I often say that I ended up in philosophy on a whim.

I studied Liberal Arts in CEGEP (the Québec version of the in-between transition from high school to university). My philosophy courses were my favourite. I especially loved early modern philosophy, moral philosophy and logic.

I tutored fellow students in logic and my prof casually said, “You’re good at this, you should study philosophy”.

And so, I did.

My favourite undergraduate prof told me, “You should go to grad school”.

And so, I did.

My PhD advisor told me that I should apply for a philosophy job.

And so…

I often feel placeless, groundless.

When asked where I’m from, I answer ‘Montreal’, and then immediately turn into an unsolicited tour guide and talk endlessly about the wonders of bagels (real bagels, not this bloated bread shit), bike lanes everywhere, walking to the Jean-Talon market, living without a car, language laws, etc.

I answer ‘Montreal’, even though I’ve been told over and over that I’m not a real Quebecker. My last name is ‘Cook’, instead of a “real” Québécois surname like ‘Bellemare’.

I answer ‘Montreal’, because I’m not really from Québec and I’m not really from Canada.

I say that…

My mum sent me a video recently of me as a 6-year-old visiting family in England.

It’s the end of the day and I need to get into my PJs and go to bed. My mum (who looks about 19 in the video, though she’s in her late twenties) is exhausted from a day visiting family.

I wish I could say that I’m cheerful and helpful in the video. I wish I could say that I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’m like as a little kid.

But I’m not. I’m incredibly unhelpful and difficult, and I clearly don’t want to…

At the beginning of every term, I introduce myself to my students. I say, “Hi folks, I’m Anna Cook. You can call me Dr Cook, Prof Cook or Anna. It’s spelled like ‘Anna’ but pronounced ‘On-a’ just to make things difficult. No, but really, the movie Frozen has changed my life”.

It’s a little bit… I don’t really teach as much as string a bunch of little bits together. I’m sure they love it… right?

I come from a family with names that just make things difficult. My mum is ‘Saw-ra’, not ‘Say-ra’. …

During the year I lived on my own, I learned the value of fresh-cut flowers, self-made dance videos and Post-its on the wall.

In my tiny little studio apartment, I tried to conjure as much joy as possible. I started buying myself flowers once a week at the market. It was a small space and so a small bunch of flowers had a huge impact. It was the best $5 I spent on myself every week.

In my tiny little studio apartment, I started to dance in my living room/bedroom/kitchen when I couldn’t write, read, or study any longer. …

How bringing tea for my students challenges expectations of who counts as a ‘serious thinker’

I started teaching with tea in my last year of graduate school. I was teaching an Introduction to Critical Thinking class Monday to Thursday from 9am to 9:50am. It was a course that fulfilled a General Education requirement and so all of my students were there because they had to be.

The recipe for a great class is certainly not one that is taught early in the morning in a windowless room with no air circulation and with students whose main goal is to just…

How an online password helped me trust my abilities.

I changed my online passwords when I was in the mad dash of finishing my dissertation in two months.

A year prior, I changed my passwords to ‘Badass’ (in slightly different forms — you know to make it a strong password, I swear Mum). ‘Badass’ had become my mantra.

I started reciting ‘badass’ when I ran my first 5k (this mantra became especially necessary after I wiped out and fell in the mud mid-race). It was my mantra to keep going and to assert my own strength.

I’m strong and a…

I switched to Garamond when I was completely stuck in the middle of one of my qualifying exams to become a PhD candidate in philosophy.

I was writing a paper about Spinoza, a 17th century Dutch philosopher whose writing in the geometrical method (a mathematical proof essentially), as a result of being excommunicated from his Jewish community, had previously inspired me to the point of seeing his fingerprints EVERYWHERE. Body and mind are ONE. Love IS an increase in power of thought and body with the idea of an external cause (my beloved). And so on and so forth...


‘Lenny’ by Sara Morley

I named my monster Lenny. Well, I didn’t name it so much as its (his?) name became viscerally apparent in a therapy session.

This monster was sticky, on my back with its arms wrapped tightly around my neck. He had been there for so many years that his sticky skin melded onto mine to form a slimy surface. I imagine him swimming on my back the way I used to swim on my dad’s back as a kid. Holding my breath and feeling like I was flying through water.

Lenny was a part of me. Lenny was the voice telling…

Logic dictates ‘this or that,’ but real life begs for nuance

Photo: Abstract Aerial Art/Getty Images

I have always had a hard time with both and neither. It’s either on or off. We’re friends or we’re not. I love it or I don’t. I’m all in or completely out.

I don’t know how to have acquaintances. People are friends, hope-to-be friends, or I-feel-bad-we’re-not-closer friends. But not everyone wants or needs to be close. There are levels, mountains, spheres, or something like that. Or so they tell me.

I think this way of living in sum totals comes from a childhood split in half.

My parents parted ways when I was four years old, and I have…

Anna Cook

Philosophy professor. Thinker and overthinker. I’m an ambivalent academic and an academic of ambivalence. Happiest when dancing or starting a puzzle annacook.ca

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