Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Surprise! See You Soon/Never.

Have you ever tried planning a surprise party for your two best friends and managed to pull the whole thing off? It's probably one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. But tonight, I did it.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't just tonight. It was two weeks of excessive planning, down to every last detail. Being independent, I refused to let anybody else help me (mistake # 1). I made a Facebook event, invited over 30 people to dinner, hounded them to respond almost twice a week to keep numbers up to date, made reservations, changed reservations, and made creative party favours. All while making sure that nobody spilled the beans. 


When we got to the restaurant, there were three out of 25 people at the table, with only ten minutes till the guests of honour showed up. It made me really consider who I thought was a true friend, and I decided, that the people who I really admired and trusted were those that I knew would commit to something and pull through. University has really changed my views on friendship, and this last year has really made me aware of how many friendships I've loved and lost over these past four years. 

In first year, friendships were based around the people who loved to drink what you drank, around what bar they liked to go to, around awkward hookups and laughing about them the next day. I valued my friends for their stories, their adventures, their humour and all that they could entertain me with. I valued the people who caught my attention and that was the only reason. Friends were disposable except for the ones who always had a good story to tell the next morning. First year friendships were all for the hilarity.

Second year became a whole different ballgame... That year, we were all about housemates. People went to parties with their housemates, they took class with their housemates, you were identified as a housemate and your friendships were always the same as the friendships of your housemates. We, as a house, had the most incredible neighbours that year, seven guys who changed my life forever. They were the "boys" and they were graduated already and just taking an extra year. They taught us how to enjoy everything and not stress about the little things, as well as how to throw a VCR off a third floor story roof. They were also rockers, always introducing us to new bands and classic music, developing our interest in so many different kinds of music. Second year friends were those that taught you how to survive.

Third year was the year that I didn't want any more friends. I began to thrive on the little group we had created, and conflict was so consistent that it was overwhelming. Third year was the year where you decided who you wanted and didn't want to socialize with anymore. That was the year my housemates fell apart. (That, and we had rats in the walls).

And so here I am. Fourth year, trying to figure out what kind of friends this year develops. After tonight, I think I can finally say that fourth year friends are the ones who lasted since the beginning. They're the friends who consistently hold your hair back when you're sick, that yell at you when you're doing badly in a class, that laugh with you when you fall on your butt, but most importantly, they're the ones that will be there when they say they will. Good friends will always be there for your birthday, will come with you to things that don't interest them for support, and will make sure to walk you home no matter what. The surprise party taught me a lesson in who I can count on, and I hope that many others got the impression this year that I am someone to be counted on as well. 

Commitment. That's what fourth year friendship is to me. It's the commitment that we'll stay friends after this year, that we'll talk even when we're not in the same country, and we'll carry on as if nothing had changed even after years apart.

The surprise party went off without a hitch. Except that the birthday boy had been kidnapped before dinner and forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Here's to you, birthday best friends, to an amazing 22nd year, and to many more surprise parties ahead. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Leaning How to Conference

At my school, we live by two rules: everything must be an acronym and conferences are the only way to spend your weekend. You pay hundreds of dollars to go to a hotel just down the road, spend a couple days listening to speakers, and then get assigned to sit at a table for dinner with eight to ten people you've never met. The perks are the evening socials, where a tacky theme is thrown at you and you then have to go drink and party with the awkward boy that sat beside you during dinner. Sounds really informative, right?

I signed up for two conferences this semester... just hoping that something would throw itself at me and I'd fall in love and plan my life and be happy ever after. One was marketing, one was philanthropy. I'll start with marketing since it was more expensive.

My friend that convinced me to apply had previously attended this conference, she knew the ropes, the executive committee, and even gave me a ride to the hotel (which was at the end of my street). We pulled in the first night to find out we were sharing a room with two pleasant girls from our opposing school, I actually like that school secretly, but only because it's in my home town. We all enjoyed a cocktail hour sponsored by a local wine company, then got to have dinner and listen to the head marketing director for Facebook Canada. I knew right there and then, that I was going to love conferences. The next two days were filled with meals accompanied by great wine, interesting people and delicious food between incredible speakers and a marketing challenge event. My team came in third for that event. I've never been so proud. At the end of the weekend, I walked away with so many new connections and ideas, that I decided to look further into the world of social media and it's implications. I also made an incredibly embarrassing joke about how the chocolate ice cream was so delicious that it would be perfect for PMS saviour...

Note: Do not reference menstrual cycles when conferencing. It's inappropriate even AFTER cocktail hour.

I was on cloud nine and a half after that weekend. I became obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, and was on a mission to see every great advertising campaign possible. I used the word "priceless" in every day language and critiqued anybody who told me otherwise. Conclusion: conferencing is totally priceless.

Then came the next weekend...

The second conference I attended was on philanthropy. To be honest, I had zero clue as to what philanthropy was. I knew that Carnegie was a philanthropist and he had a music hall, and I really just got dragged along by my friends who had helped plan it. I recognized many delegates from the weekend before, but they seemed much less talkative this time around. The speakers were dry, lacking innovation, and the food was mediocre. We watched a movie on Africa and a community working through life with AIDS. That was the highlight of this conference, which says a lot. I decided I wanted to be rich and this was not the way to do it; I was not going to be a philanthropist. They didn't even give us free stuff... did I mention that the marketing conference gave us two hundred dollars worth of swag? Conclusion: When I'm rich, I'll open a music hall.

At the end of my back-to-back conference experience, I learned many things to do and not to do when conferencing. Here's some advice for your future endeavors.

How to Conference 101:
1. Always pay attention when somebody shakes your hand. They're probably telling you their name. Humans are overloaded with sensory information and 80% of the time, you won't remember their name after they connect their hand with yours. Also, make sure you don't go to shake hands like you're a little old lady holding a heavy handbag. You know what I mean. It's horrid.

2. When you're given drink tickets, USE THEM. You have 2 hours of awkward conversation to deal with. Alcohol helps.
3. Dress fabulous. This is a runway. Nobody cares what you have to say. You're just like every other student there. The better you look, the more likely you are to succeed at this weekend.
4. Always go to the bathroom before the speaker starts talking. When they're presenting, you're stuck in the room for the entire time. There will definitely be a million questions asked after they're done speaking, so you can count on peeing your pants if you get caught there.
5. Network as much as possible. Talk about whatever you can, let anyone possible know who you are and really listen to what they have to say. Chances are, somebody there has the ability to help you in the future and they'll love what they see. Alcohol is not endorsed for this section of the conference, try to stick to caffeine so you don't make any references to menstrual cycles.

There you have it. The undergraduate's guide to success at conferencing. Go out, network hard, look fab, and learn lots. You might just stumble upon a career, or better yet, a great glass of wine.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Rocking and Rolling

Imagine your life like a super smooth passenger train (I'm talking a super smooth train where you could put your Starbucks venti skinny vanilla latte on the table in front of you and it wouldn't spill at all). You're headed straight towards one direction, no glitches, bumps, or stops along the way. You have everything sorted out down to fuel amounts, speed limits, and interior design. Your friends are all on board with you, they want to get to that specific place as well. What happens when you suddenly realize you don't want to go there anymore? When you decide to take the other route? When you're broke, have no plans, and need to figure out your life in  less than four months.

Welcome to my life as a soon-to-be university graduate. 

At some point, everyone needs to "figure it out." But I suppose we should start right from the beginning. All my childhood, I wanted to be a ballerina. I made my parents pay for expensive private lessons, cried when I didn't get the solos, and once pushed a fellow dancer off the stage when she didn't follow instructions... You could see I was determined. Over the years I learned slowly that ballet wasn't going to be my life forever, in fact most ballerinas' careers end before they're 25. I created a backup plan: pretend to be smart and get into university.

Okay, maybe pretending isn't the exact thing... I graduated highschool with a 4.3 GPA and easily got into a prestigious university. That was when I got lost. Mentally, emotionally, physically (freshmen don't stand a chance against this one) lost. I liked a lot of subjects, but nothing stood out. Until I took PSYC100. It was a first year, thousand student enrollment type of class. Coming from an artistic background, I guess it seemed strange that I ended up in the neuropsychology side of the program. We studied everything from rats, to hippocampi, to aplysia and conditioning techniques. If you don't know what an aplysia is, ask for one for your birthday, it'll really surprise you that something can be so utterly disgusting and boring at the same time. Back on track. Three years passed by, I did volunteering in a research lab, found a thesis supervisor, got approved, then decided I hated science. 

You thought it was going to be more exciting. Like a revelation. Sorry to be a letdown. That goes out to you too, Mom. I'll figure out how to be the favourite child again soon. 

Tangential conversation. Look it up. I'm terrible at staying on track.

One time in the fifth grade, I had the stomach flu and my mom made me go to school. I hid it from my friends all day, and called her repeatedly to come bring me home. When she didn't listen to me and said I was making it up, I threw up all over the foyer from our second-floor balcony. That was another time when I lost the favourite child status. I won't tell you how I had to earn it back that time.

This time, I gave up on my academic future. I backed out of my thesis, resigned from graduate school applications, and joined a rockband... okay maybe two out of three. I once did lighting for a cover rock band for 20 dollars. That's another fun story.

So here I am. Clueless on how to get a job, build a career, and be a grownup. This is the story of my last semester of university, learning to be legitimate and walk on ice without falling.

This is the guide to everything not to do as you learn to graduate, and stop undergraduating.