Want to make me talk? Give me alcohol. I'm just coming back from the Amnesty International pizza party (signed three letters, one for Afghanistan women, one for a political prisoner in China, and the last one for someone in Iran), then the History Students’ Association's wine and cheese.
So people have been asking where I've been, and I've been told that I reached campus-wide notoriety. But everything in this is quite futile when one does not have the mental health to back up the public pressure.
Last semester, I was very public (that is, I spread everything that was happening to me on blog entries or on Facebook). This semester, I tried the opposite, and was very secretive, or at least censored myself effectively. Neither have really worked that well for me. I feel that I don't have much choice, since the environmental solutions I'm seeing for my countries go through politics, and I love being able to call a lot of people by their first name, or feeling at ease to bust through free food/alcohol related events without feeling shy or ashamed.
This is the note I said to my fellow cosenators I would write. I wanted to thank them all for voting for me, and to share with them my nomination e-mail:
"1-Aneerudha Borkotoky, for pushing one issue very hard and quoting the Provost extensively
2-Daniel King, for working on several issues at the same time without burning out
3-Erica Martin, for her entertaining manners/provocative questions at Senate
Ryan Luther, for amusing all Senate Caucus with detailed accounts of the Clickers committee
Jessica van der Vooren, for her discrete but thoughtful interventions at each meeting
Everyone else would diserve a compliment or mention, including the non-eligible candidates."
In my thank-you French discourse, I told everyone to have a thought for Fred Sagel during their next gulp of liquid. Here are the articles related to him and why the prize to the Senator of the year bear his name:
My more extensive speech had a call for people to be aware of the workalcoholism phenomenon. I witnessed it for the first time this summer, when my boss was driving herself passed her mental and physical limits for her job, and when our common higher boss was using her devotion instead of giving her a break.
I myself used that behaviour as an emergency exit. I took on the Senator job while a friend was living a dire situation, and after my great-uncle (to which I was very close) died. I also wanted a good reason to understand how McGill works as an institution for my Sustainability Report Card project. So instead of wasting whatever negative energy was being generated because of people's situation around me, I channeled it through volunteering and dedication. Moreover, I got my best GPA/semester ever last semester.
Once I was chosen for the job, I learned at mid-November that my father had been admitted to the hospital because he was not able to drive anymore. Later in that month, we learned that he had brain cancer (two tumors). At mid-December, he was back home and started treatment (chemo and radiotherapy). At the beginning of February, both treatments were over. At mid-February, he was readmitted to hospital because he was too weak. He was in the surgical ward (!) from then until the end of March. At mid-March, we learned that he had three months to live. That was revised to less than one month not long ago. He was recently admitted to a palliative care facility, where the care he receive is appropriate to his condition.
I went back home at mid-November, for Christmas, during a family week-end in January, for the study break and Easter. I saw a tremendous difference. My father is dying. I'm keeping all of this inside, using the despair to fuel productivity. My chiropractor is telling me that the tension I live is all being transfered on my body.
Every spring for as long as I can remember, I have been depressed. It is not seasonal blues because this usually happens in Fall (my favourite season). It partly explains why I have not gotten good grades enough last Winter semester to keep double-majoring in both environment and linguistics.
No fear, I've seen a coach in January-February and am now seeing someone from the McGill Counselling service.
Why am I telling you this, why does it seem all unrelated and non-logical? Well, I'm easing a burden on my mind that's for sure, and because I want you to think holisticly, to link all the paragraphs outlined. Because I feel that it is unfair that I receive a prize because I'm able to draw energy from all the negative emotions I could otherwise assume instead of somatizing. Because I want you to recognize workalcoholism, and tell the person that suffers from it that although you appreciate the work accomplished, you would like to him/her to get help. Because from the few things I have read about Fred Sagel, I suspect he was one.
And also because I had a hard time, recently, to control my tone with people. I have lacked respect, been overly aggressive. I am sorry, and I wrote this partly as an explanation.
However, as an environmentalist, a past idealist and now an optimist, I have already found the answer to whatever vicious circle I'm in. I've gotten paper extensions while I am completely demotivated to do anything but chase free food on campus, but the real answer is not there.
My father has found the answer during the year preceeding the diagnosis: Eckhart Tolle. In summary, that guy tells people that our species can't survive with the level of conscience we are using: either shut off (through busying ourselves with TV, reading, procrastinating actively, etc.) or listening to the little voice in our head "I have such and such to do, oh this girl is poorly dressed", whatever remarks we make to ourselves not out loud. We all need some form of spirituality, whether it is through prayer, meditation, yoga or any activity where our mind is not speaking nor being dumbed. Whenever you feel deeply connected to your body, your senses, etc. If not, we are just an incomplete person with a body, a mind but no spirituality.
For someone like me, that's called taking time for oneself, instead of embracing every cause out there. Actually acquiring self-esteem instead of relying on prizes or people's praise or knowing lots of people to feel good. Being in peace with oneself.
I hope this reflexion on my last year (or second half of university, since I have been involved in campus life) can help anyone. I might eventually follow up with an essay I'll be writing on holistic (or interdisciplinary) thinking and why it is the Western solution (inspired by First Nations) to climate change.
So as a conclusion, I just want to tell readers to take everything I am saying at the first level of meaning, to not look for a cry for help, a denounciation or any reproach. I am a very honest person that always says what she has on her mind, without double-entendre, but my down-to-the-earth pragmatism often makes me priviledge content over form, words over tone or body language.