makes me crash) with no hours of sleep. Sounds like a dreadful process right? As true as some of these nightmares are to the average university student, it’s not always as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

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How did I get the most out of my experience?

Well, over the past couple of years during my years of “institutional confinement”, if there’s a valuable trait I can take away from my experience, it’s that everything I’ve always wanted was always one step out of my comfort zone. Whether it was from the first day of walking into the very intimidating weight room and running away scared and then coming back with a new found confidence and attitude towards strength training and tackling pbs week after week to chasing opportunities and pbs on the track and in life. From not having picked up a single weight in my lifetime growing up, coming into varsity athletics was a very intimidating process. Moreover, coming into a weight room and being tested on my max squat, having never squatted in my life sent me running in the opposite direction. Truth is, I didn’t come back to that weight room in a while after that experience, not one weight session attended while I was on that rugby team in my first year. However, with the change of environments and a new atmosphere having joined the track team and with a strong passion for sprinting, I started to pursue strength training slowly but surely. If there was one thing I loved about sprinting, it was pushing past my limits and surely I was able to apply that philosophy in the weight room. I was no longer that scared girl who was afraid being in an enclosed box we call the High Performance Area, but it became my home. I never missed a session and I was eager to crush my pbs and venture into the world of strength and conditioning.

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So what did I do?

Well, I applied for an internship with Mac Strength and Conditioning. I was a very enthusiastic learner and I wanted answers to my questions as well as to help others adjust to this new lifestyle as a ‘workhorse’ in the weight room. I wanted to help people become comfortable by ironically getting out of their comfort zone as I once did. As I sat in front of the intimidating panel of judges besides the pool of candidates who were eagerly as competitive for the same position I was applying for and me with no previous work or interview experience, I asked myself how on earth did I get here. The answer? I took a leap of faith towards my passion, a leap right out of my comfort zone and that’s exactly how I ended up there. Well, to sum up the interview, it went great, I got the position and I’ve been with the Mac strength and conditioning program for the past 4 years and I learned quite a lot. Things that you could not simply just learn through textbooks or lectures until you applied them, that’s what you call experiential learning. Truth, or somewhere along the lines of DJ Khaled’s words you would heard something like, “they don’t want you to learn but we gon’ learn homie” and “they don’t want you to go looking for these opportunities, but we gon’ seek them”. Truth is, a co-op placement, internship or opportunity to shadow someone is an experience that is not mandatory in some educational institutions and from my internship experience I believe they should be. What use is learning about concepts that you can’t apply in the real world? But, if you really want it, you will seek these opportunities. Looking back on these four years, I can thank my shy and introverted self on taking the leap of faith and believing in myself to chase my dreams. Looking back and reflecting, it was each progressive step that I took out of my comfort zone that added up to where I am and where I am headed now.

I was no longer just a workhorse or just a racehorse trying to run the fastest time, lift the most weight or get the best marks in class. I was a workhorse with passion and direction. That eat, study, train, work, sleep routine transformed into something that did not seem like a conformed process as I looked for opportunity through new experiences. I asked questions, I observed, I thought and I applied. Everyday I engaged in the process and learned something new whether it be through reading articles, watching documentaries and asking questions. Slowly, my passion grew for the field of strength & conditioning and coaching as I started to engage in the process of becoming a lifelong learner. I was no longer simply a race horse who was confined to her stable, but I became a wild stallion as I ventured through the fields and off the track. I formed a new found sense of purpose: Personal and professional growth in pursuit of my passion and desire to learn.

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Four years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about leaving my comfort zone and chasing new experiences. At the end of the day, we cannot become what we want to be by what we are. My advice? Take a small step away from your comfort zone everyday because all those steps will eventually add up into something great in the end!

– Sincerely,

A Wild Stallion

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NIRBHAYA: FEARLESS

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On the night of December 16 2012, Jyothi – a young, vibrant and intelligent 23-year old medical student’s life came crashing as she was brutally gang raped inside a bus in the capital of Delhi. After watching the Life of Pi with a male friend, searching for a way home late night, both were lured by the rapists on a bus on the road to hell. After being severely tortured for 30 minutes on a moving bus, being raped and beaten up by six men, thrown out of the bus and narrowly escaping death from being driven over by the bus, she was tossed on a public road. 30 long minutes. She battled for her life for two long weeks, until her light was finally taken away December 29, 2012.

This horrific incident caused international outrage and broke the long hidden secrets and silence near and far. The women in a community and rape capital that had been silenced for ages finally gained the strength to speak up.

News articles described the gruesome details as:

“the woman was not only raped and beaten, but was also “violated with a metal rod.”

“It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines… That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” said a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital

The doctor went on to praise the young woman and her fighting spirit.

“She is a brave girl,” he said. “Withstanding…everything.”

 The woman’s brother told the newspaper his sister had written the words “Mother, I want to live” on a piece of paper.

 See article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/delhi-bus-gang-rape-victim-intestines-shocking-details_n_2340721.html

A headline story and tragedy that brought an entire nation to its feet. A woman who was not seen as a victim, but a fighter. She became known as India’s Daughter – Nirbhaya, otherwise translated from Hindi to meaning Fearless.

This past weekend, thanks to a couple friends I was blessed with the opportunity to see the play Nirbhaya on the very last day that it would be performed in Toronto at the Harbour Front Theatre. Nirbaya is a play that was written and directed by the internationally acclaimed Yaël Farber which documented this 2012 Delhi rape case along with the stories of five other South Asian women who had experienced some form of sexual abuse and rape throughout their lives. Let me tell you that I absolutely had no idea what I was in for when I sat down for this play nor was I prepared for what I witnessed. You could say I might have been blinded by the incidents that go on within my own community before seeing this play but, leaving that theatre my eyes were open to the brutal realities that lay behind the screens.

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As the lights went out and the small intimate auditorium I was seated in turned pitch black, a hauntingly white image of a female floated across the stage singing in the most beautiful voice leaving me with goosebumps as her high pitch and ghostly appearance sent chills throughout my body. I felt like I was seated in a horror film and anything would pop out and you wouldn’t know from what direction. And trust me, there was no way out because once you left that theatre there was no way back in, so from the upper first row seat of the balcony auditorium I clenched my fists and stay put awaiting what was to come next. What came next was definitely a surprise. I saw 6 members of the audience, five female, one male raising their arms to the sky as if it were a recreation of the symbolic hand jesture from the Black Power movement and slowly make their way to the stage. They all seemed possessed, but walked with a sense of confidence and determination. I kid you not, I started looking to see if the person next to me was suddenly going to get up and do the zombie walk to the stage, but that didn’t happen.

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If I could describe every detail of this play, every single action had significance and its something I really look for in theatre. But, this was more than just theatre and art, it was real life. The way in which this play branched off the 2012 Delhi rape case and transitioned into each of the female stories really astonished me as it seemed like a light was being passed on from one women to the next. Moreover the power of art and theatre really left me speachless, yet surprisingly it was not until the third story that I came to a stark realization. A woman approached the stage with what looked like acid burns on her face. As she started to tell her story, even she couldn’t bear the pain in the harsh realities, which to me felt so real. In that very moment, I turned over to friend and whispered tell me this is not real as tears rolled down my face. She responded, “It is”. That’s when I first realized that all these stories were real life experiences of the ‘survivors’, themselves. I was horrified.

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Sneha Jawale’s story was a first hand account of abuse by her husband’s family for dowry, in addition to rape and brutal abuse by her husband to the point she finally had kerosene poured on her by her husband and his brother in an attempt to murder her in front of her own son. In her last dying moments her husband pours water and spreads rumours to the neighbors that his wife tried to kill herself. After fighting a month in the hospital and returning home, her husband beat her until all the surgeries performed on her came out, as she had no other choice than to flee with one of her children. Imagine having to make the decision between choosing between your son or daughter. In the end, she chose the girl because she saw herself in that female child. The whole story brought the entire auditorium to tears, including myself who supposedly never cries, the amount of emotion and hearing the victim herself describe the torturous events and weeping herself left everyone heart broken.

“We are not just watching, we are bearing witness” – The Guardian

       Five different personal first-hand accounts accounting for five different cases of rape, abuse and violence which really knocked the day lights out of you, leaving you in that “shit this is real” moment, I’ve been living under a rock. That feeling that makes me question what happened to humanity. That feeling that makes me realize how blessed I am to be living in such a multicultural and diverse country like Canada. I cannot imagine the amount of women like these five strong females who have a voice to share but have been silenced in the name of tradition, culture and shame. I cannot imagine how each of these females and many more have bared the pain and how they had the courage to fight against a system of abuse and oppression. A system and culture that devalued a female and dehumanized her.

But after having seen this play, I witnessed a light of hope.

In moments of despair I was proud to stand in solidarity with these women. I was proud. I was proud to see the diversity in that auditorium of culture. A strong representation of Canada’s multicultural community and support. I was proud to see that this message was being delivered to a sea of cultures who might not know the realities faced by the other. I was proud to see members of my own community display and project their voices, which have been hidden and silenced for so long. Looking through the play brochure and reading about the accomplishments and social justice efforts and community involvement of each of these five women made me extremely proud. These women were not only mothers, sisters, and only actors but also survivors and social justice advocates. They were not victims, but fighters. They were prominent Voices. At the end of the day, I was a proud South Asian woman. But moreover, I was a proud human.

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Moving on from this play, it really made me realize how much passion I have for social justice issues growing up. It made me realize how much taking those 95 minutes out of my day to educate myself on things that happen in my own community’s background and share this story with friends, family and you plays a role in keeping the flame of humanity alive. Sometimes we ignore news headlines if they aren’t applicable to us, and truth is, sometimes social media outlets can be deceiving. But what I experienced in that play was real. What I saw in that play were current social issues that still haunts not only my community but also other communities alike. So the question becomes what can we do hereon? Are you really going to be able to stop all the rape cases that occur all over the world? No, but you can definitely do something. That day Jyothi was raped and tossed out onto Delhi streets like a pile of trash, was a day that human life was degraded. The police officers wouldn’t touch her because of her blood, the same human blood that flowed in theirs yet which they refused to acknowledge. Her cries along with the many women’s cries of a nation were ignored. Obviously we weren’t present that day, December 16, 2012 to rewrite and change the past, to ultimately undo a great error. But, we can look to creating a brighter future where women, life and freedom are valued.

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Ask yourself what you can do. Me? I see my role in not being a bystander. As a member of the audience having witnessed and heard from these brave women, I stand in solidarity with them and their Voice. The power of the voice is a movement that is so destructible it will flow like small rivers that channel it’s way to the larger sea. The power of your voice is so strong that once all these rivers converge through the spreading of one story to the next, a current so powerful will channel a tsunami. Unity in collective thought, propelling action. Now you are a tsunami, that’s a force to be reckoned with. So be that tsunami, get angry, be aggressive, channel your voice and speak out. As members of society, as humans we all have a part to play. How will you stop violence against women?

http://nirbhayatheplay.com/

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Love Yourz

Earplugs in, music bumping…

“..and life can’t be no fairytale, no once upon a time…”

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That electric pulse tunneling through my veins. It’s just me, myself and I. Focus. That moment that I hit my wall on that high intensity speed interval that got me breathless as my mind and body are playing tug-of-war. That mind over matter factor. The very moment I tighten my laces on my spikes as I prepare myself for battle. Love in war. Every time I hear the word “quit” it sends an adrenaline rush through my veins making me want to prove everyone wrong, including myself. Every time I challenge myself, I learn to love myself a little more. My dreams, my goals, and most importantly my Vision. Creating opportunities. Motivating myself and others around me to excel higher.

“What’s money without happiness?”

And at the end of the day, I ask myself why? Why do I sprint? Why do I push my body and test its limits? Why do I wake up every morning with the soreness from yesterday yet choose to continue today? Stop. Ask yourself why not? Why not do the things you love that bring you genuine happiness? Why not push your body to its limits and break barriers. Because I can and I will. Personal growth.

What really distinguishes one person from another at the end of the day is their Focus. Focus distinguishes the great from the weak. Your concentration is impeccable, and no matter what obstacles you face, you don’t quit but you learn to overcome them. You don’t have to move an entire mountain in one day, but it’s about how you approach life’s challenges when they are hurled at you: one step at a time. Patience and dedication. When people ask you why are you still running or why haven’t I seen you run your race yet, you step back and smile because you know what they don’t know because they are in a completely different lane. You smile because they will never understand what running is to you from your soles. And in all this, you learn to trust and appreciate the process. In the process, you learn a bit more about you everyday. You learn to understand how your mind and body works. You learn what motivates and drives you. Your purpose? To find that light, to find your high. Find that thing that if you were to have it taken away from you, it would drive you insane and you would only go searching for it. And where do you find this light? There’s only one place to search and that’s from within. It’s in you.

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You learn to really focus your attention on how you carry yourself and what kind of energy you surround yourself in. You learn to remove the negatives in your life and surround yourself with positivity. Sure, you’re going to have the negatives in your life that tell you no, but do these same people provide you with constructive criticism to lift you higher. Throughout your day you learn to concentrate your efforts and hone in your attention to what you read, watch and the conversations you indulge in. Whether it’s a motivational video to ball highlights, that energy I get from seeing other humans test and surpass their limits gets me amped and motivated to really strive for my best everyday. You are a positive light and you only shine brighter with the people that fuel your flame. Do the people you surround yourself with only want to party, eat out, drink and waste time or are the people you surround yourself with the go-getters, those who put their time to use and also have a bigger vision and one that includes helping you grow. Re-evaluate and differentiate between positive and negative energy. Learn to eliminate the negatives and illuminate the positive. Because when you hear a thousand voices around you, you’ll only look to that lone voice, your voice that tells you “Yes I Can”. That’s confidence.

“There’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours”

At the end of the day, it’s you vs. yourself. There is no body else in that lane obstructing your path to success but you and your thoughts. It’s a kind of opponent that you can’t see but can feel. That feeling you get in a 4X100m relay race when you hear someone panting down your neck as they start to pick up their pace and you can hear the sound of their steps approaching faster and faster. What do you do? Are you going to stand there or push harder and take flight? Who is that person gaining ground on you? That’s you. That’s your fears, your doubts and your insecurities lined up side by side in this race we call life. You feel like the whole world is against you, but guess what? It’s only a battle against me, myself and I. You are invincible. Drown out the uncertainty with the sound of your own heart beat.

“Heart beatin’ fast, let you know that he alive”

Fuel that flame inside you with passion. Carry that momentum forward and soar high with that passion and never forget that battle you’re fighting inside you everyday.

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“I’m tired of living with demons, cause they always inviting more”

Make a vision board. Think of the 24 hours you have in a day. What are you going to do with that time? What are you going to do with the next 48 hours, the day after that, the week after that, the month after and soon we have a year. But to be great, we have to start thinking in the hours, minutes and seconds we have. Think about the here and now. What are you going to do today that is going to propel you one step closer to your vision? Is that all you got? Look deeper, search harder, and drive faster. Let that fire ignite inside you. That’s love. So, love yourz,

Rise and shine.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCAvzIFY-s

“There’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success”

I Think Therefore I Am.

*7:00am beep beep beep

*Hits Snooze

*7:10am beep beep beep

*Hit Snooze

*7:20am beep beep beep

…. okay, its time to get up.

Same routine, another school year and it feels like a perpetual cycle that won’t end. The nagging feeling of waking up every morning feeling like you’re still here and have’t moved. What’s missing? I call it the “zing factor”. That burst of energy that makes you feel like you’re waking up every morning with a purpose, with a new vibrant sense of life. That feeling of not being tied down by a rope and being dragged around by Life in a systematic routine that feels endless. Some days you just don’t feel it but you have to force yourself to get through it. You have to make the most of your day because every second, every minute and every day adds up. And how did I come to realize how valuable time is? A video I watched in 2010 about Jelly beans. Yes, jelly beans:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOksW_NabEk

The Time We Have. 

28, 835 jelly beans in days.

365 jellybeans an years worth.

5,475 jellybeans, 15 years worth of time.

8,477 jellybeans, the time we spend sleeping.

1,635 jellybeans, spent eating, drinking and preparing food.

3, 202 jellybeans, time spent at work

1,099 jellybeans spent on commuting.

2,676 jellybeans spent watching television.

1, 576 jellybeans spent on household activities like chores and shopping.

564 jellybeans to care for the wellbeing and needs of others.

671 jellybeans for bathing, grooming, and bathroom related activities.

720 jellybeans for community activities like religious and civic duties, charities & taking classes.

The leftover?

Time for laughing, reading, making art, going on hikes, text messages, checking Facebook, playing softball, running, teaching yourself how to play the guitar.

How are you using this time? How much of it have you already used up? If you only had half of it, what would you do differently? Now half of that, now a quarter of that?

Now how much time have you already spent worrying instead of doing something you love?

What if you just had one more day? What are you going to do with it?

To say jelly beans got me thinking is an understatement. Truth is, I will never look at jellybeans the same again, nor have I really sat down and thought about what I will do with my time to this drastic extent. But in the process of sitting down and dwelling on time may be the problem in itself. Truth is, I had mixed feelings of coming back for my fifth year, my victory lap of university. As much as I would love victory laps, it wasn’t my cherry on top for the most part. Excited, hopeful, anxious and worried. The thought of what was next was the big question. Every corner I turned, “What’s Next” echoed from the voices of my daily encounters and boomeranged in my head. Sitting on the fence about major life choices, with so many options down the road it was hard to pinpoint what I exactly wanted to do “next”. Truth is, I wanted to try everything and it felt a bit like elementary and high school all over again where I tried out for all the teams and made all. It felt like being at the ice cream shop and wanting to try all the flavours, but you could only pick one. The decision couldn’t be any harder, but I knew I had to keep moving. So I spent a majority of my time worrying about the Big question, “what’s next”, I started to doubt myself. With doubt and worry, came anxiety and well, there flew away a couple of my jellybeans and with that flew time. Now seeing everyone move on with their undergrad and start to take flight, there I sat in my safe nest, anxious to fly because fall would soon turn into winter and I wanted to join that flock. I wanted to be with the lead pack who were making moves in the Big race of Life, yet I was sitting at the back of the pack questioning “Whats Next”, because truth is, I hadn’t figured it out yet. Sure, I was building a blue print these past 4 years, but I had a little dose of everything but couldn’t decide. The finish line was so near, yet so far with all these questions and the fear of uncertainty which clouded the race track like a thick smog against a clear blue sky. I could see the finish line so vaguely from a distance but felt like I could barely see or breathe. Anxiety.

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I closed my eyes and surprisingly thats when everything started to get clearer. In that empty darkness, I closed my eyes and envisioned the best version of me possible. I pictured my best race and me running it with confidence and that’s when I started to see who I really was. The rest? I let go. I let go of any part of me that didn’t believe in that vision. I let go of that clouded judgement and the lanes on the track started to reappear. I let go of uncertainty and the thick cloud of smog blocking my path cleared up. And as it did, the first ray of sunlight peeping through the cloud hit me as I felt the warmthness send a radiating shock through my body. As the clear blue skies came out, I felt an electrifying sense of new found energy being absorbed through my body and it felt like I was breaking free. I opened my eyes and to my surprise, I was right there at the finish line. I had always been there, but the doubt, impatience and fear of uncertainty in the future clouded my vision. My mindset, that was the key to the puzzle. It wasn’t about how far I had been from the lead pack, it wasn’t about how much time I was taking perched in the nest and waiting to take flight, but rather a state of mind. A positive mindset was the key.

“I think, therefore I am”

This is one of my all time favourite quotes that I always look to for motivation, but with all that worry, doubt and anxiety I forgot that even the simplest of words pieced together could truly provide the blue print to the future and it all started with a positive mindset. Belief in yourself is the trigger to winning the race in my opinion. It’s not about how fast the other competitors are in the big race of life, it’s not about where you are in comparison to them, but rather the belief in yourself that you will get to where you want to be. And what does that take? Time, patience, and understanding and most importantly the belief in yourself and the journey ahead of you. So the next time you worry, just close your eyes and visualize. From experience, it’s been a tool I’ve used to get through some of the worst days where I feel like I don’t have energy and motivation to get through the day.

“If you take two sentences out of you’re life: “I’m tired” and “I don’t feel well”, you will have cured 50% of your fatigue and illness”

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

You only have as much energy as you your mind tells you. You only have as much belief as the hope you have in yourself. And, you will have as much doubt as the doubt you believe yourself to have. You could be right there at the finish line but still not have the ability to finish the race you started if you tell yourself you can’t or doubt starts to clear your vision. The irony in all this is, the motto “Leave No Doubt” has always been my universities’ motto; it’s been posterized on the walls and it has echoed throughout the entire four years I’ve attended this school yet we shift our focus in worrying and being anxious that we tend to forget the real focus in our mind. Our mind is the master of our thoughts and actions. So how do we shift our focus from the negatives and develop the positives? How do we answer that Big question of Life: “What’s Next”? We visualize in our minds and we free our minds from any form of doubt to believe. With belief and confidence in ourselves, comes opportunity as a positive mindset propels us towards doors awaiting to be opened. We create those opportunities. So, final thoughts? Continue to think positively, envision the best version of you possible and create those opportunities and remember that Time, Patience, Understanding & Belief in the Journey are just as important as the blue print to “Whats Next”.

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the strongest or fastest man,

But sooner or later the man who wins is the fellow who thinks he can.”

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– Skyhigh

The Perfect Fit

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5’4 average height, now resurrected, there she stood towering in her newly bought 6-inch with a perfect posture that demanded attention and respect. As I watched her, everyone’s head turned as the flawless silence was broken by the sound of her high heels. Perched on heels sky high, she looked as if she was taking flight and the world was her run way. Or, thats how it seemed for the first 5 minutes before it all came crashing down…

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As I now shifted my attention to the look on her face,  her face crinkled with every step she took in those 6-inch heels. She imagined her first time to be effortless yet there she was feeling like she had daggers at the end of her stilettos diving deep into her soul. With every step, she felt more and more agonizing pain as she wanted to kick loose and stop the feeling yet she felt trapped. Trapped in those 6-inch heels. The ankle straps held her in place like a viper’s fangs deep in her skin. She couldn’t move. She was scared. Limited by the length of her stride in a position that although felt so empowering to the outside world, really restricted her in a world of discomfort and pain. The world was just a show, but only she knew how she felt. Only she knew what she had to go through to showcase a certain mainstream beauty that revolved around the all too cliche phrase: “Beauty comes with Pain”. This very phrase became engrained in her soul, engrained in her walk, it decapitated her true self. She went from the free-spirited sprinter she was to a speed walker. She was not her. As much as she felt these 6-inch heels completed her outfit that night, they took a part of her. That part, she was not willing to risk.

So she took them off.

As she took off her heel, she truly started to heal. Heal from the pain, the agony, and the discomfort. She started picking at the ankle straps and they loosened after a snake had wrapped around its prey. As she broke out of her first clamp, she felt free – she felt she had that head start out of the blocks which sent an electrifying rush through her entire body. As she loosened out of her second strap, she truly took flight as her whole body flung out of the blocks and back into her old self. She slithered away from everything that held her back as she shed into a new yet familiar life – the one she was most comfortable in. She was free.

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Barefooted she let loose and as she let loose the layer of skin she shed away started to form a rich blanket of dreams that formed a silhouette behind her. As she closed her eyes and breathed heavily, the thoughts in her head brought this new canvas of life behind her closer and closer to her bare feet. It was then they magnificently started sculpting around her bare feet into the perfect fit. She started to rebuild with her thoughts. It all started with “I Can”. As she gained more confidence, the soft shadow silhouette formed a hard plate beneath her bare feet. The sort of plate that would genuinely hold her in place with every stride she took in life. Her sole. Confident yet strong. That was security. As she started to feel uplifted and gained a sense of direction, the silhouette wrapped to a comfortable fit around her feet forming the body. She could breathe at ease with every step she took. That was comfort. As she remembered how she was judged by others, she took the negativity and used it as a bridge to uplift herself in this world. The silhouette started to form a lace path, weaving so marvellously as if the golden gate bridge rested at the top of her mountainous structure. Thats how she turned negativity into constructive criticism. And there she stood more confident, more strong and ready to face life’s challenges with every stride. But wait, her transformation wasn’t done just yet. The finishing touch? She was missing something. At the back of her head the thoughts did haunt her like the dagger once piercing through her stiletto. What did she do? She closed her eyes and prayed. With every prayer, the dagger stood no chance as it cracked like a mirror hitting the glass floor into a million pieces. There lay shards everywhere – as she looked around at all her doubts. She never stopped praying and with every prayer these shards rattled and shook until they formed the most perfect pins that perfectly twisted into place at the bottom of her sole so she would have the extra edge with every stride. That was faith.

She no longer stood there towering in her 6-inch heels looking like the grim reaper took her soul.

She was now taking flight in a world of endless possibilities, a world where there was no limit.

She looked down at the most perfectly fitted spikes and thats when she felt beautiful.

She was free.

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– Skyhigh

Taking Flight in Raining Hills

It’s a Tuesday morning in Toronto as the rain relentlessly trickles down my window pane and I wake up knowing I have hills to run today. Hills. The sound of it sends an all too comfortable yet shocking feeling down my spine, leaving me electrified. That very feeling of feeling refreshed yet being aware that my body was going to test its limits today. Base training is what I called this electric feeling. After a season of recovery and not being able to perform to the best of my abilities, I was ready to gradually build up again. This meant early mornings, getting out of my comfort zone and the deadly hills. I was training myself to follow through with my ambitions regardless of hurdles. I had something to prove and I wasn’t quite finished yet, in fact you could say I had just started. So I picked myself out of bed, fixed a quick breakfast and before I knew it, I was on my way to conquer those hills. Being back home definitely brought back a sense of true comfort especially after not being back home in months. The feeling of jogging through my neighborhood, by my elementary school and high school brought back a splash of memories which jogged me back in time. Time certainly flew. Time took me back to the care-free days spent racing and playing man hunt at recesses to the early mornings I spent training watching the sun rise. Before I knew it, I was back in grade 9 standing at the very top of the greatest challenges of my freshman year – Tam Heather Hills.

“I just looked out my windows and seen a dead body” – that’s exactly what my friend saw as he watched from his window awaiting a spectacle as little girl takes on big hills. A tiny speck just lying there against a great rolling landscape that looked like it was about to devour me. Lying there, breathlessly, I could hear all these negative voices in my head hurling thoughts into my head like “Are you crazy? What are you really going to accomplish by running in the rain and drenching yourself wet? Where are you going in Life? Are you just going to run away your life?” These thoughts seemed to echo throughout the hills and boomerang deep into my mind, leaving me overwhelmed as I suffocated and started drowning myself in this negativity. The rain came down harder than ever and I felt as if the landscape was turning into a huge wave headed in my direction and I had one option. Run!

My heart started pounding harder than the rain penetrating through my skin. It began to beat faster and faster, taking me to a state of discomfort. I needed that release. I needed to simply let go and fly. And, that’s what I did. Standing at the top of the first hill I began to race down as my negative thoughts turned into wings and let me take off. I took off into a place that gave me comfort, a place where I could just be me and no one could question what I did. I ran. I ran and I let go. As I descended down the steep incline, I let my legs propel me and my thoughts drive me as I tried to tame my suppressed feelings but my engine was out of hand. Was I satisfied? No. The speed of the incline channeled my energy as I no longer had control over my legs; with each stride I took, my legs began to throb, but I didn’t stop. As I sprinted through the bottom part of that steep hill, here came my first challenge … the uphill battle. While being fatigued, tired and breathing  heavily, I paced myself up that hill. I used my inner strength to drive up that hill and battle against any negative thoughts that served as obstacles. The real challenge came with the uphill fight. One minute into the hill workout, and I felt my legs starting to get jelly and my feet starting to give up. I was nowhere near finished and I felt overwhelmed. It was cold, my clothes were drenched in rain. I felt like I was getting sucked in by a quicksand and there was no way out. All I could think of was getting back to bed and snuggling back into my safe haven. And it was at that moment I felt weak. I couldn’t finish. I Stopped. I gave in.

I slowly started walking through the fields trying to catch my breathe. My head was spinning, I could hear of the sound of the rain press deep into my skin, leaving me with goosebumps. I could hear the drops of rain trickle in laughter. I felt ridiculed. I felt humiliated. As I continued to walk, my walking pace starting getting faster and faster. My racing thoughts didn’t want me to give up. They told me “You can do it”, “Keep going, you’re doing great”. Soon those very thoughts which penetrated deep within my conscious mind came to life as they caught onto the tip of my tongue, as I murmured “You can do it”. Before I knew it, I heard the hills echoing “you can do it” as my feet rolled across the blades of grass. I felt as if I was roller blading as I effortlessly glided with each stride. I took flight.

Before I knew it, I was back at the top. I closed my eyes as the rain came down harder than ever and propelled myself across the last two hills. Before I knew it, I was standing at the bottom of the last hill home – back to the top where I started. The steepest hill of them all and certainly not the most smoothest one at all, but it’s that challenge that I went in search of. As I started driving up the last hill with whatever energy I had left, I remembered a quote that I once heard which resonated deep through my veins:

 “It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish!”

 I made it. One lap down …

2 more to go.

As I got to the top I felt as if I had conquered the whole world in one lap. And as I stood there and watched the view, I collapsed with a sense of accomplishment. It was at that very moment the rain stopped. The sun peered out as the wet dew grazing against the blades of grass glistened in day light.

I finally conquered.

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– Skyhigh