Life After University

In June 2017, I officially graduated from the University of Windsor and received my Bachelor of Arts! The degree is still sitting in the envelope, unframed, and resting under my bed because I have yet to go and get it framed. Just before I got my degree, I left Windsor (in May 2017) and moved back in with my dad. Life after university has been new and different.

But it’s been one hell of a year. Let’s review.

In the summer of 2017, I ended a longterm relationship. I also started medication after self-assessing that I have bipolar—which I do! The fall of 2017 saw me take driving lessons as well as attend a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy program. Winter was rough. But then, in February of 2018, I got my G2 licence, which meant I could drive without a co-driver. Freedom!

This has been the first full year—12 months—that I haven’t been invested on school. Summer break, a few months, didn’t count. I always looked ahead to the next semester. I don’t just mean university, either. Since I started attending educational institutions, I haven’t been out of them for more than three months. Until now.

Life after university: what’s next?

First and foremost, I’ll continue offering editing and design services. I love working with writers so much that I can’t see myself quitting the freelancer gig for a while. But I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

I thought I would figure out a path for myself in university. I thought that, if I took lots of different classes in what interested me, I’d find something that would connect. My degree had a lot of variety in it. Since I studied Spanish language, linguistics and second language learning, English literature, and creative writing, there were many careers I could go into. But none of them seemed to pull me in.

All through university, I kept telling myself and my friends, “I should have gone to art school.” So I’ve applied to an 8-month art program at a college. I hope I get in, but that means even more life changes. Moving again, not having a house to fall back on since my dad is moving too, and embarking on a separate industry.

Who would have thought that life after university meant considering more post-secondary school? School that wasn’t a graduate degree. I want to go to college! It’s what I should have done from the start! I kind of regret my bachelor’s degree, but I know it was still very valuable. Both the experiences and the credential are beneficial to me. But it isn’t what I thought I would do after high school.

It’s weird to not be in school, considering I’ve grown up in school all through my developmental years. Isn’t that ridiculous to think about? From around the age of 4 until 18, and further, I’ve been structured into a school system of some form. I’m scared as hell. It’s common for people my age to not know what their purpose is. It’s also common to take a while to figure out my “place” in life. I’m worried I’ll never figure it out, and that I’ll always be looking for the next thing. So I don’t know what’s next, aside from the possibility—and desire—to return to school once more.

Advice To My University Freshman Self + Spreadsheet Template

I’m surprised I’m not feeling the disgruntled pull of back-to-school season. This is my first year not going into school once September hits, so I half expected that I’d be itching to get on a bus or go to a campus and get in a classroom. But I’m not.

I’m thinking about the most recent school experience I had: university. I wish I had gone into university with the right mindset—seeking higher education—instead of the wrong impulse—getting out of my childhood home and being “independent.” Nobody in family really did the university thing (and if they did, they weren’t around to mentor me through my last year of high school, which was filled with grief and angst). So here’s the advice I’d like to give to my freshman self, after I’ve done the undergraduate program.

Get your mental health checked out before you have a breakdown.

Seriously, Coryl. You’ll fail a class, scrape by in three others that are prerequisites for the rest of your degree, and you’ll get yourself on academic probation. Your mental health matters and when you’re barely sleeping, abusing alcohol, and not doing anything aside from resisting the call of the void… you need help.

Compile all of your class syllabi into one master spreadsheet/calendar.

Use it. Plan your time. You’ll go through weeks where you have nothing due, and you’ll slack off. And then the next few weeks will be a bloodbath of assignments, tests, readings, and presentations. Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight isn’t half bad either. Here’s a handy Google spreadsheet, based off the ones that older (more successful) Coryl used each semester.

Speak up in class, even if you’re not entirely right.

A good professor—hell, even a decent one—will be able to take your half-baked answer and continue lecturing off of that, and your classmates will already be more interested if they hear someone speak other than your prof. You know all those times the lectures dragged on? That’s because the prof was trying to get you guys to supply some information or questions. Plus, there’s bound to be a participation grade and your prof will remember you (and ask your name, you’ll never get used to saying your name out loud and having to repeat it). You’ll also digest the information better because you gave some input.

Don’t leave things to the last minute—studying, reading, essays.

This is something everyone says, but honestly, when you’re in a double concentration program that has two different languages, nearly a book’s-worth of reading each week, and linguistic studies, all with multi-faceted methods of learning (presentations, essays, quizzes, you name it)—you can’t leave shit to the last minute. You literally are not able to read an entire Shakespeare play in one morning. Your reading speed and your typing speed are not high enough for you to be able to do it all in one shot the night before.

Stop drinking.

It’s not worth it. You’ll gain weight. You’ll develop an addiction you knew you’d get, even before you tasted vodka, and you’ll create a persona with your drunk behaviour that other people will assume is your true personality. You’re not Drunk Coryl. You’re Coryl and when you’re drunk, you’re more like Manic Coryl—and Manic Coryl is not a healthy Coryl.

You got this, Coryl. You didn’t have it when you were a freshman, but you’ll have it by the time you finish.

Now the only things I need to do are stop worrying about my debt and continue plowing forward to reaching my goals.

How To Be An Untidy Student

This week, I return to university… for the last time.

I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be done. But before I go, I want to impart some wisdom. (Anyone who knows me even remotely should know that “arrogant” indeed applies to me.

If you’re a student—whether a first year/freshman, grad student, or in between—there’s always more to learn. After all, you wouldn’t still be in this institution if you didn’t believe that to some extent, right? I’ll be posting these types of post during my last semester, and probably in the months before I graduate in June, in the hopes that someone will find something useful.

I have lived all of my university experience off-campus and I would not have it any other way. My first year, I moved 5 hours away to live with some strangers in a house. Most of my tips will apply to people living off-campus. Based on my experience, and the experiences of some peers, I would strongly suggest you find somewhere other than campus residence to live if you’re independent or introverted.

Anyway! Here we go! How to be untidy!

I pride myself on being a relatively tidy person. We can’t be at our 100% best 100% of the time. Sometimes I fall prey to these things, but most of the time, I don’t. Being a tidy person requires constant maintenance. Entropy is the main factor in untidiness. Idleness is not tidiness.

Untidy: Put things in the nearest spot.

I’ll find it again eventually, right? There aren’t many places for that receipt to fall, and all of my laundry is piled up in the same spot, so a t-shirt should be in there, too. I know it’s around somewhere, so I’ll look for it when I need it.

Tidy: Give everything a place.

I put my backpack on one section of the floor near my desk. I know where it is when I need it and I know where it goes when I don’t need it. I haven’t given it a pedestal, a door, a box, or a hook. I’ve given it somewhere to park itself. It’s not pretty or elegant, but it’s functional.

Untidy: Scramble to do everything in the mornings.

My keys are on my dresser, I can do my hair after I shower, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written a to-do list for my errands. I may sleep late tomorrow morning, or I may wake up to my alarm’s first call. I’ll have enough time, and I can speed up or skip certain things in case I run behind schedule.

Tidy: Reset your space at night.

For my evenings before I go to bed, I have to hit a certain number of areas. If I have classes, I prepare my bag for the next day and sometimes leave notes to get other things that I can’t get yet or will be using before putting in my bag. I wash my face, and brush and floss my teeth. After I check the weather, I pick an outfit for the next day and put it on my dresser, since that’s the designated spot. I do a general tidy-up to make sure things are in their places—this covers my dresser, my desk, and all the laundry that is inevitably lying on the floor or in my closet (and not in hampers—which is the laundry’s place). I check my planner and put in everything I need. The mornings are a lot easier when my environment and my mind and body are reset at night.

Untidy: Don’t wash OR put away dishes

Okay, I don’t have a reality for where this would make sense. There is no way I can rationalise leaving dirty dishes lying around. Clean dishes, sure, but dirty ones? Gross. Gross. Gross.

Tidy: If there are clean dishes, put them away.

If I need to wash dishes, I decide on a point in time that day to wash them. I don’t say “tomorrow morning” or “when I have time.” I pick “while dinner is cooking” or “before I head upstairs for the night.” Part of my nightly reset is making sure I’ve cleaned up as much as I can so I don’t have to deal with it the next day. Admittedly, I do leave my dirty dishes, but I have a rule of not leaving them for more than 24 hours. I also rinse any dishes if I know I’m leaving them for a while. Scrubbing dried food and sauce is the bane of dishwashing.

Also, if there are clean dishes, get them out of the way. They’re clean, but they aren’t in their place.

Untidy: Assume you have time.

I’ll be able to get everything done. Studying for an hour really is one hour, so that leaves me many more hours for other things. Might as well allocate time for everything, right?

Tidy: You never have enough time.

I won’t be able to get everything done in the span of time I think I’ll get it done. Sometimes I finish something sooner than I thought I would. Sometimes I finish something way later than I thought I would. I often bump tasks from one day’s to-do list to the next day’s to-do list. I’ve given myself enough time to buffer for the fact that I don’t have enough time. (This tidy tip is also known as “plan ahead” because giving yourself more time to make up for not having enough time means you need to think into the future.)

Becoming tidier and more organised isn’t easy. It takes effort. But so does everything in life. If something matters to you, you’ll put in the effort to care for it. If you care about yourself, you’ll take care of yourself. Relationships. Bedrooms. Clothes.

If it matters, it needs maintenance.

The Fate of “Writing Magic” As A Lit Major

Writing Magic: The feeling I have when I’m writing and enjoying the process. This feeling can come even while I struggle, or when I’m frustrated at the inability to find the correct word, or even while reading material someone else wrote.

When I began my BA nearly four years ago, I didn’t go into it believing I would come out smarter. Perhaps that mindset is what lead me to losing the Writing Magic as I progressed further in school.

My degree has three core creative writing workshop courses, but these didn’t knock out the Magic.

Studying classical literature–from Shakespeare to Keats to contemporary Canadian novels–made me feel like a fake. There was no way I could consider myself a True Writer while these figures towered over me from beyond the grave and book awards ceremonies in Toronto and Vancouver. What was the point? I would never be as good as them.

Through the numerous short stories, poems, and novels I read for classes, I figured out how to analyse writing quickly. I wrote essays. Some of them took days and multiple drafts, and with nervous fingers I would present them to my professor or place them on the desk at the front of the room. Others were lightning-quick, hastily-formed essays constrained to 90-minute or 3-hour blocks of time for an exam, and I would lightly pencil in my thoughts in the margins so I could have structure, ultimately erasing these crude half phrases.

Dare I say it, I learned how to write a mean essay analysing a single point in a piece of writing. I’m not the best, but better when compared to my failures in first year (where I failed a course called “Writing About Literature” due to 1. my incompetence; and 2. my mental health). Somewhere along the way, a light went off; or, more realistically, a certain professor changed the way I looked at literature analysis and helped me figure out how to write a fucking university-level thesis.

So what happened to my love of reading fiction? fantasy? YA novels?

And my love of writing fiction?

Those loves died somewhere. I became a cold cut with no appetite for aesthetics. Sterile. Literature became a thing to criticise, rather than savour and create.

I want to find the Magic again.

As part of my goals for this year, I’ve resolved to wake up early and write. I haven’t specified what I’ll write–on Day 1, I wrote the bulk of this blog post–but I determined that I will write. I have also determined to read daily outside of school. I’ve been working my way through The Chronicles of Narnia again because they seem to kindle some small, precious glow that might be some of the leftover Magic.

No more sitting around lamenting I Don’t Have Time Or Energy Because I Read And Write So Much For School. I’m an adult and I have goals. I can’t possibly take myself seriously if I don’t put in as much effort as possible to achieve those goals. Perhaps that’s the difference between shyly saying, “I’m a writer,” and confidently saying, “I’m a writer.”

I hope that, somewhere in the pre-dawn scribbling and typing, and the frantic nightly page-turning, I can find the Magic again. That excitement; that rush of endorphins; that minuscule, encouraging spark–they still exist. Matter does not disappear; it merely transforms and moves. I will read and write until I come across those sparks of Magic again.

I hope I find something. Anything.

The Fate of "Writing Magic" As A Lit Major--Blog post on what happened when I went to study literature as a creative writer.