Fit As A Bird?

 

By N. H. Zelt

By N. H. Zelt

 

I never thought I’d wish that I were a bird, but by the end of this post you might also.

I exercise quite frequently, and though I’ve never been a big fitness buff (pun intended) I still make time to keep fit and healthy. Interestingly, not all species have to do that. Imagine not ever having to lift a finger, yet staying as lean as an Olympic athlete. (more…)

Solidification of a story

Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

McGill Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

 

Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page. (more…)

What I Learned Last Year

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

As I was setting my goals for 2017, I had some time to reflect on everything I learned in the past year. 2016 was a year full of ups and downs, new friends, new experiences, and large milestones. I want to share some of the things I learned along the way, because these are the main themes that I’m taking with me into this semester and beyond.

  1. Things change: Plans, thoughts and ideas change.
    Change is inevitable, so be aware of it and be flexible when it arises. Never let it stop you from moving forward – if you can adapt to your changing circumstances, it may open up new ideas or paths that you didn’t know existed, and you may well be better off in the end.
  2. “You never know unless you try”
    This motto is true in many cases – you never know if you’ll get the job if you don’t apply. You never know if someone is willing to help you unless you ask. The result will either be exactly what you hoped, or you can take the outcome as a learning experience for next time. Simply putting in an effort is a huge step forward, and many new opportunities can arise if you just try. Put yourself out there, and be open to new experiences, because you never know what may happen! (more…)

The next step may be abroad

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino's painting, Florence, 1465.

The picture of Dante holding the Commedia in his left hand is a reproduction of Domenico di Michelino’s painting, Florence, 1465.

 

What the…What is Dante Alighieri doing on GradLife’s Blog???

Dear Graduate Students, maybe this is going to be your last year at McGill, maybe not. Maybe you are graduating and thinking about what you can do after having gone through the Hell of your thesis and finally got outside of it, on the peaceful and lightened sand of Dante’s Purgatory. If that is the case, then you may find this post interesting. Before writing it, I was thinking about what to publish, then I told myself: “Hey, you are an international student and you took one of the most important decision of your life, let’s talk about how you choose where to go and what to do!”. Here it is then, a few words about people and things that may help you in choosing which path you want to take to climb the mountain of the Purgatory. (more…)

If only I was more organized…

Photo by @kipunsam.daily / @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @kipunsam.daily / @gradlifemcgill

One of my favourite (but often failed) New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized and better schedule my time. Now this is obviously not a SMART resolution, and to be honest I’m not the most un-organized person, but every year I wish I was a little more on top of things and procrastinated a little less. This is especially true this year as I’m hoping to submit my thesis and there are mountains of work to be done!

So how I am going to be more organized? Well Aleks wrote a while ago her top tips for productivity and I like a lot of them, but I thought I would add a couple of my own. (more…)

Holidays at Home

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Photo by jill111 / Pixabay

Like many of my fellow grad students, I travelled home to spend the holidays with my family. I‘m half way though my vacation and things are following the same predictable pattern, more or less. There is the excitement of seeing my parents and siblings, followed quickly by the readjusting to suddenly living with 6 people (I normally live alone). We all open our presents together, play board games and enjoy lots of good food (though this year half of us got food poisoning!). And while I’ve experienced the holiday joy Heather talks about, I also experience the impostor syndrome Angel describes so accurately, especially since everyone knows I’ve been doing cancer research for the last 5+ years. (more…)

Grad School Goal-Setting

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @gradlifemcgill instagrammer @aleksbud

The new year is almost upon us, and that means it’s almost time to create new year’s resolutions to bring with us into the beginning of January and the following 12 months. Many of us create these goals – exercise more, eat healthier, be happier, submit your thesis – but what is the difference between goals which are achieved and those which are not?

When setting goals, it’s important to set SMART goals. That not only means that the goals should be “intelligent” in the classic sense, but should also follow the acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Following these guidelines will help you formulate and follow a specific plan, and get you on track to making lifestyle or other necessary changes to accomplish your new year’s resolutions.

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There and back again

Here we go again!
Image from internetcafedevotions.com/2011/12/unpacking-suitcases/

The kitchen was packed with friends and family. The cat had just attempted, quite bravely, to jump onto the counter and eat the turkey. My mom was trying to dazzle her guests with anecdotes and drinks as my father rushed this way and that with charred ovenmits tending to gravy and potatoes and other piping hot dishes bubbling on the stove.

“Things are seriously never this hectic in Montreal,” I thought.

It’s not like every time I go home things are so chaotic. Winter holidays are so unique perhaps because of the increased expectations all mixed in with the nostalgia of holidays past.

I had been anxious about my return home for the holidays. After I had wrapped up my work, enjoyed some yummy food and drinks at the lab Christmas party, and finally packed my suitcase, it sank in: Oh my…here we go.

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Waiting for Midnight

1.5

The year may change and so might the setting, but those final moments leading up to midnight always feel the same. The champagne cork will pop soon, and the clock will shove December and the last twelve months aside. We wait in anticipation to welcome a year that’s new – a set of four digits we are not yet used to writing out. The countdown to midnight always comes with a whole lot of excitement and a little bit of angst. It is a chance to start fresh, but it also comes with some pressure to think ahead, to set new goals, to better ourselves and change all those little pesky things about our lives that we wish we could change! Who knows what the year will bring. That is the beauty and the scariness of life, after all…

When I welcomed 2013, I wished for a whole lot, like any ambitious, hopeful person would! I wished to surprise myself with my progress in my PhD work and be successful, even (and especially) outside of my comfort zone. I wished to cherish simplicity and beauty, and to recognize those important moments in time, before they become memories. I hoped to be able to dwell less on what is not absolutely crucial and to worry less (which, I admit, is easier said than done). I vowed to make more time for family and for people I care most about. It was also important to me to make time for new creative projects and for passions that add to who I am – and who I wish to become. I wanted to write plenty, travel plenty, cook plenty, photograph plenty, and love plenty.

Looking back, 2013 turned out to be a great year.

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A wishful look ahead

You may think it’s too late for New Year’s resolutions, given that it’s already mid-February. But, the truth is, it’s never a bad time for some wishful thinking about the future, however near or far ahead you’re thinking.

Particularly on days where I lack motivation, inspiration and positivity (hey, it happens to all of us), thinking positively of all that I’d like to achieve in the coming weeks and months helps keep me looking forward to all that’s to come, and gives me the strength to change my mood and make the most of my day. This wishlist is both academic and personal, just as my aspirations are.

Here is my wishful portrait of the coming months, and what keeps me looking forward everyday:

(more…)

366

Last year at precisely this time, I spent a couple of days reflecting on the year that had passed – a big year that held many happy moments, opportunities seized, travels to brand new corners of the world, but also many challenging obstacles and lessons learned. Then, looking forward, I conjured up a list of all I hoped 2012 would bring – kind of like New Year’s Resolutions but, errr, 21 of them (ambitious, aren’t I?). I shared these with you in a post at the start of the year: http://blogs.mcgill.ca/gradlife/2012/01/12/a-year-that%E2%80%99s-new-4-thoughts-moments-lessons-hopes/.

Although I kept these wishes or resolutions in mind throughout the last twelve months, I actually didn’t re-read the post until just a couple of days ago. When I did, I was happily surprised that I could indeed check off all of these bullets, and that what had seemed to be a random list of wishes actually turned out to be a recipe for a successful, balanced and wonderful year.

One of the common themes in my list of hopes was the need to make room in my days for balance and creativity, with the aim of achieving (or holding onto) carefreeness, peace of mind, and stable health. Every day of the year, I made a conscious effort to make time for my hobbies, make time for my friends and family, make time for ME, for the joys and inspirations of daily life, even if this meant that I devoted several hours to something other than my complex and time-consuming PhD work.

I read books for pleasure, watched movies and weird TV shows with my sci-fi-loving husband, spent weekends playing with my nephew, called my grandmothers more often, tagged on some extra days to conference-related trips so that I could have some time to unwind and explore, often doubled the time that making supper normally takes just so I experiment in my cooking, and took pictures – lots and lots of pictures – so that I would get into the habit of always searching for beauty and inspiration, even on the most ordinary days.

This photo project was one of my favorite resolutions for 2012. I created an album called “My 366 for 2012” and snapped at least one photo every day of this leap year. Some are not particularly good. Some are downright boring. Some days I was home and could not for the life of me find something worth photographing. But, in the end, this collection of snapshots helps me look back on all the moments that were captured, as well as all the moments in between.

(more…)

Holiday Letter One: The Inevitable Resolution…

Dear Fate,

It’s that time of year again – the beginning, the time to set aspirations for the coming year, the time to reflect and resolve.  As a student, my “new year” usually comes in September.  January 1 is the mid-point, a time to take stock of how the year is unfolding and identify adjustments that should be made.  For me, doctoral studies, this past term in particular, have been a period of conscious self-examination about who I am, who I want to be, what it means to live ethically, and how this is reflected in my research, my teaching and in all aspects of my life.  This reflection process has undoubtedly been fairly annoying to some people around me at various times.  I apologize for that.  Questions about meaning and motivation can be tiring and sometimes unwelcome.  Accordingly, maybe I should use this New Year’s Eve as a break from self-reflection.  I’m sure my boyfriend will appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Kate

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