Friday, 6 June 2014

Wait, what?

Winter has arrived
It greets us with cold and harsh winds
It bids us to slumber, covers the land with endless snow
Go slowly now, and be still...

Entry #2:

Day 110:

The creatures of this world have retreated to their abodes, and we must follow. Fortunately, we have gathered supplies to survive the winter. Though we stumbled at first, our preparations were completed in time.

I yearn for the gentle rays of the sunlight, and the soft warm bed that awaits at the end of my journey. It has been so long, and yet so short. The days have blurred into an indistinguishable stream of experiences. By now, we've carved out a somewhat comfortable existence here while we plan our next move. Some wish to stay, but they will accompany us to the end so that the rest may leave this plane.

However, proper rest still eludes us. A guttural roar cuts through the howling winds, and it grows louder with each night. It troubles me deeply. Perhaps something terrible is approaching...

We are so weary. But still, we must stand guard. The struggle continues.


Holy cow. Has it already been one semester? Exams have now begun!


Honours has been a hell of an adventure so far. I thought travelling overseas did wonders for me, but this has been a mind-splosion the whole way. Kind of like a Michael Bay movie, now that I think about it. Things flying left and right, dodging all the shrapnel (procrastination), hoping the cart will clear the abyss... and perhaps, riding the minecart to victory. That part remains to be seen.

It's definitely enriched my mind and skills in so many ways. And I didn't think I'd ever get comfortable with critiquing 300+ pages a week, every week. It's a nice rhythm, once you get into it. It takes so much out of you though. I can't tell you if it's as bad as full-time work downtown, but I can probably make a comparison once I actually land a job. I suspect it's about the same though, since there is no rest at home when you do Honours.

I think the most striking improvement for me has been my increased comfort in presenting under pressure. As painful as it is, having to do that 1-2 times a week will do wonders for your confidence, especially if you think you suck at it.

The other thing is probably that my critical thinking skills have been improved significantly. Those classes have taught me so much more in this semester than in my entire undergrad degree.

What does this study supposedly examine? What are the hypotheses? Do the measures they use really represent the variables of interest? Why do they use this method, and not the other? etc. ...

It's kind of weird to think about it though. It's been a subtle shift that has gone undetected while fighting off the ungodly piles of readings in the last few months. But that spirit of questioning and inquiry has been thoroughly incorporated into my very being :P

Doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I think I've:

  • presented 20 times this semester
  • read 4500 pages (sorry, trees) of hardcore academic literature
  • written 4500+ words per week in summaries --> 50,000+ words this semester (sorry again)

Whaaaat. The. Heck.

I've never worked that hard in the last four years combined!

The other highlight for me is having the immense honour (lol) of working with four incredibly bright students with widely varying personalities and backgrounds. We've had many insightful conversations, and many silly regular conversations too. Seriously, I feel privileged to have such intelligent and funny colleagues and brothers-in-arms. We've given each other titles/nicknames, but those stories are going to have to wait for when we publish our awesome book.

Oh, and the shenanigans that we've gotten into... Of course, nothing's broken. We're honourable (groan) lads! But our raucous bouts of laughter will certainly be remembered. I would bet money on our coordinator regretting having accepted five students - five males, no females. :P

I may never return to academia after this but, for this short moment in time, that cramped room with bland furnishings, ordinary computers and four crazy roommates is my ivory tower. And I love it.

...Which means it's going to make working downtown a massive bummer. Damn.

If I had to go back in time by one whole semester, I would do it all over again. It's scary and uncertain at times, but it's also the most interesting challenge I've experienced so far. Speaking of which, I think that's (one of) the tricks to this messy thing we call life... As much as I grumble about the workload every year, it's often the challenge that it presents which keeps me energised.

Personally, I know it's challenging (but doable) if I feel some pressure, and I distinctly feel like I don't know what I am doing. Well to be more exact, I don't know if I'm doing it correctly. And sometimes, I just feel plain stupid, even though the level I'm studying at would suggest otherwise... but immersing yourself in an entirely new way of life will do that to you. And if I don't feel stupid/lost, then I should probably be doing something else.

You know when those people always tell you to go sky-diving, or some shit like that? You don't need to be that extreme to make your life interesting. Honours is like sky-diving for your brain. For 9 whole months. And you'll be a significantly better person for it.

So I guess what I'm saying is: If you're not afraid of a challenge, then go for Honours. It will be the challenge to dwarf all other (academic) challenges thus far. You will absolutely facedesk when you're up at 2am trying to finish your PowerPoint slides for the presentation at 9am. And you will question your sanity when you're facing down the horrible task of reading ~300 pages in depth, every week. But in the end, you won't regret it.


It's been an honour.



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