My Time at a Parisian Sex Club

Bars and dance clubs serve many social functions. Yet apart from being a site to let loose, bond with friends, and advertise your identity on snapchat, there is an underlying motivation lurking in the back of some intoxicated minds: finding someone to have sex with.

If you decide to take on this latter goal, you may find yourself going through some hoops which can be fun and flirtatious, but also exhausting and defeating. You must scope and approach or respond accordingly when approached, all while untangling intuitions about their intentions and personality. Let’s say you even land a lay, you then must trust this stranger well enough to either take them home or go to theirs.

Because I have used clubs for this end, sex clubs seemed to promise less worry about misunderstanding intentions. They are more upfront because you can assume everyone is there to partake in some form of fucking. And forget about splitting über fare on the way home to a stranger’s shabby apartment, you can rub junk right there in the club.

The honesty of a sex club had long appealed to me before my stay in Paris. Thus, given this curiosity, my lonesome travelling, and stereotypes of Paris as a sexual city, I decided to do some research on which club to attend while I was visiting.

I found a Parisian blog, Les LoLos (translating to “The Boobs” en Français), with a great piece about The We club. I don’t remember being able to find many reviews on other clubs, so after reading some of Les LoLos other posts, I judged her as a credible author and decided I would hit up the We Club.

First Attempt:

It was a Friday night and my hostel had accrued travellers from their bunks and local Parisians who were unaware Les Piaules was more than just a trendy bar. I met some people who were celebrating a birthday. They were planning to go to an indie bar, but the birthday gal received a giant-ass teddy bear as a (short-sighted?) gift and so they decided against it.

Drunk off my own bottle of wine, I decided to go to the bar myself. I took down the address, bid my acquaintances goodbye, and hopped on the metro (Belleville to Châtle).

The indie cover was too expensive for my taste. But then I remembered reading that The We Club had free entry and drinks for single woman (compared to 100 euros for single men). And Google maps informed me it was only 700 metres away. Unfortunately, I was in trousers which is something the club forbids for women, but I still decided to try my luck.

The entrance was like that of a bank in a parallel universe: you enter and are locked in a small dark room while someone looks at you through a security camera.

Once permitted, I began walking up the stairs until a woman in a tiny outfit informed me that it was “impossible” for me to get into the club that night. I was not given an explanation. I assumed it was because my trousers but had to laugh at the translation “impossible” which has such a heavy connotation in English – it was as if I came back in a skirt, a dress, or a stripper’s outfit, I would be declined.

Second Attempt:

The next night I was more prepared for the sexist dress-code. I adorned a black skirt, a white turtleneck, and fishnets. This time, I had no problem entering.

At coat-check, they took everything: my jacket, purse, and cellphone. A white man was checking in at the same time as me. He made small talk with me in good English and I watched the clerk scribble “Pierre” on his ticket before she hung up his coat.

After I checked-in, I got my first screwdriver and began exploring.

The venue was dark with red and purple backlights throughout. From the coat-room, there was an upstairs smoking room (a cancer-box), and a downstairs which housed a bar and DJ. There were two more descending levels from the bar. One with a bathroom, a BDSM swing, and a whole area of the floor made of leather cushion resembling some sort of sex play-pin. The lower level was smaller and had rooms with more cushions as the floor and portholes in the walls for voyeurs to peek into.

The crowd was small and mainly middle aged – there were maybe two other women among the (approximately) ten people around.

Pierre followed me around and I didn’t necessarily want him not to. I soon found out Pierre wasn’t his real name but his alias: the French equivalent of “John Doe”.

I wondered aloud to him if everyone comes here to have sex and he responded “well, you go to a badminton club to play badminton,” which was a very innovative way of saying “duh.”

I confessed that this was not how I expected a sex club to be. Nothing about it was erotic besides the fact that you could have sex if you wanted to. He asked if I was expecting something like Eyes Wide Shut. I had to laugh. I guess I kind of was. His knowledge of Kubrick was comforting.

I felt at ease in our conversation and to be quite honest, it’s probably because I had the leg up in our dyad. Given the small sample size of people here, I assumed that I had power because he wanted to fuck me (spoiler, I was right).

I went to get another drink from the bar. I smiled at an older woman who danced on a stripper pole with her male partner while one tit casually hung out of her shirt. It was then I finally realized the club’s main oddity: the DJ was playing top 40.

Yes, this music professional expected people to get it on to Watch Me Whip (watch me nay nay). I asked if his job required him to play this music. It didn’t, this was purely a consequence of his artistic liberty. Sounds like an abuse of power to me.

He even got offended that I dared to question his choice and ranted about how sexual taste is subjective. To each their own, but this dude is fucking wrong. If this is oh-so erotic for YOU, please spare your patrons and save this shit for your Spotify masturbation playlist.

Another strange (yet not surprising) thing were the older men scattered throughout the club. They stood alone, sipping their drinks and loitering near the areas where action promised to unfold. To their pleasure, a man and woman were slowly getting it on in one of the rooms. I peeked through the porthole to see her ass in the air as she gave head in the red light. I didn’t stay to watch for long.

After another drink and some more conversation with my unspoken partner for the night, I finally succumbed to the sexual milieu. I was making out with Pierre for a whole of 12 seconds until I opened my eyes to find three old men gathered very close to us. Like personal bubble close. Intently watching. I was not shy about my shock:

“What the fuck!!!!!!”

I led Pierre to the bathroom where we end up having sex, which was quite a conservative location given what the others were doing.

By the time we finished, there was an orgy happening in the sex play-pin. There were about four people arranged in a messy ensemble, knotting their limbs to reach those sensitive parts. Unlike Pierre, I had no fervent urge to join. In fact, I hardly even wanted to watch. I felt overwhelmed at the sight and so I went to the smoking room where I knew old men would give me free cigarettes.

Concluding thoughts:

That night I satisfied some curiosity and got laid. Pierre was at my hip for much of the time, and I was all too comfortable to seriously approach anyone else. I liked having someone who knew what was going on show me the ropes (no, not those ropes).

If I have any grievances it was the lingering men who make me wonder how my experience would have been different if I were completely alone.

I still plan on going to the sex club Oasis Aqua Lounge, in Toronto when I return to observe and experience the different facets of human sexuality. You know, for science.

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Ethics in Dating – Ghosting

The realm supernatural is mysterious and unknown. We turn towards it with curiosity, seeking to explain occurrences to which we cannot attribute any certain causation.

To our misfortune, “the other side” is not the only place which in we experience such an infinite inquiry. That’s right, the newest supernatural site happens to be taking place in front millennials very eyes: modern dating.

Since the fall of traditionalism and the rise of the internet, the new dating terrain is already disorienting.

It is riddled with ambiguous and differentiating practices that are guaranteed to explode in the face of anyone who misplaces step. There are no clear delineating lines of meaning or commitment.

This already confusing arena goes beyond the corporeal in the phenomenon known as “ghosting.” As I am sure many of you know, ghosting is when someone you have had a reasonable sense to believe reciprocates romantic interest in you, virtually disappears from your life without explanation.

This typically happens when they stop responding to your texts. Then that behaviour just continues ad infinitum.

The questions hit alongside their absence. What did I do? Is their phone broken? Stolen? Is it cause I squirted? 

It is okay to send a check-up message.

Fuck it, even a civil yet confrontational message is okay as well. But leave it at that. If its been 4+ days, do not attempt any further seance.

 

Ghosting is quite easy to do for a couple of reasons.

When online, we are disconnected from others in a way that deprives them of their humanism. French philosopher Levinas says that the face of the other is a crucial reminder that there is something beyond our own sense of self. Their face calls upon us the responsibility to treat them respectfully because our face calls the same requirement upon them.

Someone’s dating or social media profile is not enough to stimulate sensory experience of the face. Therefore online, we lack the beckoning call of responsibility to other people.

Not only this, but our phones are also sites for things other than relationships so it is easy to make a decision to do something else instead of reply. Moreover, in the case of dating sites, there are many more options for connections to pursue than ripening or cutting off the ones we have made.

Ultimately there is diffusion of responsibility.

Couple that with someone who fears the inherent confrontation and uncomfortableness that accompanies rejecting someone, and you got yourself a ghost.

Our devices may inhibit us from the same compassion that is elicited around others in real life, but this doesn’t mean we can’t summon up decency in ourselves to end a relationship.

Just because it’s hard to break up, doesn’t mean we should stay in a relationship with them. It also doesn’t mean we should never reply to them again.

If you are concerned about the person’s feelings and this is why you ghost, this is just a rationalized contradiction to avoid your own discomfort. They will be hurt either way. It is our responsibility to mitigate a hurt if doing so is not a major inconvenience to our own welfare.

If you have a choice, you have a basic responsibility.

 

I will recognize that there is a wide range of relationships with varying degrees of responsibility. Obviously, not responding to Tinder messages from someone you have been talking to for a couple hours/days isn’t really ghosting.

So when is it warranted to use this term?

My criterion is this: you have to have been given sufficient reason to think that this relationship had some semblance of mutual understanding of connection and future planning.

In eHarmony’s guide to coping with ghosting, they claim ghosting can happen after more than one date: “as soon as you’ve been on more than one date with someone, if you don’t want to see them again, you owe them an explanation.”

Yet this seems vaguely arbitrary.

I think can ghost someone if there is sufficient reason for them to think you will have future plans be it in real-life or if you will continue messaging online.

In this way, you can ghost someone you have never even met.

However, if someone has been a complete utter wanker to you, you don’t owe them shit.

 

Lack of explanation is what makes being the ghostee so frustratingly disempowering.

Unlike your typical run-off the mill rejection to which I am no stranger (yet still fairly bad at receiving), ghosting is worse because not only are you left with the typical what-did-I-do-wrong questions but because this person denied you of basic respect.

As unsatisfying it is to hear “I’m sorry we are not going to work for X reason,” you at least get the finality in knowing that this connection is not mutually desired.

Without this rudimentary explanation, there is no closure. Ghosting is the lowest kind of rejection.

Your phone shapeshifts into a cemetery. You are haunted by absence and question, visiting their grave – social media – for some kind of answer. That is if they haven’t yet blocked you.

 

I cannot write this post and pretend that I have never participated in this supernatural asshole-ness. Perhaps you have too.

But think about that one person you liked. The one-that-got-away if you will. Someone you saw some kind of future hangout with. You talked about hanging out later. They were (apparently) sensitive, funny, charming, whatever.

Then just like that, they fucked-off into the ether.

That stings doesn’t it? Now next time you consider this unconfrontational rejection, assume that you are this kind of likeable person to the other, save them confusion, and just reject them like a human being.

I suppose we must get ghosted to learn not to ghost.

But one thing I am sure of is that it would be in the best interest of everyone to exorcise this commonplace practice from our social norms. In this way, we are encouraging the weaker links in ethics to keep up with our standard of toleration. This is how we make tangible changes to the unbalanced levels of emotional maturity in modern dating.

 

In Defence of Tinder – A Discussion of Superficiality, Self-Presentation, and Attraction

A couple of weeks ago I was fucking around on my flatmate’s tinder, trying to find her a bloke to lay. She is pretty apathetic towards her account, so I was given free reign to practice my witticisms and absurdness. After one exchange I was particularly proud of, a feeling of nostalgia came back. It was damn satisfying to textually flirt!

As I stayed up at night tossing and turning because of my self-diagnosed sleep phase disorder, my mind drifted to a potential tinder bio: “Canadian gal looking to imitate your accent.” Simple and true. Fuck it. I was back on my shit in a matter of minutes.

It is commonplace to criticize tinder for its superficiality because the selection feature operates on the basis of individual’s appearances. Although there is an option to read someone’s bio, it is not the first thing that appears when swiping.

But what exactly do we mean when we call tinder superficial?

I will first look at the meaning of “superficial” in its colloquial use then apply it to our understanding of Tinder.

Oxford dictionary defines “superficial” as “existing on the surface” or “appearing to be true/real only until examined more closely.”

The way we conceive of superficiality implies a binary between “true” and “false,” equated respectfully, with “depth” and “surface.” Inherent in our use of the word, we are making a value judgement that it is wrong to be “on the surface.” This is because we understand the surface to be a false representation of a deeper and truer reality.

For example, to say I have a superficial understanding of Canadian history means that I can hardly recall the interconnection between events and therefore I fail to know a complex truth.

For a person to be superficial as a trait is to say that they hold oversimplified judgments about things. Furthermore, this trait also denotes that this person values said judgments.

“Chad is so superficial” is usually be taken to mean that he prioritizes X person’s exterior over their character. Or perhaps he imposes basic psychological judgements without any substantial warrant when it comes to his potential partner, Evan:

“I can’t date him he’s a Pisces and his rising is a Cancer!”

In Chad’s case, we can say he is overlooking more complex aspects of reality: there is more to a partner than their looks and star sign.

We can conclude that for someone to be superficial means that they are neglecting or unknowing of a significant aspect of reality. They are deniers of other’s humanism insofar as they are (willfully) ignorant of the fact that other people have complex personalities just as they do.

For tinder to encourage this mode of being means that it facilitates people to act ignorantly towards another person’s truth. I suppose one of the main critiques of tinder is its infinite stream of image-centred profiles that encourage the people to make false and/or neglectful judgements about other people.

However, are our judgements really that misinformed? Yes, Tinder may be based on a curated appearance, but in a society wherein the things we buy are symbolic communicators of what lifestyle we subscribe to, I propose that people are quite adept at identifying the signifiers of their preferences.

Identity under-capitalism has increasingly become a construction and maintenance of who we are based on what we chose to buy. In the free-market, we are barraged with an array of options for objects and activities that we use as tools to summate the self not only to ourselves but also to others.

The things we buy may have an innate function, however, they are also attached to a symbolic function that is to communicate status, knowledge, or interest.

Compare an ambiguously branded pair of running shoes with Yeezy’s or Vans Sk8-Hi – all have the same innate use but the latter two confer more than just essential coverage of the foot – one belongs to a streetwear mans who goes “rooftopping” in Toronto with his Canon, the other belongs to a tattooed mustached guy with spacers working part-time at The Warehouse and Adrenaline tattoos.

Commodities connote lifestyle and interest. We are all symbolically literate within our own unique sub-cultures.

Given this transcendence of an object’s usefulness to it’s symbolism, I do not believe that this ‘superficial’ behaviour is exclusive to the realm of tinder.

Self-presentation happens on the surface of interaction just like superficiality. So can we say that it is wrong to self-present just as it is to make superficial judgements? Maybe if you are deceiving in your methods, but is self-presentation in itself not inevitable?

Turning back to the discussion of superficiality as something that misrepresents or neglects a complex reality, lets consider this: I have a very large sticker on my laptop that says “fuck your male gaze,” but just in virtue of signalling that I belong to a group of people that hate the male gaze doesn’t mean I am superficial. It just means I chose to publicize my identity with a group and if anything, I welcome the company of other’s who are also pissed-off about the male gaze.

The surface is a way to communicate the deeper roots of our identity when situated under capitalism. It is not inherently wrong to make judgements on the surface. Self-presentation is not the only thing, but it is an efficient way of codifying our personality and interests to the world.

Because the surface is often where we are situated, it is fair to say attraction also happens on the surface (at least at first).

When we look for partners we are looking for people who effectively communicate qualities we are attracted to. Learning what you like in a person is about identifying signifiers of our preferred qualities in other people.

When we come to know what we are attracted to and how to identify our preferred qualities, this behaviour translates across platforms. Just like deciding whether to talk to a stranger, Tinder depends on how you inform your approach.

Therefore, Tinder is categorically the same thing as seeing someone attractive at the pub and striking up a conversation with them.

Whether your face is illuminated by the blue glow of your phone or naturally contoured in dim incandescence, you decide to approach a person because you are attracted to surface signifiers.

The nature of the approach is obviously different, but your attraction is still limited to how they present themselves at face-value.

Perhaps you decide to approach that godforsaken Father John Misty type at the pub is based on how they look, or because you heard them say something funny outside when they were smoking, or maybe you want to know if their dope-ass jacket is thrifted.

Furthermore, mate-selection is also about our ability to recognize internal qualities at the heart of personality.

I am attracted to style and physical appearance but that is not the only thing I look for online and offline. Some internal things I seek are wit, sensitivity, and social awareness. On tinder, I do so by reading every bio and I am honestly not surprised at the breadcrumb-ed codifiers some people leave.

There is the fact that not all of the people who possess these qualities will have them encoded in their bios or even encode them in a way that I can identify. But can’t we say the same about the cute boy who just got in the elevator? He seems dry but unknown to us, he is a comedic and generous demi-god. We will always risk being ignorant of another’s potential.

My final thought is this: perhaps Tinder is demonized not because it omits important aspects of reality thereby influencing people to act in a shallow way they otherwise wouldn’t, but because its explicit and efficient tactics reveal an alienating dimension of self-presentation under capitalism.

Citations:

Consumption, Identity-Formation, and Uncertainty, Alan Warde, 1994

https://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/marxism/terms/termsmainframe.html

& Veblen’s idea of conspicuous consumption

Skepticism, Solipsism, and Whether the Hell it Matters Anyway: Part 1

In the chaos of our complex reality, wherein we debate politics, destroy the environment, advance our technology, exchange labour for money, share juicy gossip, fret about our appearances, help people, make art, try and get laid, do you ever stop and think, “is any of this real?”

In the external world, where we all agree that the word “chair” signifies that thing you plop your gorgeous ass on, or that the fruit “lemon” will taste citrus to the tongue, have you ever wondered if what you are experiencing with your senses is actually what your reality is? Yes, in cinema and pop-culture, this is The Matrix. In philosophy, this is known as radical skepticism – not being able to say for certain that the external world we all know and hate, exists in the way we intuitively experience it.

No doubt this is a philosophical question that has traversed the minds of many cultures, genders, and ages since humans had the capacity to think abstractly. But in academia, it is recognized that this particular taste of skepticism was initially popularized by French-guy Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), in which he concerns himself with how we know what we know.

To Descartes, how we know the world is through our senses. This is the most fundamental ascertain upon which all other beliefs are predicated – what we externally experience is real because we can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see the physical world.

But how do we know our senses are reliable? Is what we see actually what is right in front of us? Like in The Matrix, people think they are working, eating, having relationships, when in ‘real reality’, they are in some sort of dark and gooey pod hooked up to a simulation. So how do we know that the accuracy between the content of our mind and the information from our sense data is valid? Descartes claims we cannot say for certain and he uses the analogy of dreaming to argue such:

Premise 1: when you dream, you do not know you are dreaming.

Premise 2: we can think we know something is true using our senses (ex: you are on a yacht and are wildly successful in your dream), when it is not actually what our senses are experiencing (ex: you are asleep in your bed and a loser in life).

Conclusion 1: we cannot know that our experience is our reality when dreams in the past show that we have been misguided about such ‘certainties.’

Conclusion 2: we cannot know for certain if the world we experience with our senses is real.

You might be thinking, “well I may not know when I am dreaming, that I am dreaming, but I know all the certainties in the dream world were false upon waking. Thus, in retrospect, the reality of the dream-world is short-lived and not to mention incoherent, while the reality in which I am reading this post, is more reliable and stable since it is the world I constantly wake up into.” However, this only defeats the conclusion under the conditions of ‘dreaming’ – a word that only has meaning because of the obvious contrast between sleeping and waking.

But what if we have yet to experience the contrast to this reality like we so often do with dreaming? What if we are deceived into thinking our reality is a lasting and enduring place in which we have short sessions of physical immobilization yet active minds (dreams)? Think of ‘dreaming’ out of the context of sleep and more along the lines of dissimilarity between appearance and reality.

This dissimilarity is further explained in Descartes ‘evil demon’ hypothesis: there could be an all-powerful and omnipresent evil demon who is deceiving us into thinking we are living a life in which we have dreams and read blog posts when we are… well not. More modernly, this is known as the ‘brain in a vat’ hypothesis, which is essential Descartes argument but swaps all that religious jazz with computer technology.

Attempting to disprove that you are not being deceived means appealing to things in which you might be deceived about. You might say “there is an external world because I have hands, I know I have hands because there is light reflecting off those damned things into my eyes! I know light does so because this is physics conception of light that can be proven in many other situations!”

To which the skeptic would respond,

“your knowledge base may have internal reliability, that is you have beliefs that make sense relative to each other, but you only understand this knowledge within your mind, not the external world. Appealing to the external world through the content of your mind’s understanding is exactly what is being put into question: whether or not the concepts from sense data in your mind mirror external reality.

Appeal to science is not a justified reason to claim that there is an external world because an argument using the principles within the external world could be products of deception. You cannot appeal to certainty with evidence that you believe to be certain, that is a circular argument.

Everything you know – the laws of physics, your friend’s signature scent, your memory of your 15th birthday, that an escape room is a waste of $30 – may fit coherently together but could be an internal deceptive fabrication that is dissimilar to an actual external reality.

Whether this deception is at the claws of an evil demon, chemicals released by a computer to a singular brain, the sticky fingers of a 12-year-old alien from a superior race playing his latest “Humans 3” game with the expansion pack “environmental unsustainability and political uneasiness”, or an infinite number of situations that are completely unfathomable to us, there is sufficient reason to doubt the external world.

Even if you assume the mere absurdity and improbability of this situation, this is still not evidence because your appeal is, yet again, based on what you think you know about the external world.

But hold on. There is one thing to be certain of, and this is demonstrated in Descartes famous insight: “I think, I am.” Deception requires a subject – and that subject is (potentially) you. This demon or computer can trick you into thinking you have a body when you are really a brain in bubbling fluid, but it cannot trick you into thinking you exist.

So, you know that you exist and you also know that the external world is not certain. Well shit, if this is all you know, what if you are the only person who exists? This is solipsism, the egotistical child of radical skepticism.

I am not going to lie, I have been inclined to “soft solipsism”, and by that, I mean, I temporally hold this view when I get high or am sleep-deprived. Let me just say, it is one thing to think, about this view intellectually like I am doing right now, but feeling this is utterly horrifying. My experience with solipsism is more of a depressing mood than a consistent belief, but it is always there underneath everything I know: a seed beneath all my thoughts.

Yet solipsism might be exploiting radical skepticism. Perhaps this view is making a claim with more evidence then is warranted – you may know you exist but you don’t know for certain if others do or don’t exist.

In conclusion, you cannot be certain about the existence of external reality as you know it but can be certain that you are a thinking thing.

But who the fuck cares anyway?

If this ‘reality’ isn’t how it seems is ‘real reality’  something that can be discovered like waking from a dream? Is attempting to find this out possible or worthwhile? If we can’t discover ‘real reality’ and never do, does that not make it’s existence meaningless? In my next post, I will traverse this skeptic claim more existentially.

 

Sources (cause like integrity or something):

Descartes, Rene. (2013) Meditations on First Philosophy. Edited by Andrew Bailey. Translated by Ian Johnston, Broadview Press.

Nagel, Thomas (1987), What Does It All Mean? (Oxford; Oxford University Press), Chapter 2; ‘How Do We Know Anything?’

I think I want to remember this feeling: meditations on comfort

I think I want to remember this feeling or maybe I don’t and maybe recording this is prolonging the feeling and allowing for it to unnecessarily stew. or maybe this is helping relieve anxiety.

2 years ago I had an epiphany during one of the most miserable and lonely periods of my life. as I was sitting in a forest journaling about why I was just so goddamn sad and confused, I thought to myself,

is this how I want to remember my life?

By that I mean as a self-reflective person who is sporadically committed to documenting my experiences, there is a control in how I convey what happens to me. How I record things is largely determinant of how I will remember experiences.

Albeit, this isn’t always true: I do remember omitting things in certain writings because I was infatuated with some illusions. And I’m sure there are still some illusions I am hanging on to in deeper ways that I cannot yet fully comprehend or that I am not yet ready to uproot. I (sometimes) have faith in developing my ability to increase awareness.

Anyways.

I want to remember my feelings tonight – January 22nd 2018.I am with my mom at an air bnb in Leeds, UK. I get my residence keys tomorrow. I am moving in after my 10 am class, Existentialism and Phenomenology. I just want to start school already. I feel anxious. I feel uncertain, excited?, anticipatory, powerless, fearful.

Why does this uncertainty feel so painful? Where is the line between anxious and excitement? I think I would be more excited if I were more confident in my ability to have a satisfactory experience in a “foreign” (its ONLY the U.K) country. But it is not just because the culture is different. Its because I have no sense of community here. I have no geographical connection (yet), I have no friends, I have no routine besides the bare essentials I know I will do: eat, shit, go to class, fall into a social media sinkhole, frustratingly close pop-up ads that come up in google chrome cause my ad-block is faulty  – that is about all I am certain of.

It feels as if the rest is out of my hands. The threat of loneliness is hefty and looming. I know if shit really goes south I have connections back home to milk for that good-good support. I only struggle with the fact that I cannot control the connections I will make here. I can only control the frequency of interactions I have. So I guess the lesson is, go to a lot of social events to increase the likelihood of making friends.

I only worry because it took me a long time to make friends during my last comparable experience to this one: my first year of university. I did make one very meaningful friendship actually, but it wasn’t ideal in the sense that our dyad was very secluded from other people.

Even now. I have friends who bring amazing fruits to my life! But I am still a solitary person. I don’t fuck around with big groups (5+ people is unnerving). I don’t hang in the physical group environment often because it is less intimate. With decreasing intimacy comes less room to move, and I feel socially strained and self-conscious. This is no way to live I know. I guess this is something new to confront and challenge.

Why is this scary?

It is scary because I am unsure of the outcome and feelings I will have along the way. I am scared these feelings because they will probably be painful. I am scared of pain.

Comfort comes from the ability to predict the outcome of a situation and being accustomed to the situations process. This is usually based in our experience. I am comfortable at my old university because I know where all the buildings are, I know who I will mainly be interacting with, I know how to navigate the transit system.

Yes, with each new year there are the mild uncertainties that are new profs, coursework, tutorials, and students in a class. But the bedrock of comfort is there. There are also a million minuscule ways to step outside the zone of psychological predictability (AKA “comfort zone” but that term is an overrated buzzword) at my own university in Hamilton. I have capitalized on some like going to philosophy club which was kinda daunting!

But this situation is radically different. I have gone in with minimal preparations. I do have external support networks but a lot is new. Enough is new to dub this uncomfortable.

I am stripped to my bearings! I will only be sustained on the basis of my character traits.

I am being melodramatic. Statistically, I will be okay because so many others have been despite the high risk is of pain. But I am betting (hoping) I’ll end up enjoying myself.

 

Pre-Abroad

I have been intellectually out of commission pretty much since exams and I am really looking forward towards hauling my ass to University of Leeds where I will study sociology and philosophy!

I am kinda calm. There is this weird lack of feeling that settles in each time I am about to embark on some kind of new experience (whether it is as a leader at a new summer camp, or a new year of university). Maybe it comes from my inability to imagine what my life will look like on the regular in these new situations. I mean I know I will be going to school, I hope I will be going to a job, I know I will be reading in a library somewhere, and I assume I will have friends in which I will hang out with between classes or during the night.

I will be in an unfamiliar environment: I don’t know what I will be looking at everyday, where the grocery store is, how far my classes are from each other, the buildings I will be spending most time in. Am I excited or worried to find out? I suppose. I think I am just unable to feel stressed about this. This feeling mainly comes from ignorance, an ignorance that can’t be satiated by google street view, one that only comes to an end through experiential understanding.

I think I am excited to be in a new environment with social challenges. To be independent from my family and the connections I’ve made in Hamilton. I guess I like the idea of starting over for 6 months.

And this lack of feeling comes ignorance of my new life but also from knowledge that I will still be me. You know what I mean? Like how different am I going to be me. This consciousness I experience as I type these words before me, I will still have this experience in the future. It is going to be me and I know I am going to have the same desires and afflictions. I will be the same I just in a new environment.

on existential (courseware) anxiety

I am enrolled in four courses at the University of Leeds: existentialism, knowledge, self & reality, the psychology of healthy minds, and sociology of consumerism. These courses together cover the breadth of my interest. However, I seriously worry about my ability to adequately engage in these 4 courses meaningfully.

Because UL is an option for exchange, these university courses are obviously compatible with my McMaster courses to some degree. Yet I am unaware of what extent this is transferable. I have done reasonably well in my philosophy courses (this is actually where I excel). But I objectively know that I am a mediocre student. I do not possess the necessary time management and concentration skills requisite for academic excellence. I appreciate my parent’s conviction in my ability to succeed but I think they are overestimating my skillset.

I do not perform well under academic stress: see this past exam season. Judging by the length of some of my reading lists and grading schemes (3,000 word essay for 70% of my existentialism course mark… wtf!!) I do not feel academically prepared to take on four courses this semester. Thank you to grade inflation plaguing the high school system for accepting the majority of the unequipped into these schools, deluding ourselves and our parents into thinking we are prepared enough to perform at the university level. University education doesn’t always mean the accepted student is intelligent or competent to the academic requirements of the institution.

Another thing to sarcastically thank is the fucked-up university standard that is to take FIVE courses per semester. Call me stupid but I cannot meaningfully interact with the material at this pace. Apparently, I have 700 (recommended and approximated) hours of work ahead of me including lecture (200 + 200 + 200 + 100) until the month of June.

I hate this fucking standard because so often parents and other students will just assume I am lazy or unengaged for taking less than 5 or 4 courses. But really I am just working within the boundaries of my deficits. And no positive thinking will not help here because I cannot achieve “success” while I am working and maintaining my own sanity through a social life. We need to redefine success and productivity by doing schoolwork WHILE balancing other realms such as work and the social. I have already adjusted my definitions the problem is existing in a system that doesn’t appreciate a multidimensional framework for what success looks like. Success is not a 12 (90-100%) in 5 courses. It is not a neglectful social life. It is not isolating hours in the library. It is not feeling disempowered and overwhelmed with courseware. Success is balance and it is working with your strengths and weaknesses.

To my parent’s misfortune, I know what my weaknesses are and they will not be easily overcome by forcing me into coursework that I feel is uncontrollable within my range strengths. Apparently knowing what my strengths are and choosing my courseload accordingly is considered “weak” or “complacent” or “lazy”. Fuck that. I know what is best for me. I am not the person they think I am. It is frustrating to be deterred and looked down when my idea of success does not align with theirs.