A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Category

On Masculinity

A couple of months ago, I saw a poster in the math building at the University of Waterloo advertising an interesting workshop. It was inviting the male Waterloo students to come to talk and discuss what it means to be masculine and to be a man. As a feminist and someone who’s very interested in the topic of gender, I was very curious and so attended. The workshop was run by a young gender equity advocate Stephen Soucie and it took only two minutes into it that I knew I had made the right decision to attend. Stephen lectured and had a discussion with us on how society (especially in our western culture) has shaped the male and female gender roles in detrimental ways and how this has promoted gender inequity and gender-based violence.

I loved the discussion and completely agreed with Stephen throughout. He started by asking us what expectations society holds on males. We brainstormed a lot and came up with several, including stoic, unemotional, hypersexual, strong, aggressive, etc. and then brainstormed ways in which men are ridiculed if they do not live up to these expectations to a sufficient degree. For example, men who do not fit this stereotype are more prone to bullying. They are often called things like “pussy”, “faggot”, “gay”, “bitch”, or “little girl”. Not only is such name-calling hurtful to the targeted men, but they are also harmful to women because they carry the implication that women are somehow inferior to men. These expectations, however, are a product of society and there is no rational basis for them. One could argue that these expectations come from the biological sex differences between males and females, but as Stephen pointed out, western society has overemphasised such differences. Moreover, male and female aren’t even exhaustive categories when it comes to either gender or sex, giving another reason why these gender roles need to be abandoned. Both gender and sex do not just consist of two categories, but both exist on a spectrum with male on one end and female on the other with a great variety in between.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned how some of my social desires would be classified as feminine, such as cuddling with platonic friends. A little over a year ago, I did attend a Cuddle party once in Toronto (this is a social gathering where people can physically touch each other such as through cuddling in non-sexual ways) and I always find it fascinating that the majority of the attendees are male. I believe this is because society find platonic cuddling between women to be acceptable, but if a man or men are involved in this act, then it’s automatically classified as sexual and two men who cuddle are automatically labeled as “gay”. Society wouldn’t bat an eye if two women were crying in each other’s arms over a romantic movie, yet try replacing those two women with two men and you get something that’s completely unheard of. Our heteronormative society does not encourage homosocial bonding between men, which has a tremendous impact on men’s emotional and physical health.

These gender roles also promote gender-based violence in our society. Often, gender-based violence is portrayed as a women’s issue, often associated with the phrase “Violence against women”. You hear stories, for example on the news or in the newspaper, “Woman raped” or “Woman murdered”, failing to mention the perpetrator in the title (usually a man). But who the perpetrator is is just as relevant and stopping this gender-based violence takes way more than simply informing girls that they need to be careful, or to tell boys they need to behave properly. These, in my opinion, are just band-aid solutions, if they are even any kind of solutions at all.

Who are the perpetrators? Mostly men. Why are so many more men (many with horrible pasts, psychological problems, etc.) than women committing these horrific crimes? This is what the rest of the discussion with Stephen was about. These men weren’t born as killers or rapists. The rub is that it was fed into them starting from an early age, regardless if it was intentional or unintentional. They came to learn that to be a man, you must exhibit certain characteristics. They feel they need to be tough, aggressive, hypersexual, stoic, etc. and it often gets to the point where they feel that the only way they can measure up to these expectations and let out all the negative emotions they are feeling is by committing violence, especially against women. These societal expectations placed on men have affected their well-being very negatively and, as such, gender-based violence is just as much as a men’s issue as it is a women’s issue.

I am not trying to excuse the crimes that men commit here because men happen to be raised in a certain way. Crimes such as murder, rape, and domestic violence and abuse are horrible and should carry a heavy sentence regardless whenever they are committed. Instead, this analysis of the issue should be used when we’re asking what needs to happen for this violence to be resolved. In order to have equality for women, we need equality for men as well and indeed for people of all genders.

Since the workshop, I have stayed in touch with Stephen, and we have talked about these issues further and exchanged books and movies on the subject. One movie that I borrowed from Stephen was called Tough Guise 2 and it’s about everything I’ve written in this post and I highly recommend it.

The world is rife with inequity, and gender is definitely a prime example. I remain optimistic, however, that we as a society can correct this. Simply talking about it and advocating this issue is a definite first step.

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Fifth Level of Freedom: OMG! It Happened!

It’s certainly been a busy fourth term at the university of waterloo. I’ve been very busy with school work recently, which is why I haven’t updated for a while. But I’ve now thankfully found a little time to do so. Anyway, it’s not just been busy academically either. What’s changed? More of a social life yet again! This time there’s quite a story behind it so I’ll tell how it all happened.

Eight days after flying back to waterloo to start another term here, something very interesting happened. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been using dating sites as a means of talking with girls. I know not everyone thinks that such means of communicating with others is that good, but I’ll tell my story how it is and let you be the judge. Of course, it’s certainly not the only means of communication I’m using to talk with others.

Out of the blue, a girl messaged me on one. Her message (as I remember it) read “I’m just going to be forward about this and say I think you’re the most adorable guy I’ve ever seen! Please message me back!”

I thought, oh wow. So we messaged each other a little on there. It turned out she was unreachable as far as physical distance though. Due to confidentiality, I can’t say anything about the girl on here, other than that she was 100 km away, but love to read and write and appreciated math! I’ll admit I was pretty amazed. And to add to the amazement, she was very pretty and actually liked me, not just in a friend way, but in a romantic way as well. We talked, we flirted (something I’ve never done before in my life), and we laughed.

We soon messaged each other on skype and then on our cell phones. We talked a lot about ourselves and our lives. I thought a miracle had happened! This girl just came into my life from out of the blue with no warning and no expectation. We texted on our cell phones daily helping each other through our days. For five and a half weeks this continued until late October. By this point, we were like the best of friends and had developed a connection I had hardly felt in my life before with anyone.

Only something happened. While we were talking a lot, I said something, well, a bit controversial. I had revealed so much to this girl by this point that was very comfortable around her and said something that she found very off-putting. I won’t go into what I said and at any rate it doesn’t matter what it was. This girl then lost interest in me.

It was more than painful. I won’t pretend otherwise. I’ve been rejected by girls before, but good gravy, this was the first time I was rejected by a girl who had actually liked me. It took a few days for it to lesson to a tolerable level and even then it was difficult to deal with. I did talk to this girl again, but we soon agreed that we should each go our separate ways. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and I’ve been going back at life ever since.

Looking back, however, I don’t regret this experience a bit even if we weren’t meant for each other. It was good to interact with a girl in a romantic way even if it was short regardless. And if I may be a bit blunt at least now I know that there are actual girls out there who think I’m hot! The right one will follow eventually. Mind you she may take a while to show up. Why not enjoy being single and try to have fun putting myself out there in the meantime? Now that I’ve had one experience of having mutual feelings for a girl that didn’t go well, I may have others and that I realise I shouldn’t get so attached to one. Mind you, attachment is good, it’s how relationships form, but too much too fast isn’t good. Like with everything, it’s about finding a balance. I’m learning more and more as I navigate through the dating world. Let the learning continue!

And how have I been going back at life? Well, if there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that it’s worth the risk to becoming more sociable. I sat at tables with undergrads I didn’t know when going to the meal hall for supper, I’ve sat down beside a girl in a coffee shop and talked to her and even spoken to girls in my zumba class. I’ve even spent a bit more time with my fellow math students. It was the above experience combined with my aunt’s advice that the social world is indeed vague and that I’m free to socialise in whatever ways suit me that have really made me get out of my comfort zone. I really can’t believe I’m doing all this! I’ve had similar experiences almost a year ago, which I tell in this post: Taking Action.

The girl that I talked with certainly helped me see the vagueness in the social world. For example, we were talking about cuddling and how she cuddled with her girlfriends and she talked about how she thought it was appropriate for a guy and a girl to cuddle even if they were just friends. I pondered this and decided to ask a few girls that I knew about such a situation. Some thought it was okay, others not. Again, just more evidence of the vaguenss of the social world. My opinion on the matter is that yeah I would definitely cuddle with a girl as long as were clear beforehand that we are just close friends and there isn’t anything romantic going on.

Combined with the second and third level of freedoms that I don’t need a girlfriend or friends to make me happy that I tell about in these posts: Second Level of Freedom, Third Level of Freedom I can now live without any fear. I used to be a person with a lot of fear and expectations of others. Now I have no expectations on anyone and the fear is gone. To this, I’ve uploaded a video on youtube that tells of my experiences living with autism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s1OpaVJo00&feature=youtu.be.

But all I can say with regards to this experience is OMG! It Happened!

 

Fourth Level of Freedom: Balancing Between the Natural and the Unnatural

We all have things that we’re good at doing over other things. That’s just how we as humans were designed. And I’m finding that I’m getting better and better at cherishing the things that I am good at, while accepting there are things that I’m not so good at and can be quite challenging for me to do. Of course, a lot of this blog has been about exactly that, but I’m not stretching it to include every area of my life. Going through life, I see that there are things that I’m naturally good at, while there are other things that I have to work harder on in order to “get it right”. And striving for a balance between how much I should accept my flaws and how much I should work on them while at the same time cherishing the good things about myself can be a challenge in and of itself.

Examples of my natural abilities I have talked about a lot on here, those being in math, philosophy, writing, and following rules to the letter. There are also things that don’t come naturally to me, including navigating the social world and accepting criticism, especially given that I have perfectionistic tendencies. I would like to add something here that I haven’t yet mentioned on my blog (at least I don’t think I did). It deals with knowledge and how often I find I lack a lot of it. I’m not talking about the knowledge that we learn in school because I think it’s safe to say that I’ve met society’s expectations on me with regards to academic knowledge and have always been a really good student.

What I’m talking about here is general knowledge. General knowledge of news stories, politics, current events, pop culture etc. It’s these areas of knowledge that I lack quite a lot in. Having analyzed the reasons why I think I have a problem with these “general” areas is that it comes from society’s expectations on us to learn about these things in a more independent fashion and to not have to impose as much structure in how we learn them like we do with the areas of knowledge such as math, science, English, etc. that we learn in school. Mind you, a lot of these areas of general knowledge I find are a bit frivolous, particularly in pop culture (anyone up for taking the following course: Celebrity Gosspis 101? I didn’t think so). And given that such topics in pop culture are both highly frivolous and come unnaturally to me, I don’t really see the point in investing a lot of effort into it.

My knowledge of politics or current events isn’t that great either. Yes, I do know that there are three main political Canadian parties: conservative, liberal, and NDP and that the NDP are the official opposition to the current conservative majority government led by Stephen Harper. I also know that the NDP and the Liberals are currently leaderless (unless new leaders were picked recently, I haven’t heard anything so correct me if I’m wrong). Although I must admit that my political knowledge used to be not even as strong as that. I remember two years ago how I shocked a university counselor by not knowing the US political landscape and how she proceeded to give me a lesson in politics and how Barack Obama is in a left-wing party known as the Democrats and that George Bush was in right-wing party known as the Republicans, something I didn’t know at the time. I was certainly grateful for the lesson; at least the information was delivered to me in a structured classroom-like manner. Likewise my knowledge of current events isn’t great, which is why I’m starting to watch the news from time to time on my computer.

But going back to the main point, it all comes down to balancing between how much effort you have to put into something and how worthwhile it is. Fortunately I’m not the only person who struggles with such “general knowledge” topics. I’ve talked to a friend about this and she says her political knowledge isn’t that great either. I will of course continue to look at the news from time to time, but I’m not expecting any quick fix. Different people learn best in different ways. Given this, I can only give my best shot I can with the set of strengths and weaknesses I have. It’s ultimately up to me how I want to live my life. Analogously I had a publisher look at my novel once and suggested a lot of constructed criticism for it because he admitted others would disagree with his comments and that it was up to me to decide how I wanted to write (I ended up taking some, but not all of his advice).

This is why I reject the notion of common sense. Common sense deals with knowledge that we presume everyone around us already knows. I met another person with autism on an autism networking site (www.autismsupportnetwork.com) who rejected common sense for the same reason. Given that we all have difference backgrounds, different skill sets, and different “natural” and “unnatural” tendencies especially when it comes to picking up knowledge, it is a mistake (at least it looks like to me) to presume that just because we find certain knowledge easy to pick up that everyone else can pick up on it just as easily.

As I pointed out before in my last post, this summer I had two events happen to me over the last couple of months. The first was the incident of being hit by a car and the second one was that of having my bicycle stolen. I was hit by a car when I was walking with a friend across a standard two-lane street. He went first and then I followed. Across the street, some vehicles on the far lane were coming up so I stopped. And then I got hit by a car in the lane that I was in. Yes, I should’ve been more careful and I shouldn’t have blindly followed my friend. I didn’t suffer from much and after doctors in an ambulance checked me out at the scene I was all right and I’ve since recovered completely.

So right after the incident, my leg hurt a lot, which comes to the second incident of my bicycle being stolen. Given the state of my leg, I had trouble walking so wasn’t even going to attempt to ride my bicycle. That was when I made my second mistake. I left it at the university right outside the math building. Days passed. I moved it once into a more sheltered corner of the math building because it was starting to rain and I didn’t want my bicycle to get wet. Anyway, another couple of weeks passed, and once my leg was better, I went to get my bicycle and it wasn’t there anymore. I wasn’t alone, however. A math professor had his stolen the other night, as did another math masters student. I will admit that I was told by my parents that I shouldn’t have left my bicycle there and so will never make that mistake again.

The bicycle theft provides another good illustration. While I certainly accept the fact that it was a lesson learned and that it might be seen as going against common sense to some people, this wasn’t apparent to me until after the incident mainly because of a lack of knowledge of how common petty criminals are and how some of them can go around that can cut off bicycle cable locks. Fortunately, I was told by the campus police that I should get a metal U-lock given that they’re harder to cut when I reported the bicycle theft. I’m also pretty sure I’ve done other things that have gone against some people’s conception of common sense.

There you have it. Complete self-acceptance. The fourth level of freedom that generalizes from the three earlier ones from school and relationships and friends to all areas of my life. I feel the peace already.

A Third Level of Freedom

Today marks the anniversary of this blog! That’s right. Exactly one year ago, I made my first post on here. And given that this is my 34th post, I think I’ve done pretty well! It hasn’t always been easy to come up with new interesting things to say and updating a blog on a regular basis does take time and discipline (although my interesting in writing novels certainly developed discipline in this regard). The topic for this post, however, was easy enough and elaborates on a new way I’ve learned to look at friendships.

Well, a third level of freedom! What have I discovered now? My first post on freedom was about the aftermath of my first term at grad school and how given the intensity of the work, I learned to get rid of academic perfectionism. My second level of freedom occurred just over a month ago when I decided to stop looking for a girlfriend and decided to just keep doing what I love and let the girl follow. Romance happens when you least expect it. (For convenience I’ve created a new category Freedom where I’ve placed these three freedom posts and where I’ll place more if more come). What I’m going to elaborate on now relates to this (indeed it can probably incorporated into it, but given that it didn’t automatically follow and it took a month to do so, I’m going to treat it distinctly). And what does it involve? Well, it involves not just “letting the girl follow”, but also just “letting friends follow”. In other words, I’ve decided to not put so much energy into getting closer friends, but to simply do what I love and let any friendships develop naturally.

There are various levels of friendship. In my third post on my blog On the Difference Between Friend and Acquaintance I described (at least how I see it) what being a friend entails and it requires more time than being a mere acquaintance with someone. The time factor is key, especially when it’s outside of anything formal like courses, a job, clubs, societies, etc and you spend a lot of time with someone in order to be close friends with them. But in order for you to develop such a connection with someone, requires more than just the two of you being nice people. Two relatively nice people who see each other on a regular basis because of, say, school or a job can become acquaintances fairly easily. But in order for them to become close friends, they need to spend a lot of time with each other outside of this. But in order for them to get to such a level of close friendship, they need to have a “special connection” between them.

It’s because of this “special connection” that the vast majority of people that we interact with in our lifetime don’t become close friends. It isn’t because we aren’t nice people. We are. But you also have to share a bond. The number of people that a person has a “special connections” can be very small as a result. I’m really beginning to see and understand that this is how friendships basically work and it has caused me to re-evaluate my methods for obtaining friends. For example, in my undergrad university Acadia, I knew two philosophy majors who are a great example of this. At least one of them was certainly an introvert. The other I chat up on facebook every now and then and when I was talking to her about the difficulty of obtaining friendships just over a year ago, she actually said that while she did have friends, she hadn’t really developed any close friends except for that other philosophy major and they ended up dating.

This has caused me to revise my own methods in a lot of was. I no longer to into a social situation whether it be with one person or a whole bunch of people with the mindset that I’ll develop a really good friendship with someone, but let the “special connection” happen naturally like it should. Such a method automatically has a lot of advantages (similar to how I explained in a previous post that I’ll “let the girl follow”). It means that I don’t have any expectations on anyone or that anyone will end up treating me as someone more than an acquaintance or a friend I see only every now and then at best. Thus I no longer feel disappointed in anyone.

Now obviously the optimal situation is where I do develop a “special connection”. This is why I do what I love. People who have more in common with each other have more of a chance of developing a friendship, which is partly why I’m going to start a writing club this fall (I have gotten four other students interested in this!), as well as an autism support group. The realm of writers and autistics are certainly two potential groups for making friends (though like I said above I hold no expectations). I’ve also met a girl who lives in Waterloo on a dating site and she’s an introvert as well and we text/chat on a regular basis (and we aren’t dating, we’re just remaining friends).

There you have it! The solution to friendship and loneliness. Now I just have to run with it…

A Second Level of Freedom

This weekend that just passed, I’ve had another epiphany (I just love having those!). It deals with my feelings toward finding a girl to date, wanting romance in my life, and putting an end to my sexual frustration. I must admit that during the past few months, my sexual frustration has rather increased than where it has been over the last few years. And after all my fruitless attempts at trying to find someone, it’s starting to really exhaust me. And so I have done the only thing I can do. I’ve just let it go. I’ve decided to stop looking.

This is rather analogous to how I was feeling about my studies last fall. Last fall, my academic perfectionism gave me such a painful experience that I did the only thing I could do then. I let go of it. And it let to a wonderful new sense of freedom, which I’ve illustrated this experience in a previous post Freedom. Now we can replace academic perfectionism with sexual frustration and that pretty much sums up how I’d describe what went through me this weekend. Letting go has indeed led to a whole new sense of freedom, much like how my school experiences last fall did for me. Now instead of experiencing freedom in the academic sense, I can now experience it in the human relationship sense as well.

In stopping looking for a girlfriend, I don’t mean I stop talking to girls entirely. In order to have romantic success that’s certainly a requirement. It’s basically my approach and attitude that’s changed. Whenever I meet a girl, I no longer look at her as a potential girlfriend. I don’t care how beautiful she is, whether she loves math, philosophy, writing, or has autism, etc. If she has or is none of these things, some of these things, or all of these things it really doesn’t matter at the start because there are millions of girls on this planet and it’s not like the Earth’s population is decreasing. Chances are there’s another girl out there that I would be just as compatible or incompatible with (and I don’t think I’d want a girl who was to too much like me. We’d probably get bored of each other). If I find I enjoy talking with this girl, then I see her as a friend. I’d probably only consider her as something more if things developed in a natural way. Like if it became obvious that she liked me romantically. And if she started flirting with me and I was interested, then I’d definitely flirt back and so we’d develop something.

And just because I’ve stopped looking, also doesn’t mean that I’m not pursuing a social life just as rigorously as before. Indeed, if I’m to meet someone then having an expanded network of friends will certainly help with that. My strategy will simply to be to get involved in things I like, meeting potential friends, and go on from there. And then simply let the girl follow. Such a strategy I think is beneficial in a lot of ways. It avoids feelings of depression and helplessness if I don’t find someone very soon. It also avoids feelings of obsession over a particular girl and will allow me more control over the crushes that I might find I’m developing for a particular girl. I can also be myself when I’m talking to girls. I can relax and not worry about rejection because I find a girl incredibly beautiful or perfect in some way. As my Aunt Linda pointed out, it’s good to be a “me” before I become a “we”. Finally, I feel more complete by myself. My feelings of inadequacy of never having a girlfriend are vanishing and I’m left with a peaceful feeling of being single. The trite phrase “you complete me” makes absolutely no sense. You have to feel complete before you enter into a particular relationship in order for it to be successful and to not have your happiness or adequacy be dependent on the actions of another person.

Another thing I like doing (as long as it doesn’t become an obsession though I don’t think it will) is to imagine what the girl who I will eventually end up with is doing at any particular moment. What is she doing now as I type these words down? Is she brushing her hair, enjoying some delicious meal, reading a novel, or enjoying a movie with some friends? I love to speculate and it keeps me excited.

I’ve wanted a girlfriend for 11 years now and have been trying to get one for the last 9 years (If you want full details see Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 1 and Figuring Out the Dating Game Part 2). That’s nearly half the time I’ve been here. And unless it takes me until I’m 34 to find one, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m most of the way through the journey by now anyway. But I think I’ll give the world a chance to work its magic, instead of me trying to do it all myself. Whether it’ll take a month, a year, or 10 years, the right girl will eventually come my way.

Freedom

Well, it’s been almost two months since my last posting. Sorry for not keeping up, but there was a good reason for it. It’s actually a continuation of what I described in my last posting, that is the difficulty I’ve had in adapting to the high demands of graduate school in pure math at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. I hope everyone had or is having a great holiday so Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays (whatever your celebrate) and an early Happy New Year. I’m certainly looking forward to it and I hope you are too.

As I said in my last post, I’ve had difficulty adjusting to grad school. That was early November. A lot has conspired since then, but the basic story is that the demands just got so big that I found that I couldn’t follow the conventional plan for their graduate students anymore. No, I haven’t dropped out. I’ve just made adjustments. Like making accomodations for my autism (without accommodating myself too much, of course!). Anyway, here’s the story.

I continued finding the course work for my masters incredibly difficult to complete. I raised the number of hours I worked on to try to not get behind so much. Instead of working 50 hours/week (although I ended up putting in a lot of extra hours because of the difficulty of the assignments), I bumped it up to 60 hours/week. This worked fine for about a week or two, but nearing the end of classes, I still found this not enough. I raised it high still to 70 hours. When classes were over, however, I knew something had to change. The last math assignment I was given was extraordinarily tough and what eventually happened was that I pulled an all-nighter working in an empty classroom with another student on it. While I still got it done in time (to the best of my ability), I knew something had to change. I actually felt that my joy in math was being sucked out of me.

At the end of classes, I ended up talking with a bunch of people, including the admins of the pure math dept. as well as the graduate officer. We decided that a full load of three math courses was too much for me and so in the winter term I could take only two math courses and still maintain my standing, as well as extend my masters into next fall. I also got my functional analysis exam moved until the first week of January so I wouldn’t have to concentrate so much on the few days right before the holidays.

Then the unthinkable happened. I blew my algebraic number theory exam. I had 59/60 in the course going into the exam and the exam was worth 40%, but I really blanked out on it and couldn’t answer any of the questions. I spent a lot of time preparing for the exam so it wasn’t because of lack of preparation so much as stress and high levels of anxiety that I’ve been experiencing all semester because of the workload. Thankfully, I’ve got some medicine to help with it and am planning on seeing a psychotherapist when I get back to waterloo.

I talked to Dad a lot about my problems and we agreed that there was a bit of a knowledge gap between what acadia taught me and what waterloo expects me to know. I didn’t mention this in my previous post, but I found I had to catch up on a lot of material as well, material that I was supposed to know in order to take the courses I was taking. And let me tell you. Playing catch-up isn’t fun. It’s stressful (although I’m an easily stressed out person) and tiring. It caused me to fall behind. I got uncomfortable at learning material at such an unnaturally hurried pace. And the suggestions that I got from professors of reading further textbooks and sitting in on undergraduate courses WHILE trying to stay on top of the graduate courses were of little use. I love math, but I do actually like having time of actually appreciating what I’m learning and that only happens if I can take my time with it. So after calling the pure math dept. we found what looked like a good solution. I would be put into a probationary period in my masters so that I could focus on taking a couple of undergrad courses in the winter and then a couple more in the spring with a TA in both terms. Of course, I’ve had to suspend my scholarship, but at this point, it really doesn’t matter to me. The plan is to resume everything next fall with it. And as well as the couple of undergrad courses they’re letting me take this winter, they also let me try a graduate course on top of it (the course is on logic and is one of the lower-level grad courses so I’m hoping it doesn’t cause me too much trouble not to mention I love logic!)

So what has all this come too? Right before coming home I was getting some textbooks to help with my studying for my functional analysis exam when I had an epiphany. I had never gotten closer to rock-bottom with math than this term. I failed miserably on both the one test and the one exam I had and the work was tougher that what I had ever experienced before. And one thing in particular that it has helped me with is getting rid of my perfectionism. Instead of worrying that wouldn’t get A+’s in my math courses like I did at Acadia, my worry turned to whether or not I would even get my degree. I cast aside my obsession with achieving top marks because I was past caring about them.

It also enabled me to look at myself in a more realistic way. I’m human and am prone to making mistakes in all areas of my live. Not just some areas, but all, including math. Not being the top math student anymore meant I had nothing to hide myself behind. My difficulty with math this term exposed my weaker self. I had nothing to hold onto to show how great I was. And hey if I’m allowed to be imperfect with math, then I must be allowed to be imperfect in all ways in my life. So overall, my first term in grad school didn’t just get rid of academic perfectionism, but I think it helped with my overall perfectionism in my life. I know myself a lot better as a result and am not going to pretend to be anything more than who I really am. I can easily make more free time for myself instead of simply letting math take over. I can accommodate what I’m truly interested in (while still pulling down descent marks in my courses!), such as writing fiction (a passion that has really grown).

I truly feel I was set free.