Looking Back

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!

I’ve added a fancy picture here because reading all that must be an eyesore and you deserve a break. Commendable that you got this far. I wouldn’t have. But thanks anyway. 
Source: not my work

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.

Exhaustion

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Finals are exhausting. In every possible way.

Finals Approach

And I’m at my productive best, ain’t I?

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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.

Spent

The brain 

It does the best it can

But light as it is on its feet

It can’t always make it in a heartbeat 

So it calls up a friend

To take care of the backend

And clean up the mess

Before it begins

And finds a partner in crime

In the spine. 

And sometimes I wish

Good a partner as it may be,

The spine shared more of the brain’s workload

Because mine’s spent

Before I can afford it to

And I need a little more juice to push on

Come on, brain, come on

Me, I’m spent 

Somehow got to make it to the end

Might just stubbornly pull through

But man, I wish I could do that with you. 

Gurgling

Gurgle, gurgle; bubble, bubble.

It’s an odd way to be spending my last few uncertain moments before the proverbial gong is struck.

I’m sitting in a mental space that may well be leagues away from the physical space I’m in: a drab, grey old building that’s known as the place where hopes and dreams go to die.

Right, it may be a bit of an overstatement, but it is what it is. I didn’t give it that reputation.

I’m in our uni’s exam centre here for a math midterm. My last midterm of this year. No more midterms after this, nor any reasons to put off my problem set or studying for the finals.

Which just adds to the reasons why I don’t want this hour to end.

I’ve gotten here a whopping hour early, when I’ve been known to challenge uni-wide records of running to the exam centre in a record five minutes– from home.

It is a bit of a sight seeing me run past buildings with an eye on my watch, expertly dodging unsuspecting university goers who don’t happen to also have a midterm in the same hour.

So in a fashion almost dismissive of my lengthy past records, I’m here early, after having spent a while at the bookstore gazing at how far human civilisation has come:

Bendable scales. Never fear a scale snap in half again! Draw your sine graphs in a jiffy! What a phenomenon.
No, I didn’t say sine graphs, you’re dyslexic. I’m not that much of a nerd.

I gaped and gaped and settled on a regular scale. Bourgeois, welcome me home.

And now I’m probably gonna run back to the bookstore tomorrow and buy me that fancy ruler. I’m a sucker for stationery, as you know.

[An edit added a few hours later: I didn’t even use my ruler. What a shame, there must have been a sine graph on that test just waiting to be drawn. What a shame. I spent my entire test flying high on proofs.]

But as of right now, I’m here, and in a good space. Sample this.

I’m sitting next to something of a waterfall. The sound is pretty calming, and I’m feeling weirdly good about this test. That doesn’t normally happen, and that’s either a good sign or a scary one.

But it looks good, and I feel ready. Kind of. Maybe. Here goes!

Mmmmm. Green. Perfect environment for an epsilon-delta proof.

And so I head in. A good picture deserved a good post, and hopefully a good post deserves a good proof.

QED!

[Post midterm edit: It wasn’t bad! Hooray for bubbles and good proofs!]

Chewing On Nothing In Particular

Have you ever entered a library with the intention of staying and studying all day, determined to last as long as the summer sun (which lasts a while once the DST cycles kick in again, which is also a royal pain when you happen to be up and studying at 1:50 AM, comfortable, only to find that ten minutes later, it’s 3 AM), garner sole attention from the librarian when she comes around at 9 PM to specifically kick you out since they need to close, and then trudge home with the feeling that you’ve done something simply because you weren’t at the table beside your bed, in your nightdress all day?

Oh come on, come finals season, you will see someone in their nightdress down here. It’ll probably be me, for all you know. 

Well, if you do plan this like I do, you probably bring everything you can think of with you and try to find the sunniest, most comfortable spot. You’re gonna be here a while. 

And then you notice, there’s someone sitting next to you 

Or at least, there should have been. But they’ve probably gone to the restroom, and/or asked their neighbour to please watch their stuff for them. 

Do you sit there and wonder who’s sitting next to you?

Do you sit by, and ignore your proofs to play Sherlock on someone else’s major? Wonder what they’re learning, what they find hard, what assignments they’re working, grinding on today? 

I probably shouldn’t. 

I plan on being here a while, and I’ve a midterm tomorrow. I should be curious about my proofs. 

What goes into a Big Oh proof? Can I play Sherlock and sniff out the shape of a graph? What might I deduce from this squiggly line on a paper that my cat would produce as art?

(That’s the point. I don’t have a cat. No cat in their right mind would draw a graph that’s Theta of n squared. Not even accidentally.)

But I should. I should go do it. 

The library’s probably thankful that it’s midterm season and not yet finals. 

They’ve seen me till 12:30 before, and they sure would see me again once the library’s finals-only 24 hour runs begin. 


Where I sit in the library, albeit a strange angle, I admit.

Granted

I sat alone
With the humming of vents
Buzzing in my ears
Familiar chain of events

Everybody’s gone and
I’m the only one left
With a head up so high
And a mind bereft

Of any new thought
Running on rewind
Shutting out the time
I left behind

I wish I may
I wish I might
Just for a few hours
Stop time tonight

And I sat gazing
In endless gloom
Five AM
My predicted doom

Just a day that I might
Be spared the sleigh of time
And she smiled a twisted smile
That wish shall be mine

She came and sat beside me
And smiled like the sun
And my watch stopped working
At a quarter to one.

Just so you know, this is a true story, except no one comes and smiles at you at 1 in the morning. That’s the sort of nightmare I don’t need in my life.

Also, are my circumstances kidding me?! I have two back to back midterms coming up next week, and I do not have the time to replace a battery now!

Just my luck.

—This post was presented to you at 12:45 AM 1:31 AM

Do Soup.

Winters can be brutal.

You’ve got to keep warm, leave early, brave the winds, activate X-Ray vision to see through the snow, perform the most elaborate rituals to ensure a snowstorm brings down that crucial midterm taking place tomorrow…

It’s definitely an elaborate season. And running around all the time, it’s easy to forget to breathe in, even when you can see your own breath in front of you, and Moreno importantly, to keep warm, in spite of the numerous white reminders tapping on your forehead.

So I decided, in the general spirit of doing good, to make people a little reminder.

I drew it up on a particularly snowy day in my residence dining hall while studying French from a library textbook, and I did, for two whole minutes, seriously consider returning the book with an added token of gratitude slipped inside.

In fact, I’m warming up to the fact again.

(See what I did there?)

So be a nice person today.

Pass this around and remind your friends to keep warm, and above all: snort soup, dress warm and snuggly in your velvet mystic robe, and practice them dark arts of snowing days in!

Schrödinger’s Snowflake

As my assignment deadline grows nearer and nearer, I am officially getting closer to the rabbit hole.

At this hour of the day, I can’t recall the exact details here, but some aspects of physics don’t really work the way you’d expect them to when you get really close to some powerful landmarks.

Let’s just say my upcoming assignment deadline is a landmark.

Does this look the same to you as it does to me?

According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, you can never know the exact velocity and position of an object. At this point, I’m pretty close to the deadline’s position on my calendar and my momentum is spiralling outwards and out of control.

It suffices to say, things aren’t looking very normal.

Welcome to my city, a place where we simultaneously experience summer and winter. (I refuse to answer any follow up questions about this “summer” I speak of) Sleep deprivation and insomnia. Panic and procrastination. Dead and alive, and Schrödinger and his cat. And my assignment due.

Although fair to say, the whole city doesn’t have an assignment due. But then again, this close to the deadline, I can’t even be sure. What if they do? What if all this mounting ice we’ having is nothing but the entire city crying over their share of my CS assignment? No wonder the snow tastes salty here.

Pass me the maple syrup please!

It’s probably an error, and with the winds it’s probably no more than -7 degrees anyway, and it’s not going to change the fact that we are living in the centre of a giant skating rink that isn’t nearly melting as quick as it piles up, but there we go, this forecast fascinates me. It’s my current state of mind. On repeat for the last five days or so.

Once this is over with, I am so out. Out cold!

Too Many Symbols In One Picture

Right here, in a single frame, are two iconic landmarks, both representative of the same place I’ve come to grow used to, but my word, both such contrasting figures.

Set against a foreground of what’s miraculously more ground than snow and ice, is the stone memorial Soldier’s Tower, a landmark erected in honour of soldiers who died in the two World Wars, with the CN Tower in the backdrop.

And behind the camera is an ancient relic, so old, withered and tired and falling to pieces, that the two towers might feel like budding roses next to it: me, walking home at 8.

I am so ready to get my assignment done with. I’m so ready for reading week.

I’m so ready fo—

(This post could not be completed as the author dozed off mid-post.)