15 things I learned in 2015

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2015 is winding down and it’s certainly been one of the biggest years of my life so far. I graduated high school, spent another amazing summer working on Beausoleil Island, moved to a new city and started university. Suffice to say, I learned some things over the last 12 months. Here’s 15 of them!

1. Things change. Things will always change. Life evolves and you have to learn to be content in every season and every opportunity you get given, even if that means closing the door on a good time in life.

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2. I am more capable than I knew. If you ever want to push the limits of your capabilities, go be a camp counsellor for a summer. You will learn more about problem solving, relationships and thinking on your feet than ever before. From canoe trips gone wrong and first aid situations that went right to defusing cabin conflict and telling bed time stories, working at camp this summer taught me that I am capable of more than I ever would have thought.

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3. Grades matter, but not as much as effort. In university I had to learn pretty quickly that good grades weren’t going to come as easily as they did in high school. But I also realized that knowing I had put everything I had into my work made me prouder than getting an A. Effort and work ethic mean a lot more than a number.IMG_20151114_163238

4. There are likeminded people everywhere. I promise. You might think you won’t find anyone who shares your sense of humour or your love of Doctor Who but I swear, if you’re willing to be social, you will find people to talk to.

5. T.V. is a waste of free time. Go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, have a nap, read a book, workout, bake cookies, draw, whatever. The less free time I had, the less tolerance I had for watching T.V. I realized that there were so many things I’d rather be doing than staring mindlessly at a screen. (Note: movie nights are always an exception…especially Disney movie nights)

6. University is hard. I swear, it feels like no one ever told me that before I went. It was all about how fun it is, how exciting it is, a new adventure etc. But holy heck, the workload is cray! It definitely takes getting used to and really good time management skills. Get a calendar. Use it. Don’t write a paper at 5am the day it is due.

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7. University is also fun. Despite the papers, midterms and long nights in the library, university IS an adventure. Living in residence and having friends around all the time is a blast. Exploring a new city is exciting. Freedom is awesome. And learning is actually amazingly interesting when you’re passionate about the subject.

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8. You can learn a lot from sucking at things. I’m not a fan of being bad at things. It stresses me out. For example, I hating driving at first because I sucked but, unfortunately, that is how you learn. The worse you are, the more room there is for improvement… but only if you’re willing to stick it out. This year I did a lot of things I wasn’t so great at; economics, driving, Arabic, using public transit, dodgeball etc. Guess what? It was hard, an I got better.

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First place in Res Dodgeball…and I swear, I actually helped.

9. Family is more important than I’d realized. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly appreciated my parents. I missed my sister more than I expected and seeing everyone at Christmas was amazing. Although, they will also drive you nuts within a week of being home, guaranteed.

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Reunited with my not-so-little sister

10. Advil is expensive. So is toothpaste. And cereal. And shampoo. And socks. And deodorant. I never really grasped the value of money until this year when I had to buy things that had always just been there. Life costs money!!!

11. Snail mail is literally one of my greatest pleasures in life. I don’t care if that is a stupid life lesson, I learned this year just how much it means to me when someone takes the time to write me a letter. It’s a fun surprise when you get it, it means and lot and it is seriously just so FUN! Why did we ever stop sending mail?

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Camp friends make good pen pals

12. Nature gives me energy and revives my soul. Going from spending the entire summer outside and on a national park to living downtown in the capital city was quite an…adjustment. I’ve always loved the outdoors but this year I realized how much trees and lakes and stars make me feel alive haha. Not to mention, nothing beats long talks under the stars. This summer I lay on a dock and watched a meteor shower and talked about life until 3 am. Those are the kind of moments you don’t forget. In Ottawa, walking by the canal and seeking out parks quickly became a priority.

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13. Taking time to destress and do things you love is important. Little things that you enjoy are important for mental wellbeing and avoiding burnout. I like knitting, writing, catching up with friends, going for a walk or swimming lengths when I need to clear my head. Even when I’m crazy busy, making time to destress and do Sam things is important.

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14. Community is vital. For the first time in my life this year, I found myself in a place where I didn’t know a soul. I thrive off of relationships with others. In Barrie, I had an amazing group of friends, an amazing church and two families that loved me. Then I spent the summer at camp living with a whole bunch of my favourite humans . Suddenly I was in Ottawa, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, LeBlanc is the best (lebest) residence in the entire world and I quickly found a close community in the 3rd floor. Shoutout, heyyyy guys! I learned this year how valuable community is. Having people you can laugh with, trust and be comfortable around is what makes life fun.

15. Trust God. So many changes this year, it’s been kind of a whirlwind. There have defiantly been times when I questioned if I made the right choices. Thankfully, I’ve had the faith to continually put my decisions in God’s hands because I’ve learned that when I do, things always turn out better than I could have imagined. My God is faithful, and I am blessed beyond measure. When I don’t know what to do, trusting God is the answer to every problem because with Him, I don’t fear the future.

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Well, that’s definitely not everything but it’s what I can think of at the moment. It’s been a good year, definitely one that will be looked back upon as a turning point and a learning curve.

2016, I look forward to welcoming you in. I’m ready to give this next year my best shot and, I’m sure, rack up some more ridiculous stories.

Bring it on, New Years.

-Sam

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There are no winners in war

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They say life imitates art…and in the case of the newest Hunger Games instalment, Mockingjay Part II, the real life connection hit a little too hard.

Sometimes I think that I think too much. I can never managed to completely zone out and focus on one thing, I always have a million secondary thoughts chasing around my brain, cross referencing with each other. So when I watch movies, I sometimes have a hard time disconnecting from all those thoughts and just watching the dang movie.

As I’m sure most of you know, the Hunger Games is an extremely popular movie franchise in a dystopian world called Panem. The heroine of the story, Katniss, finds herself the centre of a rebellion…and soon enough, a civil war. The 13 districts, tired of facing an oppressive government are fighting to free the people and establish a democracy at any and all cost.

For myself, as a student of development, the story of this fictional society rings all too true. This past semester, my discussion group had an interesting discussion about democracy. Democracy is considered a vital part of development but political reform comes with consequences and conflict, which makes it a difficult topic to figure out. My peers and I went back and forth for over an hour and couldn’t come to an agreement about a) whether or not these changes can be made without war or b) if the answer to a is no, is that conflict worth it? I still don’t have an answer to this question but the Hunger Games had me thinking about it again.

As I watched the war in the movie unfold, I couldn’t help but cringe. Here I was, sitting in a theatre, on a “sister date” after months of being away from home and watching people kill each other…for entertainment. I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t think it was fun anymore, sitting and watching Katniss fight for her life. It gave me chills to know that thousands of kilometres away, people were hiding out for real, worried about being blown up or tortured, praying that their children won’t be taken away.

The movie continued and I realized something, in the dark of the theatre (while I should have been mindlessly consuming media); there are no winners in war. It doesn’t matter how valiant the cause…war is war. It is violent and dirty, it corrupts good people and makes my heart ache. There are always people who die from being in the wrong place, there are always innocents killed in the crossfire. There are no “good” outcomes. Only ones that are less horrendous.

This post isn’t about violence in the media, nor is it necessarily about being grateful for what have. It’s just something to think about. We were born into a place where we live with freedom from fear, a place that has never known war in our life time. But we do reside in an era of globalization, which means that we cannot close our eyes to the things happening around the world and pretend they don’t affect us, that people we don’t know, don’t matter.

Maybe I should have just watched it and enjoyed it for what it was: a movie. But I can’t, that’s not me. I thought about all the ways it related to the world, to my life. When the movie started showing the refugees fleeing their homes…when it showed their children being bombed (by the “good guys”) in order to gain leverage, all I could think about was the Syrian refugees. 

I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole refugee “hot topic” when people bring it up because I do understand both sides of it. Obviously we can’t just leave them there. Refugees do not choose to be born in a war zone. They do not choose to have their religion hijacked by extremists, they do not decide to flee their country for fun. I cannot imagine the horrors the people in the Middle East have faced recently but moreover, I cannot imagine living a nightmare and being told by the world “we won’t help you”.

I also understand the fear of Canadians.  Yes, it is going to cost you money. Yes, these are people you do not know. Yes, you are scared that they might bring the war here. But when it comes down to it, yes, they are people. Yes, they matter. Yes, they deserve to have the basic right of living without fear.

In this Christmas season, the Bible story will be read all over the world, thousands if not a million times. But a lesser known part of the story has been all I could think about.

Jesus, as a baby, was a refugee.

Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary received word that the King had ordered all baby boys to be murdered and thus were forced to flee their country in order to save their son. They went to Egypt of all places and keep in mind that the Israelites had quite the history with Egypt. It was probably the last place they wanted to go and the last place they would be welcomed. But they went. Not because they wanted to but because they feared for their lives. 

They lived in Egypt for several years. Imagine if they had been turned down at the border. Told “Go home, we don’t want you. We remember what happened the last time we had Israelites in our country”. Jesus could have been one of the children killed during King Herod’s reign. How crazy is that? This Christmas the pastor at my church said the one person he wouldn’t want to be in the Christmas story is the innkeeper that turned them away. I wouldn’t want to be the one to turn away a refugee out of fear. God understands the plight of the Syrian refugees and my only possible response is one of love and of hospitality.

There are no winners in war. But there are heroes. I’m praying that Canadians will live up to our reputation as being the friendliest country in the world, because in some cases, the best hero is the one willing to be a true friend.

As for the Hunger Games, it did sort of have a “happy ending”, as happy as can be after everything the characters had lived through. It was one of my favourite book series when I was in elementary school so maybe I’ll be able to watch it again sometimes and see it just for what it is.

Or maybe not…I think I’d rather think anyways. I certainly learn a lot that way.

-Until next time,

Sam