Defying Mediocrity

I think that my biggest fear is not death, or failure, or pain- it is living a life of mediocrity.

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A life of complacency, where everything is not “bad” per se, but it’s not the way you want it to be, and you start and end each day feeling unfulfilled. Sound familiar? You feel that there is so much potential in different aspects of your life, but you just don’t know how to tap into it and make each day something that you look forward to. There are things you would like to change, but you don’t even know where to begin.

In short, it is mediocre. You are stuck in a rut. And that’s what scares me most.

Something I learned upon returning home from a whirlwind of a summer is that not every day can be a crazy, life-changing adventure, because without consistency we would feel scattered and lost. But there must be some middle ground we can seek- where we are doing something that gets us out of bed every morning, where we can feel excited and fulfilled and challenged, but being able to catch our breaths and enjoy the little things at the same time.

I’ve experienced a multitude of emotions and phases since the school term began- periods of general unproductivity, then a solid week of studying and grinding 16+ hours a day. Going out every single weekend for a month, then refusing to come out of my cave for weeks. There must be some sort of balance I can achieve.

In business school, we are taught from day 1 that everything we do needs to end up in a promising career by the time you graduate, and if you don’t- you’ve failed. Sounds harsh, but that’s the unspoken “rule” and the crushing pressure that haunts most university students. I’m not going to lie and say that it doesn’t affect me, because I’m as Type A as they get- but the concept of a “job” is worth less to me than the journey towards a meaningful life, and doing things that are fulfilling and challenging, and knowing that I’m making a positive difference. That is what matters most to me.

A career that you’re passionate about is a big part of it, but there are many things that I do that have absolutely nothing to do with trying to find a job. How about cultivating personal and professional relationships, and learning their stories just because you want to build meaningful, fulfilling relationships? Indulging in a hobby? Developing your physical fitness, your depth of knowledge, your artistic skill, quite possibly anything you’d like? Some of the things that make me the happiest have nothing to do with building my career, but believe it or not- they can co-exist, and sometimes they even go hand in hand.

It helps to sit down and have a good chat with yourself from time to time- to examine and assess your needs, goals, priorities, and what you can do to get you to where you want to go. Remove all external factors, and ask yourself what you really want. There have been many things I’ve had to give up in the pursuit of this life, but I want to have my cake and eat it too. That doesn’t make me greedy- that just means that I know exactly what I want and how I’m going to achieve it.

I refuse to live a life of mediocrity- because we only get one life to live, so we damn well better make sure it’s one to be remembered.

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New Adventures and New Beginnings

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to blog or write anything for leisure. I’ve missed it. And I’ve also had a bit of writer’s block as well, combined with how hectic life has been.

So perhaps today I’ll write about my own life. As of now, I’m officially 3 years into my degree, and 8 days from now I am flying off to Toronto to start my new job. As a born and raised Vancouverite, I am leaving home for the first time ever, and I am so overwhelmed but excited for the new adventure. Everything I have wanted in the last 2 years has come to fruition. There is lots to be done during this time and I have my hands full, with not much of a chance for a break, as once I get there I’ll be hitting the ground running.

But would I have it any other way? Absolutely not.

But let me just say this. Nothing good ever comes easy. And this year, I learned a big lesson.

Sometimes when doors close on you, or you run into situations that seem like failures- it is actually re-directing you to something better and more fitting for you. And when you choose to go through life with that lens on, it makes the hard times more bearable. Looking back, I am so grateful for every experience I’ve had, every opportunity and every failure, because its honestly led me to this point in my life.

I’ve always believed that success is an iceberg. You don’t see the struggles, failures, sweat, tears, and hard work people go through- you only see the highlight reel. And that’s just not representative of real life.

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Luckily, the people I’ve surrounded myself with have been so supportive of my endeavors and work ethic. I’m really blessed to have the friends and family that I do. I’ve barely had 72 hours to process all of the above information, so it’s all still kind of surreal to me.

Time to swim in a much larger pond with much bigger fish, and get ready for exponential growth. This summer is going to change me, both professionally and personally. This year has changed me. And honestly, nothing has been the same since I first stepped onto campus 3 years ago. I just had no idea what I was in for.

Onto new adventures and new beginnings.

2014 Is Upon Us! (An Unintentional Partie Deux)

Happy new year to all and especially to the wonderful people who take the time to read my blog!

Your kind words and compliments mean more to me than you know and motivate me to keep writing. My blog is just over half a year old, and it’s been an amazing journey seeing my writing evolve and the wide variety of topics that I am able to share my knowledge about. It is still a work in progress, and I am still somewhat shy about sharing my writing on social media vehicles, but who knows what the new year will bring?

I was putting together a list of New Years Resolutions today and thought that as a follow-up to my last post, it would be interesting to share what I have written for this year.

In the past, I traditionally wrote 10 specific resolutions that I want to accomplish. And even though I did just that with some friends last night, the ones I have drawn up after reflecting a lot on the past year are (mostly) unspecific to an exact part of my life, but rather encompass + apply to many different aspects of my life. This year, I am aiming not to just achieve one specific thing, but to change the way I think, the way I do things, and even the way I live to better my life as a whole. Having a few life lessons to live by has helped me tremendously and will continue to do so this coming year.

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Fingers crossed that my handwriting is actually legible. Even though I love to write, I am not artsy in the least.

Have an amazing new year, everyone! Today is the first day of the year of dreams.

(My friend Negar’s motto for 2014 which I think really says it all.)

Good luck and I am looking forward to what’s to come! It’s going to be an exciting year.

So, It’s Almost 2014… And You Know What That Means

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It means that a sizable portion of the human race will be making New Year’s Resolutions.

A new year is great, isn’t it? It’s like having a fresh start all over again, turning over a new leaf. That explains the influx of people in the gym the first couple weeks in January. You feel all pumped as the new year unfolds, totally committed to stick to your resolutions. But as time wears on, life gets busy, your motivation wears thin, and you slowly revert back to your old ways.

Does that sound familiar? I bet it does to some of you. I, too, am guilty of making resolutions in the past and not sticking to them. But you know what? “New Year’s Resolutions” is a rather artificial concept to begin with. Why should you only make resolutions at the start of the year? The notion of time is created by humans. Thus, years are a man-made concept. Why should you base your goals and ambitions around the beginning and end of something so fleeting and intangible?

I counter the infamous “New Years Resolutions” with the proposal that you can change your life whenever YOU want to. Every day is a chance to change your life for the better. If you’re not happy with something, change it. Do something about it. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year is near to turn over a new leaf. This is your life, and it’s happening right now. At any point in time, you have the power to set a goal, to decide that you will accomplish something, to make a resolution.

Now I am not bashing the idea of setting goals for yourself for the upcoming year- I am doing the same thing myself. It’s a good idea to keep yourself focused and accountable. Just don’t feel pressured by the constraints of “a year”. I hear so many people around me that say they are “so ready for 2013 to end”. But why? There are still a few days left. Don’t waste those days waiting around for them to pass. Make the most out of these days. Why should you wait for the new year to start living a good life? Start now.

To pull an example from my own life, last year at this time everything wasn’t so peachy. I was unhappy with a lot of aspects of my life. And like many others, I was “ready for 2012 to end”. But for what? I was no happier on January 1st, or 2nd, or for quite a while to be honest. Everything was the same- the only thing that had changed was that it was now 2013. It wasn’t until that I decided that it didn’t have to be this way, and there were big dreams to be chased, and I saw an ideal version of myself that I could become if I pushed myself. My resolutions and willingness to drive change were innate and genuine. And guess what? It’s been one hell of a ride since then. I have experienced such exponential growth this year, been blessed with great opportunities, and discovered what I was capable of.

And just because the year changes by one numeric value does not mean that suddenly, you are reborn and angels will descend from the skies and sing joyful hymns of praise. No, you are the same person as you were at 11:59pm- but you are the person that YOU decide that you want to be. Start now. Do it now. The world moves too fast for you to not act now.

An Open Letter To My 15 Year Old Self

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Dear Joyce,

It’s September, and you have just started 10th grade, and just had your birthday over Labour Day weekend. 15 years old, huh? You’re so old now. The pinnacle of your teens.

I know you feel so many different things at once: excitement for the new school year, confusion over the fact that you should start thinking about a viable career path to follow (can anyone say Planning 10?), and hurt over some of the negative people in your life.

Allow me to help you clear up some of the question marks in your life.

This term will be your worst academic term to date, because you have so much going on in your personal life. Granted, you will still make Honour Roll, but they aren’t marks that you’re going to be proud of. Don’t be too hard on yourself, because from here, there is no way to go but up. Trust me, you’ll see.

I know how much you hate math and science right now, but your jaw will drop when I tell you that they end up to be your top marks in senior year, and that you’re actually (gasp) good at it. You just need to work a little harder, and find the resources and support you need.

Stop making excuses for your boyfriend’s behaviour, and leave him. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. You will part ways later in the year, but why prolong the suffering? Joyce, you will see that your world is so much bigger than your relationship, and you will realize much greater dreams than having somebody at your side. Down the road, you will break some hearts, and you will suffer heartbreak, but these issues will seem trivial as you figure out and pursue your dreams.

Have the courage to speak up to the “friend” who constantly manipulates, undermines, and upsets you, who has brought you nothing but grief all these years. This year will be the turning point: you will finally decide that you’ve had enough of being a pushover, and you will walk away from all the hurt and frustration, and never look back. But it’s not until maybe six months from this point that you decide to do so.

Also about six months from now, you will come across the school and program of your dreams that you never knew existed before. You will spend maybe 10 minutes conversing with school representatives, completely fall in love, have your heart set on entering said program, and never look back. And you will achieve this, despite the odds. I know it sounds like a stretch right now, but you will surprise everybody who ever doubted you. It will be a pivotal point in your life, because from this you will gather the motivation to work hard and work relentlessly, and your performance will increase tenfold from here.

When you enter said program, you will THINK that you know what you want to do with your degree. Well guess what darling, you don’t. You will struggle for the first year or two to figure out your passions, and luckily enough, you will discover them.

And let me tell you that chasing your dreams will be so, so much more fulfilling than slaving away at something you don’t enjoy just because you think it will earn you more money, or that other people think is the right path. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself. Trust your gut instincts. The happiness that comes from following your passions and doing what you love will be something you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Hang in there, Joyce. Your world is about to change- you just don’t know it yet. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

Are Humans Conditioned To Toil All Their Lives?

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I write this because it’s a trait I observe in myself and a quite a few others.

I’ve been a student for all my life, so each summer I’ve been blessed with the gift of having time off.

HOWEVER, for as long as I can remember, I do something every summer. When I was in elementary school, I would go to Magee (a nearby high school) and take summer classes. For fun. Anything ranging from cooking to public speaking to photoshop. I always used the summer to learn something new. Also, as you may have picked up by now, I have an immense love of reading, so I participated in Vancouver Public Library’s summer reading club each year, and always completed the entire booklet and more. I have very fond memories of hauling a heavy bag of books to and from the library twice a week, and the excitement I always felt when I borrowed a new batch.

(Slight side track: people often ask me how I develop my writing skills- did I have an English tutor? No. I believe it was because I read so many books and novels when I was young, and that really set the foundation for a lifelong love affair with writing and reading.)

During high school summers, I would work on my RCM diploma (piano, music theory and history), volunteer a ton, work at various jobs, and take summer classes. Not one summer ever did I take fully “off”. I had to be doing something. Part of me always wishes that I could drop everything for two months and just go travel the world, but I know deep down that I would likely go nuts from lack of productivity. I get bored after two days off from work. I may complain about having too much work to do, but it’s so much better off this way than if I were doing nothing at all. I thrive on being busy. I’m currently working at two internships and a part time job, and I hold several different extracurricular positions at school. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I’m already a pretty mild case, if you put it into perspective. I know so many others who are hardcore workaholics. They’ll be working hard at many tasks during the school year, come out with top grades and amazing accomplishments, and spend their summers doing incredible things. They can’t go a day without being productive. They have a hard time taking a break or just sitting around doing nothing.

Which leads me to the question: Are humans biologically wired to toil all our lives? What is the meaning of life then, if we are constantly working towards a perfect ideal that we may never reach? We may reach our perfect ideal at the moment, but when we get there, there will be something else that we desire or desire to become. For example, let’s say you graduate and land your dream job at your dream company. But obviously now you’re on a whole different league. You need to climb up that corporate ladder. And hypothetically, let’s say you do, and even make it to CEO one day. As CEO, it’s a whole new ball game. You face so many new challenges you never knew existed before. Even though you think you’ve reached the top, there are yet numerous hurtles to overcome.

It’s a never-ending cycle. A never-ending struggle. And if all that we were meant to do with our time on Earth is work, then will we ever reap the rewards of our toil?