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Goodbye, Toronto.

Goodbye, Toronto.

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in Blogs

Goodbyes never play out the way I expect them to. How can I tell someone that I’m going to miss them? That I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me, and that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated their company? …and how do I do that without creeping them out?

Goodbyes are my weakness. I’m the kind of person that needs to think about the words I want to use and the way I want to say them. I can’t string complex thoughts in the moment, and goodbyes deserve better than my poorly thought out see-you-laters and peace-outs.

So now I’m here at a bus terminal, surrounded by strangers and a strange sense of peace that has allowed me to collect my thoughts. I feel like I can finally say those things that I want to say.

I am not afraid to begin my second year at ICO. I’m actually pretty excited. I am only afraid that things will change so rapidly from this point forward that I could forget where I came from- my roots. So, this goodbye is dedicated to Toronto, and in a way, it is the ending of a big chapter in my life.

Dear Toronto,

We haven’t always gotten along. Your bus service is the bane of my existence, and for a long time, I resented your often late or missing buses. But home doesn’t feel like home without the sound of buses passing by every 10 minutes right outside my window during peak hours. And home doesn’t feel right without the hour-or-longer bus rides I need to take to see my friends or do anything even remotely stimulating. You have, in a strange way, helped me develop selective hearing, zen-level patience, an ability to temper my own frustration, and a love of reading, all of which have served me well on many occasions.

You are a beautiful city. I recently visited the Lakeshore and those rocks I used to climb as a kid, where I would stand at the top and watch the cityscape from across the lake. The shore has changed in the many years since I’ve been away. I remember vividly how freeing it felt to be there, with the wind sweeping along those curving paths and the water dancing along the paths. Now, it is over shadowed by a row of newly built skyscrapers. The place that used to seem like my little secret is now teeming with joggers, cyclists, and young families taking selfies on the beach (if you can call it a beach.) It is bittersweet, knowing that the Lakeshore is no longer mine, but at least you are not lonely anymore.

We have had our differences, but Toronto will always be my home. I will miss you Toronto. Thank you for raising me.

Before I left, I took one last walk around my neighbourhood and watched the moon sitting serenely up in the sky. I took my time breathing in the still-sweet air- literally sweet from the cookie factory down the road.

Toronto, I have known you for over half my life, and although that may not be as long as some friendships out there, it is among the longest that I have ever had. We had lost touch over the years when I went to undergrad at Waterloo and in that time, I had also unknowingly lost my creativity and imagination. It has been a joy for me to rediscover these in your presence. You have inspired a creativity I have not had in a long while. We don’t always agree on everything, but that’s OK. I have learned a lot about my biases and broadened my horizons. I am excited for the things you will discover in the coming years and I am proud of what you have accomplished these past few months. We will be going our separate ways for now, but “with friendship, we can do anything.” Until next time. We will always have call of duty and energy drinks.

Goodbye, old friend.

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Thoughts Going into Second Year

Thoughts Going into Second Year

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Blogs

I have two weeks before I leave Toronto for Chicago again. Things are starting to speed up now. There’s a lot to do and get ready for.

This will be my second year at ICO, and I’m told that it’ll be different.

This year, I’ve moved out of the RC into a small apartment complex that was once known as Unity Hall. The rooms are slightly smaller, but the ceilings are high and I get two arched windows in my room. That’s a fair trade, I think. I still have to pick up some furniture from students leaving for rotations, and I might have to go to IKEA to get more. I have to move belongings that I’ve left with friends who have been kind enough to keep them for me while I’ve been away, and I have to figure out what I still need to get for the apartment.

I just got international student insurance last night. I have to remember to contact my landlord the day before my 12-hour bus trip so that he’ll be available to give me my keys. To be honest, a bus trip wasn’t my first choice, but I want to take my guitar with me and airlines don’t have the best reputation with transporting musical instruments.

Now, there is a possibility that I may have to go to school in the States in the middle of a recession, while the Canadian dollar is expected to lose more of it’s value. Losing almost a quarter of the dollar value when converting from CAD to USD isn’t fun. I can only imagine the debt I’ll be in by the time school is over, but that’s life, and I’ll make it back one day (far, far in the future).

I suppose these are the kinds of stressors that everyone faces in optometry school, but they aren’t always obvious when you decide to pursue it in the first place.

This year, I’ll be using the skills I’ve spent so much time polishing in labs in the actual clinic. I’ll have new responsibilities to carry, expectations to live up to and challenges to conquer. I still have a lot to learn academically and clinically.

I also have hopes for myself – hopes of being the kind of person, friend, son, brother, student and clinician I want to be. There are things I want to do and learn outside of class- new things I want to try, and fears I want to master.

There’s a lot on my plate. I know that, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences so far, it’s that I can do anything as long as I am dedicated to my goal- and if dedication isn’t enough, I know I’m adaptable enough to change my approach.

Despite all my worries, it’s going to be a good year. I can feel it. It will be a roller coaster ride of beauty, the unexpected, fun, chaos, rude awakenings, shattered ego and glorious triumph… and that’s ok, because I love thrill rides.

I’m nervous and excited. I know that nothing will go the way I plan, but that’s part of the fun.

So… how is this year going to be for you?

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Principles

Principles

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Blogs

I’ve been stepping outside of myself to look back on my first year at ICO from a different perspective. It has become something of a bi-yearly tradition for me to look back on my life and be embarrassed about how I’ve acted for the last couple of years. At this point, I expect my future self to continue being embarrassed no matter what I do.

Anyway. That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

I think I’ve done many things right at ICO, but there are also things that I could have handled with more tact or thoughtfulness. Thinking back has helped me realize that I didn’t need to do things differently; it was my attitude and perspectives that needed to adjust.

Attitude and perspective make a difference in everything you do. This is especially important when working with people. So, I’ve written down some principles. These are principles that would help all of us, especially professionals and soon-to-be-professionals.

Here they are:

  • I will not take things personally, even when it seems like I am being attacked. I will respect criticisms from others, no matter the content of their criticisms.
    This is important in a professional environment, especially as a student. It’s easy to be defensive about criticisms, but by dismissing the critiques, I am doing myself a disservice. I won’t be able to improve the weaknesses that other people see in me that I am unaware of.
  • I will be kind and I don’t expect people to like me for it. We need more kindness in our world. I’m a strong believer in being kind for the sake of being kind. It’s normal to expect others to reciprocate kindness with kindness, but that isn’t always the case – and you shouldn’t take that personally. Remember: the goal is kindness, not to boost my own ego.
  • I will always give people the benefit of the doubt, even when I am not given the same benefit. I have seen too many situations where assumptions have ruined relationships. Some would say that this point of view is too trusting. I realize that one day, someone may take advantage of my good will, but I am willing to make that trade to give honest people a chance. Call me an idealist. This principle is very similar to the second principle. There is a very thin line to walk between being trusting and having people take advantage of you, but in my experience, I have found that the vast majority of people reciprocate trust with trustworthiness.
  • I need to recognize that I’m needed in a supporting role more often than I’m needed in a starring role. This is especially true as a student. I am here to learn and cooperate with my colleagues, not to prove my intellect. This is a personal problem for me. My ego can become inflated sometimes.
  • I will admit when I am wrong. Ego and defensiveness do not make this easy. This is one of hardest things for anybody to do. It is also important to recognize that you can be completely humble and willing to admit mistakes in one area, and be completely obnoxious in another. I speak from personal experience.
  • I will learn from my mistakes. I realize that I will make many of them. This principle is important in order to become proficient in any field. Optometry is no exception.
  • I will respect my body and my health. The mind and body are connected. As a student who is constantly learning, I need to keep my mind sharp. To do that, I must keep my body strong and healthy. Time for a metaphor: anything can be used to make art, but having good tools makes it easier to make great art. Your body is the tool, optometry is your art. This isn’t completely necessary, but in a high stress environment with tests being thrown at you every other day, it’s important to stay in the best shape that you can.

These are principles that I try to follow everyday, but I do forget them – and I forget often, without something reminding me. I still struggle with them from time to time. They sound too idealistic for certain situations, but despite this, I have found that I never regret what I do when I follow them and I am always in a better situation, considering the alternatives.
I really hope that you consider adopting some or all of these principles on your own, and I hope you get as much out of them as I do.

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End of First Year

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Blogs

Things felt different when I finished that last exam.

The last exam of first year. We talked about it like it was some kind of rare and exotic animal, and in my opinion, it ended far too soon.

My step out of that exam room punctuated the end of the first chapter of my career at ICO. The next 24 hours felt like I was waking up from a dream that was desperately trying to teach me something. Now, I am reminded of the words I wrote those many months ago:

“Life is full of things that you can enjoy, and they are around you at this moment. Don’t wait until you lose what you have to treasure it.”

So right now, I’m in Chicago: home of the Bean, a skyline to die for, and great food.

I’m here, on my laptop, in a hotel room on Mother’s day, 500 miles away from home and reflecting on the last 9 months. That wasn’t the plan – but my flight got cancelled.

Before I left, I took a walk around ICO. The first time I walked the halls of the school, it was a maze to me. As I became better acquainted with it, ICO served as a backdrop for the theatre production of my life. And today, it was different. It felt like home. And I had taken it for granted – the same way I took Toronto for granted before I left in August.

When you first get here, people will tell you that “four years are going to pass by quickly.” You’ll hear it over and over again – and it’s said with good intentions. It’s meant to be comforting. People say it to remind you that the difficulties you’re facing as an optometry student will only last four years. You just have to hang in there! You can do it!!

But sometimes, people say that magic phrase to remind you to enjoy the moment. I’m beginning to appreciate that now.

This year has passed so, so quickly. It’s gone by in the blink of an eye, and it was so startling to me that I’ve already worried about having to leave my friends in a few years when I graduate.

This experience has changed me profoundly. I have made great friends and colleagues that I hope I will know for life. I’ve learned so much in the realm of academics, as well as personal relationships and life. I am grateful to have survived first year with a wonderful group of people – ICO’s class of 2018.

My biggest regret from the last 9 months is that it took me until the end of first year to realize that I should value the time we have together – as friends, colleagues, and as a class. And I am sorrier still, because I should have learned this lesson the first time around, when I left Toronto.

If I could go back to orientation week, I would have gone out with you guys a lot more. I would have made an effort to get to know you all better and earlier.

Take note, all of you first years who come after me. I know that it is difficult to realize it when you’re swamped by exams, practicals and your personal life, but this will end far faster than you expect it to. Make sure you appreciate the friends and people you have around you, because someday soon, you may not be able to spend time with them.

Man, I miss you guys already.

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Long Distance Relationships

Long Distance Relationships

Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in Blogs

I’m going to write about a very touchy subject here.

I come from Toronto (in the magical land of Canada). Before I left, I spoke to my girlfriend about how hard it would be to maintain our relationship. I had heard from friends in optometry school that long distance relationships  were especially stressful in first year because of its difficulty. I wanted to make sure that we could work things out–that we would see each other as much as possible in between quarters and reunite at the end of these four years as if nothing had come between us.

When I left her the night before my plane took off, we both knew that it would be difficult. We felt we were ready to put in the necessary work to make things work.

A lot of people talk about how difficult it is to maintain a long distance relationship, but no one really talks about it in detail. A lot of long distance relationships work out–but for me, it hasn’t all gone according to plan.

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