This is the view from my window. It’s an absolutely lovely day, about fifteen degrees, not too windy, not a cloud in the sky, not a drop of rain.
If I’m being honest, I never imagined I’d ever come to find such a day appealing. I’ve spent eighteen years praying the sun away. Monsoon was not just a day when the rains poured, monsoon was a mood. It was the stop,–drop–and–roll! call, where you’d leave everything aside, pick up all your work, and just lodge your butt over a chair in the balcony. A cloudy day always held a calming presence over me, in fact it still does. But the way you respond to it varies in 30 degrees, and in 9.
We’ve had a drearily soppy week. Picture strong winds laced with rain pellets. Feel the little puddles on uneven ground, and water in your shoes and soaking into the socks. Saturday was a complete turnaround compared to the rest of the week, and Sunday’s looking like a cracker… from the glass of my window.
If it were up to me, I’d go completely Canadian on this weather. I’d go out for a long and pointless walk, just to greedily soak up a little more of the fleeting sunshine. Tomorrow’s scheduled to be cloudy. But of course, it must only look this good outside on a day I’ve really got to buckle down and work for a two-midterm onslaught to follow in the next two days.
So I’ll sit here, looking up occasionally from my work under the nefarious tubelight, and eventually the sun will go down and we’ll all sigh a sigh and forget, some of us thinking back on a lovely day well spent, and some others, in typical fashion, grunting and growling and muttering under their breath, will get ready to end a day and awake to the putrid petroleum smell of a fresh midterm season (does midterm season smell like petrol?)
Anyway, sorry for dragging you into this rant. I hope you’re enjoying a good sunny day, if you live somewhere cold, or a relaxed, cloudy, calm day, if you live somewhere hot. It’s amazing how the perspectives can shift along just a few latitudes!
Anyway, if you’re mad about five minutes well wasted, here’s some eye-candy for you. Hope the fall satiates you, and have a great Sunday!
There aren’t monsters under beds,
I think I can say that for sure;
There’s one in the bathroom
And it’s a toilet paper-vore:
Yesterday, I changed rolls,
Today, I’m changing roles;
It’s the third one this week
That’s just been devoured whole
So one and all,
Lo and behold:
Your poet’s stepped into
The investigator’s mould—
Is this a stroke of genius
By a next door neighbour bold,
Who has us in the palm of their hand,
And our rolls in their stranglehold?
Have I just lost all my sense
Of normal space and time?
Maybe all those tests are now
Eating this brain of mine
Or is this just a frantic
Effort on life’s part
To get this indoorsey CS kid
To finally trip down to Walmart?
Either way, one and all,
The joke’s growing old;
This is not the college story
I’d like twenty years hence told!
For the record, I’m not really indoorsey, I’m just cold. It’s 9 degrees outside and we’re on the lakefront. It has dramatic effects on a nice warm day’s efforts to keep you from freezing. It belittles the sun until it loses all motivation, and if that doesn’t ruin your day, you need to sign up for a CS degree.
And I really did change the toilet rolls yesterday, and they’re over today. Someone is eating toilet paper here, and this is not the sort of thing I imagined would make a Sherlock plot scene. “Mr. Holmes, we’ve been loo-ted!”
Every new year reminds me of how bad I am remembering names, and remembering in general. I don’t know how I’m capable of forgetting someone’s name two sentences after I’ve asked it. ‘You’ is my best friend. And you, nameless friend, are a friend now, just as soon as I’ve got your name down.
On the flip side, I do hide behind the curtains of “you probably can’t remember my name either”. I don’t blame you. I also don’t help by prefixing my introduction with “uuuuh,” like I had to think of what my own name is. It’s really befuddling. I’d had a period last year where people would walk up to me (“hey you!”) and I wouldn’t remember at all having spoken to them, though they would. I guess sometimes when you don’t know someone, you’re just too busy focusing on what you could say next so that they don’t look away and you can really have a shot at making a friend.
(Of course, this is before you forget their name for the third time).
Anyway, we’re all probably bad at this. It’s just that time of the year. By December, we’ll all be used to weird names and will probably have invented a few of our own. In certain areas, I am still, in fact, known as the monocle-wearing, fedora-tipping, moustache-twirling English undercover columnist called James.
After months of filling forms, your doctor’s appointment will begin to read like your latest college application.
Name: Mr. James Owen
Age: 18 years old
Date of appointment: Freshman, undergraduate, 2019-20
Reason for visit: Ever since I was a young child, I have wanted to visit the doctor. This selfless man with the white coat and the stethoscope asking me to take a seat as a four-year old on Christmas morning with a Thomas the Tank Engine play-set stuck in my mouth, shoved in with Thomas and a few of his mates intact (or maybe not) in pure excitement of the sort only a four-year old high on Nesquick on Christmas morning could be, I was enraptured by this man and his love for his art, and the enigmatic pearls of wisdom he occasionally sprouted.
He spoke seldom, and when he did, it almost wasn’t ordinary human English.
“Aaaah”, he said, and while that should have made no sense at all, somehow, I understood the man. His command over his subjects was complete, his composure and dignified mannerisms subtle, yet screaming.
He nodded ever so slightly and passed me an ancient puzzle, a few scratches on a paper. Once again, while none of this made any sense to me, mum seemed to understand, he was universal; she nodded, although I felt her body relax for some reason, as in defeat.
‘Oh shit, I think I’m close to the word limit, I gotta end this!’
“—That incident left a very deep impression on my younger self, and for the last fifteen years, I have only had one thought every night that I go to bed: I would like to study medicine at Harvard.”
‘There we are, now we just sit and await that call.’
Ten minutes later, a nurse walks out holding a clip pad and a wearing a concerned expression.
‘Mr. James Owen?’
‘Yup, that’ll be me. Tell me, did I make it?!’
‘Mr. Owen, it’s alright, I’d like you to come with me.’
‘Nurse, where are we headed?’
‘We read your profile, James, and there may be a slight problem,’
‘Oh dear! Would you need an additional portfolio? Recommendations? My thesis from summer research?’
‘No Mr. James, you’re really sick, and just to make sure you’re not a hazard to yourself or anyone around you, we want a little check up.’
‘Nurse, you must have made a mistake, I’m perfectly fine! Take a look at my athletics! I played for Junior Varsity, I’m very fit indeed!’
‘Don’t worry kiddo. It’ll all be okay.’
‘No, no, what does that mean? I’m perfectly fine, I told you, I’m not crazy! Are you rejecting me?!’ Nurse smiles sweetly
‘We only wish the best to you now, and in all your future endeavours. Come with me.’ ‘What?! Nooooooooo!!’
Here we go, it’s finally over. I’ve reached the end of the game. Whether or not I’ve crossed the finish line, the game’s over. The suspense may have been killing me, but I’m too exhausted to feel the suspense at this point.
Year 1 is over. I’ve finished a whole academic year at university, my first big change since high school began. It’s had its ups and downs and sheer ecstasy moments; I’ve loved the freedom that’s with being on my own in university, I’ve enjoyed being able to prove myself wrong— in good ways! I’ve loved what I’ve learnt this year, not just in that typical ‘personal growth’ way, but also academically: it’s nice to fall in love with an area you may be in for a long time to come!
I’ve also come to fall in love with the area we live in: downtown Toronto, the heart of the city. I’ve always been a city kid, but my “city” ended in the suburbs—I never fancied living in the rush of the sprawling upward expanses with square glass fingers desperately stretching higher skywards in a place where you’d enjoy it if you live for the thrill of the fast lane 24/7.
Not my kind of thing. But I’ve come to love it. It’s not entirely an about turn, though. Our campus is 1865 powering its way into 2019 and adamantly staying that way, and it’s beautiful. It’s neo-gothic style architecture drives students crazy (and me; sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s a tourist and who’s a student because even as recently as this month, eight months in, my phone camera is still out. This was on the way to an exam location, no less. I guess imminent death makes everything look prettier! (Naw, it’s pretty as it is)
Now that I’m sitting home, it’s kind of this bittersweet wait. A long, anticipated wait.
I’m awaiting grades and major decisions. It’s been a chaotic last few weeks, and my finals weren’t even half the reason. Finals don’t stress me out, as you’ve clearly seen. All my best work (a twenty-six and counting comics included) comes during my highest periods of pressure. And I’m not even talking academic work. My creative output skyrockets under pressure. When people bring up the whole debate about the tortured artist, I hide my face and run away. It’s not something I can pretend doesn’t happen!
But it’s been a tiring year.
I am, or at least, at this point, I think I am, a computer science student. I can’t pretend I knew much better when I signed up for this, but apparently it’s a well sought-after major. Which means resources are limited, but the demand is pretty high. Which means stuff gets competitive. My school is one of those that selects majors once you’re already in college, so you have a bunch of people scrambling around for places in a pretty limited program, because everyone can take their shots. At the end of the year, based on how you’ve fared compared to the rest of your class, you’re either in, or you’re not.
And guess what, it’s the end of the year.
So it boils down to this. Numbers will be concrete now. The hypothesisations are out. Over. I could be out and over. The possibilities are literally limitless and are veritably driving me nuts.
I’ve been doing more math than computer science this last month, and there are so many loose ends. I don’t normally think of myself as someone with loopholes. It’s a challenging field out there, and while I can’t say the actual coursework has been stressing me out—no sir, I’ve loved it—the consequences of messing something up are killing me. Getting an assignment back is no longer about look! So much of this is right, I’ve learned—maybe even mastered—so much!, it’s about oh no, I’m below the class average this time! How much better am I going to have to do on the next assignment to make this up? Back to the calculator it is!
At this point, I genuinely don’t even remember why I liked computer science in the first place. There’s this hazy mist above my head that’s saying “I remember I used to like it, so I must’ve liked it. Can’t recall why though.” I’ve forgotten what I wanted to do after college, what area of computer science I wanted to specialise in. Goals have shrunk down to micro-goals. What do you want to do in life? I want to get into second year. I don’t remember what came beyond that. Was it research of some sort I’d wanted to do? Go into graphics or interaction or something? Jump on the AI bandwagon? (Look, I’m open, but that probably wasn’t it. I feel an internal need to run away from the mainstream, even if it may end up being something interesting. I wish I could change that, but my internal magnet repels way too strongly.)
The point is, I don’t remember, I’m just so exhausted and worn out, that me saying anything about this will have me sounding like a broken record (ask my poor roommate). I used to be kinda interesting, you know. I used to talk computer science stuff like I was really interested, and I’d leave the conversation having you hooked onto something you’d never imagined you’d find interesting or remotely imagine spending the day with (I can vouch for myself here because I’ve had a twenty minute conversation with a self-proclaimed luddite on binary storage. Better times! Talk to me about it if you’d like, I’ll see if I still have it left in me).
Well, here’s the thing, me not knowing is worse, because it means I’m going to have to do the painful discovery process thing again. If I need to get my ass out of this place and at a new place that’s not quite as much of a gladiator showdown, I’ll need to write another bunch of long and thought out essays on why a college should have me as a computer science major. Last year, I’d swore I wouldn’t do that again.
So here we go, it begins again.
The hunt, the search, the outputting. If you missed the shitshow last year, here’s a repeat telecast.
Man, I just want to be sure, for once. Just know that there’s something out there that I can come back to, and bank on. Maybe you’d call it a backup.
I really don’t want to have to go. I love the place, I love the people, I love what I do. I have friends (I am personally surprised by the number of people I’ve discovered in the last month that would vouch for me) and I was really settling in quicker than I ever have before.
Starting uni, I really just hit the ground running. Things weren’t out of place, culture shock didn’t really hit me, I was weirdly not homesick either (hurray for WhatsApp!) and I really just clicked. It was a beautiful feeling, almost like Toronto had been waiting for me since forever. Even if it wasn’t me in question, Toronto can make anyone feel home and familiar, I’ve noticed, but hey, this here is my theatre production, so back to me.
You can’t seriously be telling me at this point that I’m going to have to pack up and move. Not after I’ve worked that hard. Not after things have worked. Not after everything had been blue skies (actually no. Grey skies with a 40% chance of snow; this is Toronto, guys!) and wind in the sails and a 90 on cruise control. The blow those finals dealt me has me kind of stunned, because me numbers don’t predict graceful nosediving worth a perfect 10 in synchronised swimming.
Basically, I’m confused. I didn’t see that coming and I am not prepared for it. Denial may kick in soon, but I need to plan my bust before that happens.
Look, there’s nothing pretty about this piece of writing anymore, it has descended into a pure mad rant. This is Lady Macbeth checking in, deliriously washing the blood of her murdered grades off her hands and whispering, what have I done? Or more precisely, when have I done this? Can someone tell me what is going on here.
You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to, it’s a one-person tragedy now. There’s no more script, just rants. Just someone who doesn’t want to write FIVE more personal statements and who wants a tiny little bit of security in life.
Ironically enough, here’s a computer science major insecure. I heard an english major whining about it the other day and sympathised. Well guess which one of us knows they’re gonna be at this uni in four years time and actually graduate.
The irony kills me.
The competition just killed me. It’s almost not fair.
If you’d have told fifth grade me about this, you’d have gotten a smirk.
Trivial. All you’ve got to do is get from first year to second year!
Yeah, it’s totally that simple when you’re not in my major. Really. I have nothing remotely optimistic or witty or quirky to say. I can’t say I’ve learnt how to deal with anything better than I would have without this kind of failure. I’m a little bratty about not getting my way and this isn’t a humbling learning experience. I’ll probably remain a brat. All those easier colleges we collectively shit on because ‘we’re so hard’, I shall probably not feel sorry or take back all that, shall we call it, letting off steam? It’s not a learning curve, we genuinely are harder. I’ve compared course syllabi with other schools, and I like ours better. Call it a learning curse. I shall be sorry to not have access to the incredible stuff my uni’s computer science department has to offer if I leave. I just wish I could still have made it.
I just wish for once I could go to bed thinking I’m a tiny bit of a satisfactory success.
This one’s admittedly a little lo-fi, but you have to understand, I’m a computer scientist, not an artist! (Walks away clutching back)
Also yes, the title’s ironic. And the irony’s a cover up for my absolute lack of decisiveness when it comes to deciding what a good title could be. Do understand I’m pathetic at titles. We’ve gotten to a point where I’ll openly admit it. Readily admit it. Our lot isn’t meant to be too creative, our only goal in life is to sleep, please.
I mean approaching, formally. Like the absolute value of the difference between my math final and I, is getting really small and fast. And thank goodness for that absolute value, because this distance would’ve been negative without a doubt otherwise.
Also, mathematicians must hate physicists. And computer science first years too, probably.
Assignments can be a little woozy sometimes
Especially at 4 in the morning
I get that
I also get sleepy
And I care, you know?
I’ll see us through
I need to see me through too
And I have a strong back
And a stronger stomach
I’ll carry you
Sure I will
But not if you press down on me
And pretend you’re a hundred and four fucking kilos
And if you’ve a lot on your mind
Mine has blanked from exhaustion
And if I say, sure, I’ll take the heavier load
It means you take a load too, good sir
We learned in class
Of divide and conquer
That doesn’t work if the only dividing is between us
It’s slower if I need to look behind us
And go back to pick up the pieces of a mess
And when I say you get shit done
You get shit done, okay?
Because it might be my assignment too
And incomplete outputs might fail a test case or two
But I wonder what it’s gonna be like
When assertEqual returns an error:
“Expected return: True
Got “This method ain’t implemented cuz my partner didn’t do shit”.
This isn’t me, and I’m super thankful, but one of my friends is seeing a slightly less specific variant of this. It amazes me, and while I’m no one to judge how you’ve planned out your semester, why on earth would someone do that? It’s horrible. It’s disgusting. I try to imagine how many hours of my life I could’ve saved had I not spent all my weekend in a study space working on a problem set. How many more nights I am just not going to be able to sleep because we have an assignment due next week, and it’s big. It just irks me. It irks me a bit that I’m working. There’s no getting around it for me, sure thing. I’m not planning to. I’d feel awful if I did, and if I’m being honest, as hard as they might be, there isn’t too much to resent them for but time and the stress. I learn a lot from them. But someone absolutely shirking off their share of the work and still getting a grade, then flying high and coming down crashing after the final and then bitterly shitting on our school, that just disgusts the fuck out of me, it’s horrible.
And rant almost over.
As for my own case, I sometimes feel like my own assignment partners are more moral support than actual working partners. Some days, it just feels like I’m doing a proof or writing an algorithm or something, and they’re nodding along going, “yes, that makes total sense!” Sure it does, buddy, but can you also write the next proof so we’re done quicker? I really, really, want nothing more than an unbroken, undisturbed 11 hours of sleep. Just one night that I can sleep without planning for and booking off the first thirteen hours of the next day. Once.
Now for the better stuff! I’m going to see Muse this Thursday! I’ve been waiting for this day since November, and after five years of absolutely adoring the band, I’m finally going to be able to go see them live, and I almost can’t believe it!
No assignment, not even the finals could have kept me away, and nothing will!