Survival. It’s a thing.

As my 3rd school term progresses, I already find myself knee-deep in work. No matter how many times I vow before the term that I won’t pile on the extra-curriculars, I always seem to break that promise. I guess I tend to think of it more like a suggestion.

The most common question I’m asked is, “how are you NOT failing??”, or “how do you survive your schedule?”

Well, let’s take this back a step. I’ve never been able to get anything accomplished unless my schedule is jam-packed. Even in high school, having no life pushed me to the ultimate in efficiency. Here, in one of the most well-reputed engineering faculties in Canada (for both success and insane workloads), I am still discovering weekly one-page assignments that take 10 hours to do with 5 people and lectures that I couldn’t find my way through with a GPS, compass, and interactive star-map. However, I seem to have kept constant my stream of “fun things,” which may or may not include several clubs, a policy manual review committee, two directorships, two ambassador/mentoring programs, several hackathons, etc. Put this together with “survival”, and one can easily picture me barely keeping my head above the waves with no shore in sight.

I remember a favourite book from my early high school days called “Graceling,” based in a medieval-type world where some people have unnatural powers called “graces”. They could take the form of something practical, like running really fast or being a mathematical genius, or something unbelievably impractical, like being able to do a headstand for 12 hours. The main character is being used by her royal family as an enforcer, a killing tool, since it is believed that her grace is killing. Only later do we find out that she is graced with survival instead (and of course she brings peace to the kingdom, sticks it to the man, and stops killing people).

That brings to mind another definition of survival. A more aggressive picture forms, where survival is proactive instead of defensive; where a person can use a tendency to survive to accomplish all they set out to do. It paints a scene where instead of struggling to swim in a vast ocean, I have found a way to build a raft and tough it out, Life_of_Pi-style… minus the crazy floating zoo.

So when someone asks me how I survive, I just smile and shrug. I put myself in my position willingly, and it’s my decision now whether I sink or swim. It’s just another ordinary day for me; it’s all your state of mind. I get stressed out like any other person; there are days when I am overwhelmed beyond belief, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it. But at the end of the day, I’ve just got to say “it’s alright”.

P.S. Clearly, I’ve been listening to “Ordinary Day” by Great Big Sea on repeat. Just because it’s been one of those days. But all I can do is grin, drink some Arizona, and try again tomorrow :)

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