The Power to Inspire, The Responsibility to Succeed


I’ve learned in my life, now more than ever, that getting involved is difficult. Going out into the big, bad world and finding your way is eye-opening, motivating, and incredibly challenging. Hever, it’s important that students seek out new experiences because of all that they will learn about themselves. Personally, almost every quality that I’ve come to respect about myself was discovered from a completely new experience. My boldest endeavour: taking a trip to Kenya to contribute to a school building project. For someone who had only traveled outside of the country once in his life, it was a huge step. I was (and still am) quite shy, not to mention a little immature and naïve, but it turned out to be the greatest learning experience I’ve ever had. If you have yet to travel internationally, your first trip will be the most challenging and rewarding opportunity you’ve ever had.

The inspiration to do something courageous is often sporadic and it always occurs differently for everyone. I look to one of the world’s greatest pop culture icons for motivation; I’m a geek, so it’s obviously not a singer, an actor, or an athlete. He’s a fictional character with girl problems, teenage angst, and super villains. You guessed it: it’s your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man! You’ve obviously heard the news: Spidey will be joining Captain America, Iron Man, and the other Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s exciting news for everyone’s favourite wall crawler; fans will finally (hopefully) receive the Spider-Man movie we’ve been wanting for over a decade, which means the hero will be bigger and more popular than he’s ever been. That’s saying something, too—Spider-Man is one of the most profitable pop culture brands in the world, with over $1 billion worth of merchandise sold with his likeness last year alone. He’s a big deal for Disney, and an even bigger deal for millions of people around the world.

Spidey isn’t my favourite superhero, but I would argue that he’s the greatest one. He’s imperfect but relatable, besides the fact that he has spider powers. More importantly, he overcomes and inevitably triumphs whatever hardships come his way. Be they super-villains or challenges with his girlfriend, Spider-Man keeps on keeping on stronger than ever. That’s what I admire about him; despite the odds, he doesn’t give up until he ultimately succeeds. Through personal tragedy, he forged his destiny as an under appreciated good guy with great power and the greater responsibility to do what’s right. He doesn’t do it for the fame or the glory (which, surprise, he doesn’t often get), but to honour a promise he made to himself after he refused to act selflessly. Spidey represents the power of the human spirit to persevere and inspire others, which leads me to believe that he’s the ultimate pop culture hero.

The character is fictional, but he represents human qualities that are entirely real. His exploits invigorate me to get involved, even if that might seem downright impossible to do. But if Spider-Man can overcome, then I can too. Whoever serves as your inspiration, real or not, remember them when in pursuit of your goals. You might not have superpowers, but you’re capable of anything when you put your heart and soul into it.

Learning To Truly Love Yourself… A Work In progress


Who do you love and appreciate most in your life? Family, friends, celebrities, and your personal role models probably come to mind first… but what about yourself? Do you truly love yourself for who you are, and not how you want others to see you? This has a little to do with humility, and a lot to do with what constitutes true and honest values towards personal identity.

You’ve heard it all before, about loving yourself and not letting others change your perceptions of yourself. Easier said than done. We are all capable of putting up a façade of complacency and coolness in regards to how we view ourselves, but let’s not play around. What others think of us matters, and this affects how we feel about ourselves.

Learning to love yourself takes time and effort and is probably still ongoing for us all. The process is different for everyone, although it usually involves discovering and embracing what you enjoy most. That was certainly the case for me, and it’s only been a recent occurrence in my life.

I was (and still am) a quiet individual, so I didn’t get as involved in school as I would’ve liked. My childhood was happy, but not very exciting—lots of video games, comic books, and creative expression. However, this lifestyle didn’t completely satisfy me. I saw my friends play sports and go on exciting vacations while I was stuck doing the same old stuff. What I loved to do just didn’t seem like it was enough, which made me doubt myself. Attempting to compensate through name-brand clothing and a cocky attitude didn’t help much either. I didn’t appreciate who I truly was, but who I thought that I wanted to be.

Although I don’t accept everything about myself completely, as there are always aspects of ourselves that we can improve, I do appreciate the strengths of my character. Through volunteer opportunities and roles of responsibility, I learned to exercise my creativity and my desire to make the world a little bit better. Although I enjoy quiet time, getting involved in the community taught me that I was more capable than I realized. This newfound confidence allowed me to explore more international experiences and challenge myself.

Learning to love yourself starts when you accept your weaknesses. I’m skinny, awkward, geeky, pretty weird… but I’m okay with those traits, because they define who I am right now. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve, but I recognize that I can embrace my quirks and still achieve success. I love myself—moderately, of course. I know that I’m unique and have important ideas and skills to offer.

That can be for you as well. If you recognize your own faults but still challenge yourself in spite of them, then you deserve to be proud of yourself. Get involved, embrace your passions, and you will be rewarded. Love others, and you will be loved… but learn to love yourself, too.

A Different Way of Doing Reading Week…


What was the first question your friends asked you when you saw each other after Reading Week? It probably had something to do with what you did while on break. So what did you do? Did you relax, unwind, socialize, read (yeah, right)? How about this: did you make a difference in your community during your Reading Week? Did you give your time to help out those in need or those who deserve it most? That was the goal of Alternative Reading Week, offering students the chance to make their Reading Week a meaningful one. You might not have even heard of this program before now, so I’ll explain it as best as I can and why it will make you rethink Reading Week.

Alternative Reading Week is an opportunity to volunteer in the community for three days on your break, for two hours each day, in a field of your choice. Fields include working with the elderly, children, the disadvantaged, and more. You work in a team of five or more other students, including your group leader. What you might not know is that you also receive a credit on your co-curricular record upon the successful completion of the program and its required reflections and social events. It’s a chance to give back and receive recognition for doing so; how cool is that? You’ll still have plenty of time to relax, too, if you don’t have too much work to complete over your break.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience immensely. Volunteering was my favourite pastime in high school, and I contributed over 400 hours in my local community. Much of my time was given to assisting and mentoring children, which was the field that I chose for my Alternative Reading Week. It was gratifying to be able to continue the tradition in university with like-minded students. Although we only worked with each child for one hour, our team had fun assisting bright young students with their academic pursuits in math and English. They have the potential to pursue their dreams, and it’s an awesome feeling to contribute to their success in a small way. As well, my team members worked well together, with each of us contributing something unique to the project.

Which brings me to my only real complaint: the working hours for the project. They just were not long enough to really get to know the students we assisted. It would be awesome if next year we could take a trip to a classroom and help out there for the day, or something like that. The experience needs to last for the entire day to make it feel truly unique and worthwhile.

Alternative Reading Week will change how you look at your time off and what you do with it. If you have the time next Reading Week, you won’t regret getting involved because of what you will learn about this community. I recaptured the nostalgia of mentoring others, reigniting a passion that I will find a way to continue in my later years. Hopefully, the daily commitment becomes more substantial next year for the best possible experience. It’s a different way of doing Reading Week, but a really great way at that.

Have a Piece of Humble Pie


It’s great to be proud of yourself; we are all awesome people with unique talents, skills and personalities. The world is a unsettled place, but our lives lay ahead of us. We have destinies to forge, and potential greatness to realize. It’s the most exciting time in our young lives.

However, pride has its limits; beyond a certain point, it becomes distasteful to those around you. Ego has to be kept in check; we are all human, after all, and none of us are without our flaws. Thinking that we’re above the people around us, that we’re more important to the world than the strangers we pass by and meet everyday is an ideal that is destined to fail. As students at UTM, we still have a lot to learn about the real world and ourselves. We’re each the sum of different histories and experiences; don’t place yourself on a pedestal when you have no idea what other people have gone through. Their unknown hardships, and their evident compromises and triumphs, will surely make yours seem insignificant in comparison; if they compose themselves humbly, than you should to.

Humility is an under appreciated practice in our generation. Living within your means, not asking too much of others, choosing not to take yourself too seriously…these are all humble practices. They don’t devalue or depreciate you as an individual, they just make you more approachable, reliable and relatable. As cool as you think you are when you wear overpriced clothing or buy a new piece of technology, you will be even cooler to those around you when you present yourself as you really are. Look around and you’ll see dozens of teens who reflect what they believe society has determined to be favourable. They act like they don’t care about anyone else because that is apparently what justifies being cool. A totally flawed, totally misjudged perspective on being a member of the community in my opinion. They will find themselves eventually, because we all do in some way or another.

In simple terms, be yourself; when you’re proud of living as you truly are, everyone else will see it too. Respect yourself and those around you, but don’t lose sight of your own human vulnerability and fallibility. Have a slice of humble pie every once in a while… it’s better for you than you think.

Perhaps There’s Hope…


You don’t hear about many acts of kindness in the world today; sadly, stories of tragedies and heartbreaks outsell ones of happiness and hope. It seems like unrequited generosity is a lost art to most people, and that is a troubling thought. We all have the capacity to do more for others, but we just as easily make excuses
as to why we can’t do those generous things. An unfortunate cycle that
perpetuates over and over again.

citizens are often the undeserving victims of this uncaring behavior. They are considered
by some to be fragile, naïve, obstructive, and are treated as such. We have all
been guilty of avoiding a senior instead of assisting them at some point in our
lives. We immediately regretted the decision, but we have sacrificed doing the
right thing to avoid feeling embarrassed. We know better now (or we should), but
we may not choose to act on our insight when a situation presents itself. We
let our own dilemmas distract us from doing the right thing sometimes, which is
a trait we all share that demands improvement.

there are people in our communities that embody selflessness and humility; we
all know and admire one person in our lives who are just like this. These aren’t
just good people, they’re great ones who do what’s right without expecting
compensation. They respect others in equal measure, regardless of differences
in age, physicality, or appearance. You don’t hear stories of their efforts
published in newspapers, but that doesn’t discourage their will to give back.

grandmother briefly met someone like this last week. She was at the nail salon,
waiting for her appointment, when a man entered. He had an appointment before
my grandmother, and apologized for making her wait. My grandmother thought
nothing of it, but thanked him anyways. After my grandmother had been served
and was at the register to check out, the owner of the salon told my
grandmother that she didn’t need to pay him anything. My grandmother,
perplexed, asked why. The owner revealed that the man from before had paid for
her $25 treatment. Unannounced, he did something incredibly kind for my
grandmother that she won’t soon forget. A kind gesture from a stranger, one that
most of us wouldn’t have even considered to do in the first place, made my
grandmother’s day. She has recounted it to anyone who will listen to her since.

the gentleman whose generous action put a smile on my grandmother’s face: your
unrequited kindness has made an impression on my family that is truly inspiring,
and for that we thank you. Acts of respect like yours prove to everyone around
you that they too can become a better person like you with ease. Your humility towards
an elderly woman you didn’t know, without the ego or desire to be formally
recognized for your action, speaks volumes about your extraordinary character.
If only we could all emulate your behaviours on an everyday basis, our
communities and societies would be happier and more prosperous places to live,
work, and participate in. Perhaps there’s hope for us yet; we just have to work
to make it a reality.

So let’s all do our part
for the community. Be the best person you can and learn to accommodate others
who are different or disadvantaged compared to yourself. There’s so much good
in the world—embrace it, and your perspective on life will change, guaranteed.

The Future Is Uncertain… But That’s Okay!



Do you have it “figured out”? Do you know what you want to do with the rest of your life, what career you want to have in the future? If you answer yes, you’re
doing something right! For the vast majority of students who say no, don’t fret.
Unless you’re in fourth year—then perhaps “fretting” isn’t such a bad course of
action. It’s normal not to know where you want to go and what you want to do with
your life; choosing to go to UTM was hard enough. Mapping out the rest of our
lives… How the heck are we expected to do that when we can’t even decide on the
foods we want to eat and how we want to pass the time today? In my opinion, not
knowing what you want to do with your life at this very moment is okay; provided
are some examples and statistics that are aimed to ease some of your fears for
the foreseeable future. Of course, if you do currently have clear career goals,
please read on with those in mind; perhaps you’ll learn something that you hadn’t
considered before.

majority of jobs that current grade school students will have in the future haven’t
even been created yet. Please do some research online; you will find various
statistics to support this claim in some fashion. The dynamics of economies are
changing in light of technological advances, whether we want them to or not.
That means that you will likely be employed in a job later in your career that
doesn’t even exist yet. How do you even attempt to plan for 10 or 20 years in
the future when we don’t know what the job market will look like at that point
in time? As a UTM student, you have a wide variety of opportunities and events
to network with professionals and learn about the world at large. If you choose
to take advantage of as many of those experiences as you can, you will learn
new skills and advice that will benefit you later in life. Every experience,
good or bad, is a learning
experience; be open to these opportunities and your life may head in an
exciting and unexpected direction. If you have an interest in something, follow
up on it while you still have the time—you never know where it’ll take you.

lives, and indeed the world, will change in ways that we can’t even begin to
understand now. It goes without saying that your career plans will change too.
Very often, reality has a way of hitting us when we least expect it; our lives,
for better or worse, must adapt to those changes. It would be great for life to
play out exactly as we’d like it to, but that’s just not how it goes. How do
you make solid plans for the future when it can all shift so rapidly? That’s
why not knowing your career goals right now is okay; your
life may take an unexpected turn in the road, and your past goals may get replaced
by new ones that are more realistic to your situation. Work hard, confide in
others, believe in yourself, and refuse to give up. You’ll find your way, even though
it might take longer than you’d anticipated.

We will all find our path eventually… Some have
discovered it sooner than others, and that’s okay. The future is uncertain, and
that may seem quite scary to you. You’re not alone; there are probably hundreds
of students at UTM currently that don’t yet know where they want to end up in
the coming years. Don’t be afraid to try new things, to meet people, and to go
in unforeseen directions—easier said than done, but doable nonetheless. You might
just end up where you were meant to be—somewhere new, unexpected, and equally

The Right Way… Or The Easy Way?


“Life is easy,”… said no one seriously, ever! What will you ever learn from treading the path of least resistance, from forsaking what is challenging for what is simple? Not a whole lot. Life isn’t a walk in the park, nor should it be for anyone. Humans are meant to be challenged throughout our daily lives. It keeps our minds honed and prepared for wherever we go or whatever we choose to pursue next. Yet, we don’t think in this way most days; we live busy lives already. What’s the use of going out of our way to do something that we deem a good but unnecessary idea, for ourselves or another person? What’s the use of inconveniencing ourselves today for the gain of someone else or for a goal we have that is many years down the road?

Well, as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the easy way is not always the right way to live our lives in most cases. Fulfillment can rarely be achieved in the same old daily routine; for example: eat breakfast, go to work or school, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, repeat. When put in words, the daily routine sounds incredibly boring, and it is! When you can forecast exactly what you’ll be doing in a week’s time, and how each day will more or less play out for you, that’s when you know you’d do well with a little change in your life. It might make your time more constrained throughout the day, but if you have the right attitude, you’ll surely succeed.

Vice versa, the right way will rarely be the easy way to do things. It’s difficult to decipher the difference on days when you’re not in the best of shape, and that is perfectly acceptable. On your off-days, doing things for yourself is often the best course of action for a rapid recovery. But on the days when you’re bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and as ready as ever to face the day ahead—that’s when you should realize that the easy way should leave you unfulfilled after all is said and done.

So what exactly is the right way to do things, to live your daily life? It’s important to note that “right” is a subjective term; there is no “right” way to do anything, really. Everyone is entitled to their own ideas on what they deem is right for them. What I’m referring to as the “right” way here is essentially being in a state of mind that openly seeks out and accepts opportunities, experiences, and challenges that are outside of your established daily routine (I hope that you agree. If not, please hear me out).

Always having enough tasks or short-term goals to complete throughout the year, aside from the toils of the week, is a way to be proactive, experience lasting fulfillment, and involve yourself in the community. For students, a proactive task that you can start right now is to research and apply for scholarships. Applying for one relevant (and preferably local) scholarship a month is a rewarding endeavor that will inevitably pay off down the road. Alternately, one of the best ways to live life for the right reasons is to do things for others on a regular basis—for your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and even complete strangers! Looking for ways to help others that are most deserving almost every day will reward you tenfold.

This could be giving back to the community, helping out a family member or friend with a job that needs doing, or smiling and saying hello to strangers that you pass. Incredibly simple, yet surprisingly difficult for most people, myself included! However, you won’t regret doing it. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, of what comes easy to you, is a very brave endeavour and is something to be proud of.

The hardest part of this “right” lifestyle is finding or rediscovering balance. My suggestion: estimate how much time outside of work or class that you have to dedicate each week to get projects, readings, and other schoolwork completed on time. With the remainder of your time, identify three activities or hobbies you would like to get involved in each week that will still allow you to have some deserved free time. Perhaps you already go to the gym each week; that’s a great start! What else can you get involved in that will keep you engaged with others and allow you to set personal goals, or will be a productive activity that will benefit you down the road? Do your research and don’t be afraid to prioritize your precious time. It’s not going to be easy… But who ever said it was going to be?

Yeah, this has been a long-winded blog, but one that I hope resonates with you. Life is not going to be easy, but live yours to the fullest! Make yours one that you can be proud of when you look back on it. The right way isn’t going to be easy, but the easy way isn’t always right. Be brave, because you can do anything you set your mind to!

Does a new year mean a new you?


It’s a new year! It’s a cause of celebration for most—a time when old grievances can be forgotten and we can all move forward into the future. This could be the year when some of our dreams come true, but not without a little luck and a lot of hard work first. Speaking of hard work, how are your resolutions coming along, if you made any? We all undoubtedly have things that we’d like to change for the better about ourselves, but it’s never quite that easy, is it? Committing to eating better, exercising regularly… Resolutions are hard to keep in our already busy day, especially during the long, cold season of winter. Laziness and procrastination are easy to give into when the temperature plummets… I’ve been guilty of forgoing going for a run lately due to a crippling case of idleness, and it’s self-deprecating.

Getting out of the lazy funk is no simple feat and honestly, there’s no simple answer. Everyone is different—our experiences are different, our motivations are different, our 2014s were entirely different. Yet, as cheesy as it sounds, 2015 is a new year. A fresh start, as it were. Your past mistakes and regrets are just that, in the past. Make 2015 a year with as few regrets as you can personally manage. Live your life with an open mind, with set goals, and a hopeful attitude… Embrace your passions and let them be your guide into a better future. Find something that motivates you in a positive way to be happier or to work harder, and use it to move step by step in the direction of your goals.

Write your goals down on a calendar, on your phone… Somewhere where you’ll be forced to see them until they are achieved. You’ll only be cheating yourself if you don’t meet them to some degree. Are you really looking forward to a show on TV tonight? Commit yourself to going for a walk before it airs… Around the block is good enough this time of year! Then tomorrow, make your walk a little longer—walk around the block twice, and so on. It’s the small steps towards betterment that are often the most effective in the end. Just getting up and improving yourself in some way is proof that you are stronger than you realize.

You don’t have to overhaul your entire life… It might be a new year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a totally new you. A slightly improved, marginally wiser version of the old you will do just fine, as long as you choose to improve and put in the time to see it through. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing in life is. If you want something, you have to put in the time and effort to achieve it yourself. I think I’ll go out for that run now… or maybe just a walk. 2015 will be what you make of it—make it a step in the right direction.

Please Don’t Take Offence… I’m Just a Little Weird.


We all have those days when we just don’t feel like talking to other people. It’s not that we don’t like them… It’s just that the particular day you’re having is what you would define as an “off day”. Perhaps you’re bummed out by an unpleasant mark or you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Perhaps conversations with others have never come easy to you, simply because you’re shy or you don’t know how to carry a conversation and respond to social cues. Or, you avoid talking to others in any way possible, in which case, I’m afraid to say, you’re a socially awkward person. Take it from someone—yeah, me—who is just now starting to explore what it means to have dynamic and meaningful discussions for the first time as a young adult. Yes, many of my attempts at conversation come across as forced and uncoordinated, but they reflect the kind of person I’ve been for most of my life.

I’ve always struggled to make conversation with others; it’s been a constant struggle of mine ever since I outgrew my overconfident personality in grade school. That doesn’t mean I’m rude or that I dislike other people—I’m just a little unsure about how to respond and act around others in social settings. This tendency of mine to shy away from talking to others has led me to live a quiet lifestyle: I read a lot of books, watch a lot of YouTube, I don’t attend very many parties or social gatherings and I rarely use social media. Does that mean I’m weird? Well… Maybe a little, but by no means am I a rude or inconsiderate person. I often go out of my way to accommodate others, even if they choose not to acknowledge it. It’s just the way that I am: I’m an introvert who makes subtle attempts at being extroverted. They may not always have the desired effect, but they are just that: attempts to finally put myself out there.

If these qualities are reflective of you as well, socially awkward weirdoes unite! But seriously, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Try to outgrow your necessity to avoid conversations, and instead find some other way to interact meaningfully with others. At our core, we all have the desire to get along with everyone. Sometimes that gets lost in translation, or by an apparent inability to communicate effectively.

To those that love to talk, please don’t take offence. We socially awkward students just take time to come out of our shells. Please don’t confuse our reluctance to share information with abrasiveness—we want to get to know you, but we might not know how to do so effectively. We all have ideas that are worthy of being shared. Just remember to be patient and to give others a chance, because there is surely some social context in which we all feel a little weird.