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I’m writing this in my Shakespeare class. I intended to create this post sometime this morning, but my bed was just too damn comfortable and I didn’t want to get up. That seems to have been the theme from May till now, and my bed still isn’t making it easy to get up in the morning, even if I have actual responsibilities now. A petty thing to complain about, and I really shouldn’t. The truth of the matter is that I should be grateful that I could come back to finish my last year at Mount Royal. I almost couldn’t. My dreams were almost quashed…


 

Early at the beginning of summer I was denied student loans for school this year.  I didn’t know or realize it, and I don’t remember anybody telling me (I actually remember the rules being different 5 years ago), but I had taken up my 5 years worth of funding that the Alberta government allows a post-secondary student (remember this! It could affect you too!!). I had to file an appeal, and so I spent a few hours one day writing out a heart-felt letter to the tune of, “If I can’t get funding for my final year, the probability of me being able to ever finish my degree is minuscule in the extreme,” and having references and support letters written for me from people of stature at school. After mailing, all I could do was hope. Until I was given an answer that stress would keep with me.

I had lost my summer job. In July I was let go, and that was not a good feeling. With the uncertainty I was feeling about continuing and finishing my education, and having been let go from a job I thought I was doing well at, I collapsed in on myself; it had been a while since so many bad things happened so quickly. I fully recognize that there are people elsewhere in the world who are faced with problems far, far worse than my own, but my reality is also my own, and adversity is adversity which sometimes makes it hard to persevere. I’ve written on perseverance before, and I will still say that to persevere is one of the most exhausting things any person can do. It is constant, it is momentum, and when an object loses momentum it takes an even greater amount of force to get it going again. Simple physics, but that still holds true in a more existential way.

And then! And money sucks for reasons like these, the government sent me a letter informing me that they payed me too much in tax returns, and I now owed them $1100 by August 13th or whatever. Jobless, lethargic, and feeling sorry for myself, I began to wonder how it would be if I just sold off everything I own and took off to some country somewhere for the better part of a year? How tempting that was. I’m a firm believer in escapism, it’s a great stress relief. We escape anytime we read a book, or watch a movie, or play a video game. We imprint our own hopes and dreams onto the characters we enjoy so much in our favourite stories, and for an hour or two we don’t have to worry so much. I’m not gone, however; I’m still here. Which brings me to my next point…

Last year I wrote that I wouldn’t be writing the student life blog anymore. I decided to renege on that. I’ve been writing this thing for the better part of three years now, making me the longest running and most consistent student blogger Mount Royal has ever had. I’m graduating this year and I want to share with people just what it’s like to complete this whole journey. It’s no small feat to begin and finish university. It takes no small amount of courage and hard work to open yourself to so much  change and opportunity, not to mention that when a person finally graduates, they’re meant to really, truly, become an adult and begin their life. Scary, isn’t it? I’m 25 years old now and only next year will I really “become an adult.”

To remind you about where I stand as a student: I’ve been at MRU for 5 complete years, and will be graduating at the end of my sixth. I spent a year studying in Japan where I was also witness to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in March, and since coming back I’ve involved myself very heavily in the campus community. I’ve worked as a governor for the student council, have been writing this blog since 2011, ran for student council in 2014, have helped organized conferences, and am now writing my honour’s thesis to wrap up my career here. All of you are the same. We are all students here. And I’m going to share the end of my journey with you, so that some of you won’t feel alone, and others will know what to expect. This is no longer Lost at MRU, this blog has become Found at MRU (though the url will stay the same).

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An open letter to everybody

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Dear Everyone,

 

I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this, but I’m a fabulous liar. I lie every day, and have been lying to everyone who knows me best, including myself, since I can remember taking those tenuous first steps in transitioning from immaturity to young-adulthood. And not to brag or anything, but I’m fantastically good at lying. Ignore those stupid little lies we tell each other everyday about that thing that happened to us on the way to some place over there and Oh. My. God! I saved a baby! and blah blah blah. No. The sort of lie that I’m talking about is so perfect, so grandiose, that I somehow manage to trick me, the liar, into believing it every morning.

What I’m talking about here, my gullible, oh so gullible audience, is the great whale-of-a-tale regarding my confidence. I’ve had compliments paid to me about how sure I am of myself. I’ve also had people call me vain, as in, “Dude! You’re so frickin’ vain!” If only you knew, you believers and non-believers, about how little confidence I truly have in myself. I try to never let it show, but the truth of the matter is that I doubt myself constantly and in almost everything that I do. You might say, “That’s so stupid!” Granted, it is, but that does not change the fact that I live in perpetual fear of failure, of coming in second best, which surprisingly happens more often than not (false vanity, I assure you).

My confession serves a purpose. It does, I swear. You can believe me. My lies are by no means a product of ill will. I love you all, my friends, and you can trust me when I say that my lies are what push me to do things bigger and better than anyone could ever expect of me, including myself. Why did I stay in Japan after the earthquake? My answer was: Why wouldn’t I? Why enroll in the honours program at the same time as the co-op program (when it existed)? My answer: Because I can. Why do anything that I do? My answer: Because I’m awesome! (LIES)

Ahhhh. This feels good. Finally it’s off my chest. Pressure gone, but not really. There is a serious consequence to telling such a horribly effective lie, this, to use a term I legitimately hate, self-affirmation: When you come to believe that you are seriously great, and the best, and better at everything than everybody else, it is easy to fall to the pressure that begins to build. So here is a warning: Believe you are the best, because you are, but always remember that it’s okay to fall every once in a while, and that failing doesn’t make you weak. You can get past it, because you’re awesome.

 

Yours in life and love,

Mitch

 

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To Dream, or not to Dream

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I don’t drive much. I have my license, but being a full time student on student loans doesn’t really allow me many options for how I get from place to place. Which means Monday to Thursday, and sometimes on Friday, I can be found squished somewhere among the rush hour crowd on a bus or a train, getting to know people in an intimately physical way that only users of public transit can truly appreciate. More often than not I can still smell the breakfast of the person squished up against me near the doors. It’s a manageable situation. As much as people who have the kind of money needed to own a car like to complain, transit isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. A certain skill develops in being able to shut out the world, to the point where a razor thin bubble of personal space envelops you, and it’s possible to ignore at least the most obnoxious of social faux pas the general public, generally, commit. The old man next to you making those obnoxious chup chup sounds as he sucks on his cough drop can be drowned out by music you can stuff in your ears. The lady shaking her leg just inside the fuzzy edges of your vision can be ignored simply enough by looking out the window, and we all manage to head towards the start of our day in relative peace. But my how nice it would be if that old guy would stop with his chup chupping.

I like to people watch at times like that, when I’m forced into the very close confines of general society. I can see what the pretty twenty-something year old blonde girl is reading in her seat. 50 Shades of Grey helps me to immediately judge her tastes in what some people affectionately call “High Culture”. I hardly consider 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight to be beacons of class. It’s easy to judge people in that way. Much harder is to figure out who exactly is living with that certain joie de vivre that most of us wish we had more of in our lives. Once upon a time, which was really not so long ago, even I was living in a foreign place where hardly anybody knew me and every day was an adventure, and coming back to reality was a novelty in itself for at least that span of time we call a year but is really only three-hundred and sixty-five days. More and more I’m finding a year passes by just too quickly.

And at some point we find ourselves floating through our lives in what some people would call bliss. Bills and rent, and girlfriends, and boyfriends, and family holiday parties and layoffs, and what that politician in Toronto did last week, become part and parcel of our lives and minor inconveniences, and we’ll manage them the same way we always do. Practicality above all things is the God of our society and we’ll go to school to study something that can help us find a job where we can make a lot of money, even if we come home at the end of every day tired and pissed off because of something that Sally Nobody said around the water cooler, or because our boss chewed us out after lunch for missing a deadline. Forget that once when we were 12 and still knew how to dream that we wanted to play jazz trombone when we got older. That takes talent, and practice, and time. Better to work on the rigs. That’s what reality tells us. In that time just after high school when we think we’ll finally be able to work full time somewhere and “I’ll have more money than I’ve ever known what to do with!” reality will come by and pounce on us from behind. Not everything is so easy as a dream. English majors will all become teachers, or else they’ll pretend to be barristas at Starbucks and serve more accomplished people their six dollar grande-soy-half-sugar-no-foam-latte who pay with their credit card.

But what if things weren’t like that? I hope I’m wrong, despite what everyone else around me thinks. It was my grade 9 Language Arts teacher who taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned after all. “You’re not a robot. Think a little. Whatever you read, hear, or see, use your brain and think at least a little bit for yourself.” Smart man, Mr. Dumais. He makes a lot of sense. At least I know that I won’t be serving pretend high end coffee in my hometown where opportunity is coloured a tarry black and graces us with its presence via pipeline from Up North. My calling is somewhere else doing other things. I just hope that there are other people out there who dream as big as me.

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Next March I turn 24, and I’ve spent 5 years in university. Thirteen years in grade school. That’s 18 years total studying things on levels of interesting that range from shoot-me-now to give-me-more! If I work out the math, that’s 18 over 24, reduce it, 3/4? I’ve spent three quarters of my life in school. Granted, university has been one of the more defining chapters of my life, that time when I’ve explored more about myself than I ever have at any other point, but it’s getting old. The scenery is starting to stagnate and get fuzzy around the edges like I’m looking at the middle space between me and the world. The lifestyle is starting to dull. My motivation  is starting to wane.

Motivation. That silky and cunning thief of personal progress runs from me and slips through my fingers like water through cupped hands. The harder I hold my hands together, the more obedient motivation becomes, but should I trip or kick my toe on the edge of a table, it spills into the universe leaving me nostalgic for when I still knew how to push forward, or for when I was a kid and only had to worry about skipping a bar on the jungle gym. I’m being poetic because I began writing this in Shakespeare class, and distraction has long been the key to my success. My professors will look out from the front of the room and see me either looking at them, or more commonly looking at my computer screen. I am distracting myself sometimes, but more often than not I’m looking up the places and people and theories and concepts and this and that etc. that we talk about in class, and on a separate tab closer to the top left of my browser I have my favorite comic book pulled up and I’m on page 7. I distract myself because it helps me focus. If I consider it carefully, classrooms are vacuum sealed bubbles of thought. Inside a classroom there’s enough of a bubble atmosphere that I can’t distract myself with video games and house parties.

It takes a huge amount of energy to keep pushing yourself forward. Personal progress isn’t something that happens by accident after all. To keep doing things that keep yourself out of your comfort zone, to keep trying, takes constant effort. Responsibility finds you and becomes something that’s seemingly unmanageable, but you do it because you have to and, hopefully, because you want to. How do you keep that up?, when there is hardly any time for you to sit down for a beer with your friends and talk about that movie that came out last week starring enter celebrity name hereor about how your sister just had a kid and Man! Did you see that girl/guy walking down mainstreet today? Life takes on a different meaning, and it speeds up to the point where the edges of things become a blur. How do you keep up with that?

I’m running on. It’s obvious to myself even as I write this, but then that’s the nature of my situation. I’m at a crossroads. I’m facing one of those unavoidable points in life when a person has to make a choice, pick a direction, decide to move one way or another. That’s the only conclusion I’ve come to, but what I haven’t been able to put my finger on is the nature of this looming…thing. It got nothing to do with what I’m supposed to be doing. I have enough structure in my life, a goal to achieve to know what I need to do. My attitude, or personality? That could be it. Nobody can say that from the time they wake up on any given day to the time they go to bed they’re not just a little bit different.

I’m writing aimlessly now. This thing is four weeks late, due in large part to the amount of reading and work I’ve had in classes. I hope I have things a little more figured out next week. Who knew that a student would come across insecurity in university? (Note: sarcasm)

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The other day I was having a conversation with some friends about academia. It was one of those super deep things that really examined what it knowledge is, what it does, who should have access to it, how it should be done. Research, writing, papers, articles, write-ups. The language that should be used in those things, the perspective–who we’re writing for, do they matter? Should we be writing for the general population? Or the population of the people of the Ivory Tower? Apparently I’m a bad academic, because most of my friends agreed that knowledge should only be accessible by a few, and that it is those privileged who have any right to add to it. Arrogance. That’s what I call that opinion. But then I’m apparently a socialist (I’m not, but that’s what my business major friends call me, so they must be right).

I’m bitter about this. That there is a certain decorum that must be adhered to in academics. Actually, I won’t do it. I don’t like that I can’t use proper pro-nouns in my essays. I don’t like that I have to absolutely base my research on other people’s research. I love that my idea for my honours thesis is almost completely new and original. That’s how this conversation started. How do I write on what I want to write about? It’s an up-and-coming topic, and there’s not a lot of research done on it yet. Where do I begin? *sigh* I’ll figure that out next semester.

I’ve been writing this over the course of three days. The week has been longer than expected. Holidays don’t mean anything to me anymore. They’re no long times of relaxation and light repasts. I spend them reading things I have to read for class, or writing essays and planning presentations (one–1–presentation). If for some reason I don’t have any work, all that means is that I actually do, it’s just that I’m procrastinating, which then means that I’m spending my time with my family, or with my friends, because there’s a birthday or Thanksgiving or Christmas or Ramada. Not really Ramadan, but I’ve always wanted to celebrate that one once, just to see what it’s like.

I wonder if there’s a way that I would be able to organize my week so that I can have a whole Saturday to myself, with no obligations to my friends or family or school. Doing my work ahead of time. But I’m not that responsible. Moving my deadlines? I would have to trick myself into thinking that my essays are due sooner. I could just tough it out I suppose. That’s what I usually do. My last two essays are due in two weeks, and after that I’ll have a week to coast before assignments come up again. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m made of tougher stuff than this. A lot of people are. In the last few years the world has seen so many horrible things happen, and we’ve been able to witness first-hand the fortuitousness of the individual. Strength, inner strength. Or sheer bull-headedness. It’s because humanity is so damn stubborn that we’ve survived for so long anyway, isn’t it? What’s a little bit of school work to me? I’ll be fine.

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Since my first year I’ve generally had a pretty steady routine. I mean that in the most general sense because it’s absolutely not true, but, generally, I’ll go to class and then head to The Hub where I’ll do my homework, read my books, and fail at organizing my notes because I never take any. I’ll speak with friends and join in on conversations that range from deep and intellectual to shallow and tedious, and I’ll ogle all of the girls who catch my eye who walk in. If anybody asks me what I do during my day, I’ll tell them exactly that and I won’t even flinch when they attack me with words like “Chauvinist!” “Pig!” etc. etc. Honestly, if MRU Confessions is any sort of an indicator, we’re all just, well, people. We’re drawn to each other and repelled by each other, and we like to look at whatever or whoever we’re attracted to and we try to enjoy ourselves if even at arms length. Try to disagree. You won’t be able to.

For the last few weeks a lot of the conversations that I’ve been having with my friends have centered around that topic. Actually, we’ve been talking about relationships and dating. We’ve talked about how hard it is, how much it sucks to play “The Game”, how some of us are genuine nice guys, and how some of us are jerks who play the “nice guy” card. We’ve talked about being lonely–that being on campus and going to classes and all of that would be so much more fun if we had someone who we could share our insecurities with. My own lack of any game has left me single for nearly 6 years. My friends tell me, “You should stop looking. Just ignore it and before you know it you’ll meet someone great.” I’ve been hearing that bit on consolatory advice for just about 6 years.

I complain. I do. The single life gets old that way. But then I forget about it and move on because, being single, I have so many other things to do and so many other priorities and my energies are best directed to the other areas of my life. Which means, consequently, I’m busier now than I ever have been. I’ll spare the details of myself. I’d rather just think about…

Love. And Like. Two of the messiest, most incomprehensible, most foggy card that humanity has ever been dealt. Impossible to understand. Impossible to get close to without being hurt, and we try to anyway. An uphill slog, that only becomes a downhill run when we finally meet someone who’s willing to reciprocate our feelings, and still we push forward. Maybe next time I see a pretty girl and she catches me looking, I’ll hold her gaze for an extra second, just to see how she reacts. I’ve got nothing to lose.

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Its been three weeks since school started. Three weeks to the day. Its also been a week since I’ve been able to wear flipflops anywhere outside, but who cares about that. Three weeks and most of the time I’ve been spending it running around being busy, and only now do I have any assignments to start working on for class. From the time I get on my bus to head to school to the time I get back to my place in the evening, my day is filled with people and things to do. I’m not complaining; I love all of my friends and acquaintances. They’re all wonderful lovely people who never get on my nerves, not one little bit. Either that or my patience is monumental in scope. I don’t know. I’ve been feeling a lot lately, more than ever in fact, that I just don’t have a whole lot of  time for myself anymore. I haven’t spent a weekend at home in weeks, but that’s also probably my fault. Most of the time I’m the one who sets up plans for me and my friends to hang out–the more the merrier and all that. I’m starting to sound bitter.

I woke up in last night. It was some ungodly hour that I couldn’t read of my alarm for the sleep in my eyes, and besides that my head was yelling at me in some sort of frustration I haven’t felt in years. The sort of migraines I sometimes get really, very truly painful. My vision will blur from the pain, and my stomach will turn inside out if I just even try to sit up. Needless to say I spent the rest of the night trying to get to sleep. I only woke up about 20 minutes ago. Today is my chance. A day of peaceful personal time spent tittering on extra strength Tylenol and coffee. A day where I can just sit in my under the covers and put off reading until my head can finally take it. A day where I read as I please once my head has simmered. I already sent the e-mails off while I was writing this–my profs know I won’t be in class today, and once this headache starts to die I’ll finally be able to enjoy the rest of my day at my leisure. I’ll be able to enjoy whatever’s left of it, anyway.

*I hope none of you ever have to deal with the kind of headaches I sometimes get. Peace and love everyone!

**Here’s me last weekend at Colour U Blue! Just to show you I’m not always a stick in the mud.

Me after Colour U Blue

Me after Colour U Blue

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A new year, a new story.

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I began coming back to campus about a week before school started. I had meetings, new projects to start even before the rest of the student body would be walking beside me in the halls, and that week between my summer job as a camp counselor and classes beginning was whittled down to a paltry three days true vacation time. I’m not complaining though. A paltry three days was all I needed, because in all honesty I’m happiest when school is on and my days are full of variety and stimulation. The weekly grind that most of us have to look forward to after we graduate, that we’re still going to have to work hard at if we want the sort of exciting lives we have now, is looming closer than ever before. With graduation coming up quickly next year, and this year being my last writing this blog, I’ve decided to do something different. My posts up until now have been very conversational. I’ve always felt that a student life blog should be written by somebody involved, and who shares similar if not the same, or even very different experiences as everyone else. So I would write and talk to whoever had the time and patience to read through my advices and wonderings about how a person can survive post-secondary education. This year I’ve decided to change my format.

There are more than twenty posts spanning the last two years giving advice about how to make the most of this experience. This year I’ve decided that it’s time for a very candid, personal introspective approach. What does it mean to be a student? I have my own ideas about that. How does my own experience line up with everybody else’s? This year I’m going to write about exactly that. This year I’m going to write to myself just as much as I write to others. It’ll be a healthy exercise, and hopefully people will enjoy it. The posts will longer, sure, but they’ll be telling a story. From taking transit from my home in the deep south, and dealing with the canned like claustrophobia of an overly packed train car (and the complete lack of personal space that goes with such a commute), to dealing with professors and classmates and the innumerable amount of work that’s given out to us during a semester, this years student life blog will be a narrative of life at Mount Royal. In the four-plus years that many of us are going to spend here, more than ever we lose ourselves in order to find out who we really are by the time we graduate. How will I do it this year? I don’t know for sure yet, but it’s going to be one hell of a ride! It’s always been that way for me. I just hope that the people who read this blog will enjoy listening to my journey, and that they’ll be inspired to start on their own, if they haven’t already.

*From the beginning of next week, posts will be up every Wednesday at noon. I hope you all comment and join in own my story!

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Holy tuna was this semester a rough one. It’s a community feeling. There were so many good and bad things that have happened–in hindsight it seems like the bad outweigh the good. Lets recap:

1. The provincial budget was released. Universities were cut a huge amount operational funding.

On my way to school today I read in the paper that MRU has released information about what programs are being cut, and what’s being done to make up for the budget gap that the Redford government has forced on post-secondary institutions. It’s not pretty. Several program in the arts are getting the axe, and layoffs are beginning to make their rounds throughout our institution. Students fees are being increased by $120, with parking passes seeing a rise of about $20. Speaking with some of the executive members of SAMRU, I was happy to hear that they are working very closely with MRU administration to confront the situation the provincial government has put our school in. BUT, we shouldn’t sit back and let other people take on these issues themselves. As students we have a responsibility to ourselves and our peers to advocate for ourselves. We have power in numbers. We have power as the future leaders of society. We have to fight back and defend our education! We should make our voices heard!

2. A good many guests came to Mount Royal to speak to the students and staff.

The highlight guest of the semester, for me, was Will Ferguson. He came to MRU for three days in March to speak with students in the English program. Will’s visit was particularly exciting for me because, besides him being of the most popular and successful writers in Canada, he has had a huge personal influence on me, both in my life and in my writing.

3. Going to the E-Awards is very humbling.

Since I returned from my student exchange I made it a point to live my life doing new things and making the effort to be active and involved. I’ve done a lot with that, and while I’m enjoying the benefits of all the projects I’ve started for myself or involved myself in, I was very humbled by the recipients of the various E-Awards SAMRU gave out this year. People are awesome, and the winners this year are proof of that. Well done everyone!!

4. I got my first C.

*shocked face* I. Got. A. C. A C+ actually, but still, a C grade. It was my first C grade in the four years that I’ve been here. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I consider myself to be an above average student. I work hard to keep my GPA up despite what extra-curricular things I do, and I take pride in what I know and how I communicate it. I’m not actually that choked. Friends, I know that there’s a tendency for some people to stress about their grades, so much so that it wears on them and blinds them to the smaller things in life that are meant to be, and should be, enjoyed. I’ve written about this before, but, again, remember to enjoy the small things. School is school, life is life. One is bigger than the other, and it should be enjoyed.

There’s so much more going on that I could write about, but they’re mostly part of my personal life. As it is, this summer is going to be an absolutely amazing and eventful one. Take some time in the next four months to challenge yourself. Go to some new things. Join a charity, run a race, go to an event somewhere that you would never normally go to. Find a new passion, spark a new interest, and most importantly, be awesome! Next year will be my last year writing this blog, and then I’m going to pass the flag to someone new. I hope you all have a great summer. See you next year!

Signing out for the 2012-2013 year,

Mitch

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I’m in class. RIGHT NOW. I don’t have any other choice but to divide my attention between writing this post and paying attention to my prof because as it is, I’m leaving school on the 11:52, 306 bus so that I can make it to work on time for 1pm. Time is not on my side today. It hasn’t been on my side since last weekend. But let me explain: last weekend I did exactly what I keep telling you readers not to do. Yes, I’m a hypocrite, but in my defense sometimes a person just needs to put off responsibility for a day or two so that they can have a good amount of time to relax and do the things they want to do, which I feel I was totally justified in mostly because it was my birthday last Sunday, and also because my little cousin (who I’ve never met before) is in Calgary for a few months and I wanted the chance to hang out with him.

Saturday was spent playing with remote control helicopters and Zelda on my Wii. Sunday was spent playing with remote control helicopters, playing Zelda on Wii, and having a sort of birthday dinner with my family. Monday morning was spent rushing through a draft of a short story that I had to hand in for my first class. The rest of the day was spent finishing up an essay I had to hand in on Tuesday. Tuesday was spent finishing up a draft of another short story I had to hand in for first class, again. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were spent either at work or taking care of some other errands that I had to get taken care of. Such is life; stuff gets in the way, but there’s no point in stressing over it.

School and work are starting to butt up against each other, with me squished between and suffering from insomnia. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about that that’s making me want this semester to be over. I’m done with homework. I’m done with writing essays. Actually, to rephrase that last bit, I’m tired of doing the research for essays. *sigh*

I feel like I’m rambling now, so I’m going to end this post with this: Students of Mount Royal University (or at least those of you who are getting tired of the academic side of things), we’re all in this together.

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