School’s Out

The ladies of #thelastmaj at Western University
The ladies of #thelastmaj at Western University

Having been in school for most of my life with a few delays, I have trouble believing that this is my last week of school, ever. Well, that is unless I choose to do a Ph.D., but I highly doubt it at this point. This is the last time that I’m bound to an academic institution, one where professors grade my work and where I have to hand in assignments.

There’s a folder on my desktop titled ”Journalism” that now contains countless articles, essays, pictures, scripts, slides and Pdfs. It makes me realize the exhaustive body of work that I’ve accomplished over this past year.

I’ve been on deadline so many times for a number of reasons, and while it was stressful, it was also a constant thrill. I can’t count the hours spent writing, transcribing, interviewing, hosting, reporting, shot listing, editing, producing and other similar tasks.

This one-year program was the most intensive one that I have ever done. It was grueling yet life-changing. It gave me the skills that I wanted to have, yet I’m conscious that there is always more to learn. This program gave me wonderful opportunities and learning experiences that I could not have had otherwise.

It’s the end of an era in my life. It all started in May 2014 when I first moved to London, Ont., and met all the people I would see most days for a year.

Over the months, we got closer. In a few days, everybody will go their own way, and it will be a while since we reunite as a group.

I’m very excited to leave London and to get on with my life but at the same time, I know I’ll miss this. I have been part of many groups throughout my life and once they break, I miss seeing everyone united as a group even if in the process they can get on my nerves.

There will be things that I’ll miss about school, such as the mentorship, the time that teachers spend to help with assignments and to generally give good advice. In the working world, people don’t always have that kind of time.

I’ll miss having a space to learn, grow and make mistakes.
I’ll miss the student lifestyle although I won’t miss the low income that goes along with it.

Being in this journalism program has really helped me to carry through with my ideas and to work efficiently under pressure. The fact that I was constantly working, producing and getting results got me farther than I could have imagined. It has also set a pace for my future. I am more disciplined than ever, which is a great thing, considering that I will keep that quality going forward. I feel especially proud of myself because even as a CEGEP dropout, I managed to finish my master (well, almost). I am looking forward to producing more work in the months and the years to come.

I have trouble realizing that it’s the last week. It hit me in the head yesterday when my professor got us all beer and pizza after class to celebrate. Earlier today, everyone was showing their final projects in the television studio and the table was full of snacks and coffee pots.

One thing that makes me realize that it’s the last week too is that I’m exhausted and I still have work to do. It’s not time to celebrate quite yet.

As my yoga teacher/friend told me tonight after his yoga class, ”you don’t taste anything anymore at the end of the semester, and music doesn’t feel as good.” True that. Things are more difficult because fatigue and stress take over.

Time spent for cooking seems like time lost, and don’t even get me started about cleaning.
My room is so messy right now that I don’t want to step in it unless I have to change or sleep. It is hard to walk. There are newspapers, magazines, books, clothes, bags, pieces of papers and beauty products scattered everywhere.

At the end of the semester, I can often be found in a café or at the library so I can escape my self-created mess and focus on the task at hand.

Unlike when I finished my undergraduate degree, now I feel fully ready to go into the real world and to leave school for good.

I know that it won’t be easy. I suffered from anxiety in the last months. I worked hard on dozens of job applications and despite putting my heart and soul into them, I heard nothing but radio silence. That being said, I did find a part-time job and I know that I will find something else eventually. In the meantime, I can relearn how to be a human being again and not only a stressed-out performing machine.

I’m ready to be out there in the real world. Freedom is of utmost importance to me and I’m looking forward to claiming it back.

Right now though, I’m on the line. I feel the adrenaline rush that comes with a lot of hard work but I’m also starting to see the end of it.

I’m really looking forward to sleep for days and to listen to Alice Cooper’s song over and over again. For now though, I’ve got to get back to my final assignments.

Lili Monette is finishing her master of arts in journalism this week. Watch this space.

Stress Sucks!

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Stress sucks.

This candid observation doesn’t come off as anything new,  as I can witness that it is clearly affecting everyone around me at various levels, especially at this time of the year (exams! essays!). Lately, my stress levels took on a different toll. To be honest, they were pretty high for most of the semester, university years, and life since high school come to think of it. It’s the end of the semester, which means that all time is intended towards stressing about the last assignments to hand back, and it also seems the only thing that people in school talk about. I am now in the underworld of graduate school and it comes with a renewed stress load and a truckload of work. There are red-eyed zombies galore: just check in to any university library at this time of year. 

Stress is a major cause of all the world’s sickness. Just looking at the hordes of CEOs that get cancer diagnoses from overwork is a terrible wake-up call.  I’m no exception, as I always become sick when I’m beyond stressed-out. I never take breaks: I need to be sick or have an injury to get a mandatory break and a doctor’s note. I’m not going to lie, the two breaks I got this year (besides, granted, my fabulous trip to the USA) happened because I sprained my ankle and I got a severe sinus infection. Oh! The luxury of reading magazines and drinking tea in bed, writing or watching movies! It made me realize how necessary it is to give my mind and body a break, otherwise, it’s spinning and stressing in various directions.

When typing ”stress” in Google, I found a plethora of images of stressed-out people holding their heads,  hurt from too much work. I totally get it, and I’m happy to know that I’m not alone, although I’m less content with the fact that stress is inherent to the workings of our society.

It’s the end of the semester, which means no time for absolutely nothing besides work. And I don’t mean to say that as in ‘’it sucks, I have no time, it’s all about me’’ but as a general observation of the modern work world. I have read instructive academic and non-academic books on the issue and it always comes down to chilling yourself out, but unfortunately, it’s not 100% realistic (although it is a fact that breathing evenly and having a positive attitude goes a long way).

At times,  I feel a stress rush running through my spine and behind my head, like a whirlwind of expectations.  I also often feel stuck at the throat because a coffee overload is ruining my nervous system, even when exercising regularly and drinking herbal tea such as camomile, linden or red clover, religiously.

Of course, there are positive kinds of stress: the kind that makes me want to go beyond my initial thoughts, that propels me further (harder better faster stronger). Positive stress goes hand in hand with my ambition, as step by step, I’m getting further ahead. Unfortunately, positive stress is still related to competition, sickness and unhappiness (as in ”it’s never enough”).

My favourite kind of stress has to be stage fright, which is I found that  studying and writing was harder to do this semester, as I’m forever a theatre kid and I prefer to do most classes in studio spaces and to stretch while I work . Yesterday though, I experienced a modest form of stage fright in my 15-minutes  oral presentation (you know what they say: ”fifteen minutes of glory”!) as part of an 8-hour seminar. 8 hours seated is about the worst kind of torture for me, especially after working all weekend chained to a computer. As my presentation was about performativity in protests, I ordered everyone to close their computers and stand up (”I’m serious!”, I told them). I was glad to witness everyone in my class, people that are strangers to theatre and stretching for the most part, stand up and relax their bodies. For the rest of my presentation, I had sixteen attentive students listening to me carefully as computers were out of sight and bodies reawakened: I think I made my point understood in reassessing human contact and shutting electronics down. Fundamentally, the body and mind are  more vital than stress. Unfortunately, the Western society always tends to privilege productivity. It’s important, of course, but health is a priority, which might be the most important lesson I’ve learned this year.

I only have two days of school and work left: it is an absurdly short time. Ironically, it’s exactly the point when my USB key self-deleted all its files and that I forgot my cell phone and books at the library.

At least, I’m realizing that my nightmare is coming to an end and that there are infinite wonderful events to come very soon, such as more writing for fun, hangouts with friends and family, walks outside, creative projects, little trips, but most importantly, sleep and yoga.  On that note, I’ll go back to my last essay due in about 24 hours with some steam off and afterwards, I’ll take a much-needed break. 

I’m very excited to relax, people.

Lili Monette is a born-and-raised Montrealer, artist, actress, writer and entertainer. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Development from Concordia University and is currently undertaking a short graduate program in Political Communication at Université de Montréal. 

Photo: Amber Valletta by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia

Here’s some Québécois hip-hop about the topic under a different point-of-view: Trop de Stress by Sans Pression.