Life And How To Live It

Published December 23, 2017 · 1049 words · 5 minute read

The following post is a summation of what I’ve learned about living over the past few months. I’ve gone through a minor injury, some major family deaths, career moves… It should be noted that this is a set of personal reflections, not a self improvement post. Who knows, dear reader; you may be able to avoid some of these mistakes I’ve made.

A full semester has come and gone since my last post. For three weeks, the page was replaced with a resume-site:

Resume site.
Resume site.

I built it quickly, utilizing the beautiful IBM Plex web font under the SIL open font license, essentially creating a resume webpage. I like this blog style with a secondary resume page much better. Going forward, I will attempt to continue more personal projects (weekends will be free, yay!) and make notes about my progress here. This post is going to be a little different, though:

The following is a summary of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 4 months, with these catalysts:

  • Deaths in my family and others.
  • The end of my first major relationship.
  • Making major life decisions.
  • Entering and maintaining friendships.
  • Forming my own opinions, beyond empirical analysis.
  • Working at Starbucks Coffee.

At the beginning of this semester, I had just finished a mediocre summer of scrambling to find work and manual labor. I performed a great variety of work- construction, demolition, warehousing, restoration, and other unskilled manual labor. My co-workers, these roles having been attained through a temp agency, were a real diverse cast of characters ranging from rugged, bearded highwaymen to students taking a master’s degree in philosophy. The true benefit of these mixed jobs was meeting these people of all stripes and learning about their experiences.

One particular character who stood out was Gavin, a venerable truck driver who I assisted during nighttime runs to a number of malls in Ottawa. Roughly half of our time on the job was spent traveling from the Industrial Park in Ottawa to Rideau, Bayshore, Tanger, and St. Laurent malls, during which time we had a long while to talk.

My big takeaways from conversations with him:

  • Be kind to others, and expect nothing in return.
  • We are all privileged to live in/ enjoy modern society, as many do not.
  • Take care of yourself now, you won’t get many second chances.

Two months into the summer, I was ‘hired’ by Starbucks Coffee, but didn’t actually start training until September, over two full months later. I worked there until just two weeks ago, having taken my leave due to a combination of my own inability to study engineering/ work a part-time job and very bad, not good, terrible scheduling and laughable store management. I’ll leave a note further down with my thoughts on the company, as this document is arranged chronologically.

As the semester started, I had everything in control. I completed homework from classes regularly and attempted to stay ahead on class material. I was able to do this while working 20-30h a week. Unfortunately, a few time-consuming things happened and I tripped up during the second month of the term, before and during reading week.

These things were the primary contributors:

  • I made a mistake in my relationship, and spent a good deal of time supporting my girlfriend and taking care of her.
  • Roughly a month later, as I hadn’t kept some important promises to her and myself, I broke up with her.
  • My grandfather, who I was rather close with, passed away.
  • I took too long to reduce my hours at work.

All of these things generally knocked my learning off the rails, and I played catch-up for the remainder of the semester. I’ve generally recovered from all of these events now, and I was able to do reasonably well on all my finals.

Roughly a month before finals, I was able to get my foot in a few doors within the Kanata tech park, also known as Silicon Valley North. The end result of these applications and interviews was a job as an Analyst/Software Developer at MNP LLP.

Just before exams, my manager (who is not, per se, a bad person) did schedule me a little more than I was comfortable with, and as a few interviews and review sessions came up and conflicted with my shifts. This led to my resignation.

These are my take-aways from a semester of falling down and trying to get back up:

It’s just you - The problems that you embody are, yes, the product of your experiences. Using those experiences as a crutch, as I was, in an incredibly unproductive and unhealthy way to avoid responsibility for your actions.

It’s not a race - Though many attempt to fly through school to a job, house, wife, kids, mortgage, alcohol and the comfortable middle class- I don’t want this. Up until this point, I’ve generally lived day by day, fumbling forward through life, class, bills and relationships. It’s a sorry way to live, and if I continue, I know exactly where I’ll end up. With counselling and mindfulness I have come to understand that I need to work at my own pace, and open my mind as much as I can to the people and knowledge available to me.

My current chapter, with my young and allegedly sculptable mind, is one for learning - A mentor gave me a kick in the pants here, urging me to learn as much as I possibly could in my next few years. I had been trying to pursue many side projects, but for the most part, had been slogging through my Electronics and Mathematics courses at the University in an uninterested manner (and not much else.) This comment caused a dramatic re-evaluation of why I was learning.

Organize to Relax - Currently, I’m learning how to be more mindful and less stressed. I am not very good at forming habits, but have been frequently attempting to apply different structures to my mornings and evenings. Nothing has quite clicked yet, but with more consistent wake-up/sleep times this semester (working,) I will be able to really isolate my variables and construct a good morning routine. Regimenting cleaning and cooking has helped as well, and I will continue to optimize these systems to maximize time for personal projects.