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What's on YOUR mind?

Man, this bus is dirty. Like really. It’s kind of gross. Do they ever clean public busses? I guess it’s not really a priority, especially in the Canadian winter. I’m fairly certain cleaning the busses is actually at the bottom of OC Transpo’s to-do list, buried beneath finding grouchy bus drivers, disregarding any apparent schedule, and ignoring the desperation of everyone who’s ever ran to catch the bus, only to see it pull away. That, at least, is what I can only be left to assume through my experience as a passenger.

I could never know for sure but I can imagine that there are actually some bus drivers who take pleasure in doing that. They relish every instance of power they can get over their passengers. Oh, here comes another one. He’s got two bags over his shoulders and he’s absolutely dogging it. And damn, that’s a steep hill up from the O-Train. Here he comes. He’s getting closer. Almost there. Ok, now’s my chance. Look straight ahead, close the door, pull away from the curb. It’s 9:30 pm, it’s snowing and I’m already behind schedule (laughs to self at the thought of having a trip schedule). I’ve been that sprinting dude more times than I can remember and each time it happens I become a firmer believer that such a thought process actually exists for bus drivers in my city. It’s like a religion they all share. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they drink wine on their breaks sometimes.

Variations of said power-tripping religion (fetish?) even extends to oh, it’s raining out today. Look at that ocean of water on the side of the road. I sure would love to take the bus through there, just to kick up a storm. Haha! Someone was walking on the sidewalk as I totally soaked him. Oh well, he was already wet in the rain. What are towels for, right?

As a curious and regular bus rider I notice that being blatantly inconsiderate is the first of two frequent trends. Let’s call that story Situation A. The second usual event is what I call Situation B, and it occurs when I’m already on the bus. I don’t know how aware bus drivers are of the schedules of other busses or the train. However, it is easy to remember that the train leaves Bayview on the 0, 15, 30 and 45 of every hour. If you’ve heard of that schedule once, it can’t be hard to remember. So as we pull into Tunney’s Pasture at 9:58, a sensible driver ought to know the train, which is fairly popular, leaves in 2 minutes. What’s surprising is that it is possible to make it there in time. And yet all too often dozens of passengers miss the train because of lazy startups or, worse, those times when the bus just stalls for no apparent reason. And so the seconds tick by, and hope gradually dissipates. It’s the worst feeling ever, to lose hope on the bus. Maybe the driver assumes the train will be late, since that’s always the case with busses. But the reality couldn’t be farther from that assumption. The train is painfully punctual. It leaves exactly on schedule – to a fault sometimes (ie when I miss it).

I don’t mean to rip on the bussing system in my city (actually, yeah I do). I understand bus drivers are just people. They have a responsibility to be pleasant but a right to be cranky. And I know they deal with far less diplomatic people than me every day. By “far less diplomatic” I mean people who actually talk shit to their faces, rather than semi-anonymously and uber-passive-aggressively via a blog post. I digress.

You can’t blame them for their faults. Some are great at what they do. Others are horrible. But that comparison can be made in any field. It just happens that they offer a public service, and as such are held to high expectations. Maybe mine are too lofty (although they often come down to merely courtesy). Could I be a better passenger? Maybe. I could smile and say thank you as I leave the bus. I’ve done that before.

A day later I was covered with water from the side of the street.



As I enter my 4th and final year of university, I can’t help but reflect on the journey I have had so far. I have no doubt that I am a much, much different person than I was when I started here. I seem to have told myself that over and over but I’ve never actually thought about how or in what ways. So allow me to illustrate, with the assistance of hindsight, 41 life lessons I have now learned to understand and appreciate, that have made my life better (for the most part):

  1. Professors are just people.
  2. My peers are a lot like me in many respects.
  3. There is no point wasting my time on people who don’t bring me happiness.
  4. If I only say nice things about people, less people will dislike me.
  5. It is OK for me to dislike people, and it is OK for people to dislike me.
  6. People will remember me not only for what I say but also for what I do.
  7. Belonging to something is an amazing feeling.
  8. Other people know things that I don’t know.
  9. My circle of immediate friends will change from year to year.
  10. Thirsty Thursdays are a trap after 2nd year.
  11. If an assignment is due on Thursday, it should be treated like it is really due on Monday.
  12. For the most part, OC Transpo’s service is a lot better than people make it seem.
  13. “Will I remember this tough moment a year from now?” is a great question.
  14. It is necessary to travel while I am young and able.
  15. I should take more pictures.
  16. Learning new things is actually fun and cool.
  17. Showing emotions is acceptable and normal.
  18. Many more things are actually within my control than not.
  19. Some things are out of my control.
  20. Wearing clothes that I like puts me in a better mood.
  21. I have a lot of nervous energy.
  22. I have to exercise every day or I won’t be able to focus.
  23. Whenever I feel like complaining about something, I should first think about why things are this way, in the first place.
  24. It isn’t my role to pass judgement on the decisions of other people.
  25. If I want to know the answer to something, I should ask instead of guessing.
  26. No means no.
  27. When I am in a club setting, I should dance like nobody is watching me.
  28. It is likely that nobody is watching me dance in that moment.
  29. I secretly do like dancing.
  30. I feel better when I focus on right now than when I focus on the future.
  31. Silence is OK.
  32. Some things in the world need to change, but some other things do not need to change.
  33. It turns out that I actually do love Twitter.
  34. I should not define myself or anyone else by material things.
  35. Not drinking is a viable option on most occasions.
  36. A good leader knows when to be a follower.
  37. I am complimented more when I am not looking for compliments.
  38. Being a good communicator means being a good listener.
  39. Every person defines success in their own way.
  40. Differences challenge assumptions.
  41. I made the right decision for me by going to Carleton.

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“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” – Eckhart Tolle

Tomorrow is the day. The big day. All of the excitement, all of the anxiety and all of the eagerness that comes with doing something so incredibly new is flowing through my whole body. Do you know what it is like when you are on the brink of something you anticipate could be life-changing? Well I’m shaking.

All of the risks that come with such an endeavour seem so secondary to what good this experience will bring out in me. I have been on Earth for 20 years and while I have come close to it before, I fear that I may not have truly lived a day in my life. And this irks me.

Searching for purpose in your life is one of the most challenging and frustrating things you can do. It has brought me to terrible lows before. I have been so close to giving up everything. The emptiness of not knowing what your life is for has been apparent to me many times in the past. In some ways it still haunts me. I have seen the darkness of a misguided existence.

But for some reason I think this chance to participate in the world and see things I have never seen before, meet people who know things I’ve never even thought about before… it is just so liberating. There is liberation in hope. Hope for a life well lived, hope for a meaningful existence. I don’t know if we really live forever. But I think that truly living just once, instead of merely existing, is necessary.

I’m not a hero. If I was a hero I would know by now. I’m a small person in the web of the universe. But in the scope of this entire experience, it does not seem far-fetched to say this is a chance for me to accomplish part of what I believe I have been put on Earth to achieve. I am cautious of this prospect. I am nervous and overwhelmed of the unknown that lies ahead. But do you know what? This cautiousness, this nervousness and overwhelmedness that I feel… it reminds me that I am human and I am alive. It hints to me that this is something I was meant to do.

I was hardly the most well suited for this opportunity. I obtain several imperfections, several flaws and undesirable qualities that are just so human. While I won’t discuss destiny or fate, I will touch on coincidence. 

I applied for Alternative Spring Break on the last day possible. My parents were in  Italy for a wedding at the time and I had to long distance call them to tell them that I was considering applying for a trip that could bring me to Central America. I did not expect them to be as supportive as they were. This was the first event.

I hastily wrote my cover letter and resume and before I submitted my application, I went into a bathroom stall on the fourth floor in Tory Building, alone. I locked the door and sat on the closed toilet seat. With my face in my hands I questioned my aptitude and whether this was right for me. I’m an inexperienced traveller. I have only thought from a North American point of view. I was brought up in an extremely sheltered environment. I have participated in community service initiatives in my own community but never in such an unusual setting as Guatemala. 

The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that I should tear up my application and move on. Then I got a text from my mom. She asked me if I had given my application yet and that she really thought this  was a great thing for me to do. In that bathroom stall she gave me hope. She always does that to me.

I looked at the application again in that bathroom stall and my way of thinking changed. Sure, I would be putting myself into a culture that is outside of my comfort zone, with people I am still in the process of getting to know. But I have always been a curious type.The reasons I had just finished thinking about why I would not be picked for ASB suddenly seemed so inadequate… And after all, what did I have to lose by applying? Right now I can only say this: There is so much to gain that I am thankful that I did. This hope was the second event.

Much to my delight, I got invited to a group interview. The other people there were so supportive. I think they all would have made great teammates. It is a shame they could not all participate. When I found out I was selected, I was ecstatic. It signalled to me that there is some quality in me that is admirable. This was the third event.

I am now here, on the night before the trip, sitting in my room writing this and wondering about the experience that awaits me and my team. What parts of me will I realize? I am nervous and excited to discover parts of myself that have never been tapped into. What parts of me will I let go of? Will I still see the world the same way? The global inequality that exists, the misery that is all too often acknowledged in the world… how will this time spent away from home affect how I see these things? 

To everyone who has supported me, I can’t thank you enough. You have played a bigger role in my decision to participate in the world and to do something with my life than you know. You are what gives me hope to still be here. To borrow a quote from The Buried Life: “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.” And I am going to make it count.

I have been told to go into this experience not expecting to take any particular things from it, and rather to be open minded and open hearted and that I will find everything will fall into place. This is easier said than done. And perhaps I am so stubborn that I can’t help but mention three things I hope to live in this trip: I hope to see that there is an inherent human will to do good, that people want to live in harmony with one another, and that love for life and the things that sustain it are characteristic of all humans. I do not know how this realization will manifest itself. I can only hope that I am able to recognize it. Maybe being human is not so undesirable after all.

That realization would give me true hope.

Surround yourself with people who only emanate negative vibes. Convince yourself that this is as good as it gets and that you don’t deserve to be happy. Ignore anyone who might be able to help you. Believe that nobody else has gone through the same feelings about life that you are.

Walk with your head down. Complain constantly. Make decisions that please you in the short term but damage your future opportunities. Be unaware of those future opportunities.

Never go above the bare minimum. Find your comfort zone and never even think about leaving it. Never do things to benefit other people. Volunteer but expect to be repaid. Keep your frustration to yourself until you can’t bare it, then lash out at anyone who reaches out to you.

Be intolerant of others and their preferences for life. Avoid meaningful conversation at all costs. Depend on other people to bring you happiness, and whine when they come up short. Never acknowledge it when they actually come through. Always demand more from every situation, but never do more, yourself.

Be less active than a rock for long stretches of time. Never listen to music. Hit at least 15 bowls a day to numb the reality that you just don’t give a damn. Never say thank you. Suspect everyone of having selfish motives when they behave in a way that conveniences others. Disregard all advice.

Only use social media to bring other people down. Do not brush your teeth unless you are about to go to the dentist. Ignore many aspects of your own hygiene. Physically harm yourself for attention.

Give up hope.

So many little things have had to go right for me to be where I am at this very moment. I recognize that I am really indebted to the people who have given me the chance to succeed and thrive; who have given me the chance to understand more about me, how I work and how I fit into this big world. It’s really not that big. We’re all so connected. It’s easy to feel connected for me today.

To my friends who have been here since the very beginning. Back when our parents went to coffee mornings together and we played each week. We may not be as close as we once were. You have taught me to never forget where I started.

To the team mates I’ve had, particularly in hockey when I was growing up. I do feel like I was isolated and an oddball for many years. I was always there at the rink but never invited to anything more, for whatever reason. But I want to thank all of you for the time that we spent together. We did win those championships together. I do credit a lot of the things I’m doing now to the positive experiences that we spent together, and the winning attitude that we created.

To the people I met in high school, both whom I still talk to today and whom I haven’t seen since prom. You were there to see me through my awkward stages of uncivilized afro-edness and burly sideburns to the  months I straightened my hair and wore skinny jeans to school every day. And still tolerated me, if not even liked me.

To the friends I’ve made since I started university, particularly in the last 3 months. I would not be where I am today if not for you. I have made such great strides in terms of my self confidence and the image that I’ve created of myself thanks to you. And while I haven’t broken down in front of you yet, I know you will be there for me when it happens.

To my family who through all the ups and downs are still there for me to this day. For being the rock of my life, the ultimate support group. Even though we disagree. I’m starting to realize that my parents can be my best friends. I think I’m getting to the point where it is more sensible to discuss than to argue; to listen than to explain to. You have taught me manners. You have taught me to respect other people. There are plenty of things that I will take from what you have taught me when the time comes that I will start my own family. But that is not in my plans for the near future. As you have reminded me, there is so much time and opportunity for me right now. I would be foolish to let it slip out of my fingers.

To everyone I have ever met, even if it was only for an instant. Everyone who has ever said a word to me, held eye contact with me, believed in me. You have helped me get to where I am. I’ve never felt more in control of my life, and it is largely due to everyone who has been a part of it.

I’ve been able to discover things about myself that I didn’t know I could do. I feel like a leader because the people I surround myself with are so supportive of me. I’ve expanded my friend circle so greatly and it is absolutely wonderful. I’ve decided to really give more than the minimum in several things I’ve been doing, and I’ve been reaping the rewards for my efforts. I’ve found that this is the most rewarding way to live that I have tried so far. I’ve decided to continue on this path for the foreseeable future.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize how good it feels to be involved in something. Whatever excuses I made before, I don’t think I can’t nor want to justify them any more.

We had our Shinerama meeting tonight and suddenly I became so excited for the upcoming regional conference in Waterloo next month… It just came over me. All the plans that we have made for this summer are so achievable and yet not easy. There is just so much for me to look forward to right now. My life is definitely on a high. I never want to come down. I feel like I could be this happy for a very long time.

I have developed as a person so much in the last few years and this is becoming absolutely clear to me. More clear than ever before. I am a leader. I am not worried to admit it. I am a strong and confident and articulate person who others care about, and that… that is the most secure feeling a person can have.

Lately I’ve just found myself feeling more grateful for the gifts that I’ve been provided than I have ever been before. I hope it keeps going.

I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t like when people give me advice on how to live my life. Either it’s because I’m too stubborn to accept what someone else has to say or I’m just not ready to make a change. Even with minor things. But really, what makes someone else feel so entitled to tell me how to do things I’ve been doing for the longest time? On what grounds is someone else better equipped than I am to make choices that they feel are right for me? I feel confident that I know what actions are in my best interest. And while I admit that everyone makes mistakes, myself included, I’d rather do something that ends up not working out because I wanted to than because someone else thought it would be right for me to do.

I’ve been on and off reading this book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and it’s really opened a few doors for me. I’ve discovered that there is a very easy way to make the everyday parts of my life more enjoyable and rewarding. One of the things that Tolle stresses the most in his book is the importance of living in the present. It’s amazing how often we find ourselves pondering the future or reminiscing in the past. If you can task yourself to becoming consciously aware of this every time it happens, you’ll see that it is a very usual way people cope with life’s challenges.

But according to Tolle, there is a better way to live your life. I decided to take his advice and noticed immediately that I’m less stressed and in fact more interested in things that were once redundant and nonsensical. The book suggests that every time you find yourself thinking about the future, to remove yourself from that train of thought and instead focus on your present state of being. Don’t concern yourself over things that you may or may not be able to control and instead put your energy into beingFeel the blankets on your legs when you lie in bed before falling asleep; savour the food you are about to eat at dinner time; pay attention to your pulse and the freshness of everything around you. Become one with the music in your headphones. How do you feel at this very moment? You will find that doing this on a regular basis will lead you to seeing the world in a much different way. Focus on just being.

One example Tolle gives in his book is of walking up flights of stairs. It’s something that we all do on a somewhat regular basis, and it’s a taxing experience. But instead of dreading doing this, or avoiding it altogether, Tolle suggests that you embrace it. Pay special attention to each individual step. Focus on your breathing. Think about how you feel. Set small goals for yourself and put all of your mental energy into the process. When you reach the top of the staircase you will feel like you have truly accomplished something, and that this was something worth doing. You will have arrived at some state of self fulfilment which is truly rewarding.

Similarly Tolle acknowledges that we are often faced with negative thoughts about things. When you find yourself dreading a certain scenario, he suggests separating yourself from that mindset. Create a different identity. Disassociate yourself from those negative thoughts. Convince yourself that this isn’t you who is thinking these things. When you can release these negative feelings and tell yourself that these do not reflect your true outlook of the world, you will feel a great sense of relief.

I know sometimes these habits are hard to break. I know that few people like to take advice about how to live their lives. But once in a while it is a good thing to try something different and see how it works. I’ve found that living in the moment and really coming to terms with the way things are right now is a much more gratifying way to live. What do you think?

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