Sur la photographie de rue

Excuse my French. Literally. But there’s a reason for it…

Have you ever discovered a sign, a shop, or even a building that you’ve never seen before, despite having walked by it countless times? I have. Everyone I know has. But why is this? Simple: modern city life is too fast-paced, too focused, too goal-oriented (when was the last time you wandered on the streets with absolutely no destination in mind?) for us to take in all the information and process it. That, my friends, is when street photography comes in. (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.

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Hobbies can teach you how to have a life and can yield unexpected professional benefits

The summer is quickly winding to a close, and a shiny new fall term is just around the corner. This year promises to be extremely busy – I’m attending three conferences, have plans for two (or three!) more manuscripts, will be TAing two courses, and there’s an absolute pile of beetles still screaming for my attention. Add to that my online activities and the other time-consuming miscellany of academia, and this geek’s schedule is looking pretty darned full! (Note to advisor: yes, I will get some research done too, promise!)

I’m sure you all often find yourselves in similar situations. I’m also willing to bet that many of you have hobbies and personal interests that you wish you could spend more time pursuing, but often feel obligated to leave to the end of the “to do” list since it’s not “real work”.

I would argue that it’s not only important, but also necessary, to carve out a bit of time to do these things that make you happy. Academics (and students) have a terrible tendency to have one-track (tenure-track?) minds: it’s all research, all the time. It can turn into a viscous and chronic bout of workaholism, leading to dissatisfaction, stress, depression and ultimately burnout.

I think that the grad student years are a great time to practice the arts of time management, priority-setting, and even the very difficult skill of saying “no” to things that maybe aren’t all that interesting or important to you,  so that you can learn how to have a life in spite of your academic obligations.

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