5 Things Learned in the First 3 Months of Grad School

In September, I began my first year in grad school. For me, the experience has been extra hectic having moved far away from my home, leaving my awesome job and friends. Then, just  things that have gone sideways in order to make my life harder than it needs to be.

Before starting school, I was really nervous. I was worried I wasn’t smart enough, didn’t have the experience required, wasn’t passionate enough. I felt like a fraud and it was only a matter of time before someone would find out. However, things are much different that I expected them to be.

So, here we are… 5 things I learned in the first 3 months of grad school.

There is no reason to be scared
The selection process is rigourous and they only select the best into my program. I received my acceptance letter the first week of January, I’ve been told that means I was one of the top picks, since I wasn’t expecting it until May or so. I’m occupying a seat because I’m good at what I do and I’m passionate. I didn’t lie on my application even a little bit, so I should feel confident that I belong there.

The course work is not as difficult as you might expect. But, it could be because I am a different person that I was six years ago when I graduated with my last degree.

What you did before matters, but also doesn’t matter
I say this because you bring your experience and knowledge to the class and can draw upon it to apply theory, assist with learning, and figure out exactly what you want (or don’t want) to do after this degree.

I also say it doesn’t matter because (at least for me), you’re not doing that anymore. I was kind of a “big deal” in the grassroots affordable housing movement in Winnipeg. I was an expert on something and people knew that. People talked about me and came to me for comments. BUT… they don’t anymore. It has been an adjustment for me and definitely a blow to the ego. But, you have to move on and continue forging your career and name, it’s just how it is. And if you’re lucky, that work you did before will catapult you into awesome things :)

The importance of networking
If you’re like me, you don’t fit into the tiny box of what your school wants you to be. This is frustrating and discouraging at times. If your immediate circle of faculty members do not offer you what you need in order to grow and meet your goals… GO OUTSIDE! I’ve connected with a prof who aligns well with my values and goals. She has been wonderful in connecting me to people in the community who can work with me and teach me what I need to know. She has also offered some other potential opportunities that sound promising.

Networking makes for a unique and rich experience. It’s also good for your career. Learn how to do it, then do it. Be professional. Get business cards. Shake hands. Attend presentations. Send cold emails. Ask people for coffee.

Create an excellent work space
I do not have a good work space in my home. My house is very dark and my desk is too small for how I want to use it; up until recently I didn’t even have a proper chair. So, I was doing all my work in my oversized comfy chair with big, flat arms… actually quite handy for working on a laptop. But, not ideal.

I’ve taken to working in our faculty’s student lounge. It is open late and everyone leaves at 5pm. I have access to a fridge, microwave, kettle, sink, giant tables and comfy benches! I couldn’t ask for much more. I spend a lot of time there… I mean A LOT OF TIME.

You’re going to feel like crap, no matter what…
You’re going to have doubts. You’re going to fear failure. You’re going to be hard on yourself and compare your life to others.

If you moved, you’re going to regret it at times. If you have a relationship, you’re going to neglect it. If you have a cat, he will end up hating you periodically… but then forget about it because (let’s face it) he’s a cat. Your apartment is going to get gross… and I mean like really gross. You’ll lack sleep and be jittery from too much caffeine.

If you’re in my position, you’re going to be broke and fight off your depression everyday. You’re also feel incredibly socially awkward talking to your peers (how do I be human, I forget). School work distractions are quite helpful in glossing over these things.

It’s just a fact of grad school life…

BUT!
You’ll also make some good friends you can commiserate with and give you advice. You’ll drink a lot of beer. You’ll also eat too many cookies because your classmates are nice people. You’ll get inspired. You’ll learn. You’ll try new things. You’ll have QUESTIONS and discuss the answers with brilliant people.

BUT!
Best of all, if you’re like me, you’ll build on your skills and…

You’ll change the fucking world.

The Weight of Grudges

In a recent conversation I had with a colleague, the work I’d done in the community came up. He thanked me for all I’d done and said I made a huge difference in the lives of so many vulnerable people in the area.

This got me thinking… after I thanked him for the compliment, my reply was “I always hope to make some sort of positive dent where ever I happen to be.” I think I’ve managed to do a pretty good job of that… for the most part.

I would never say I am perfect. I am so far from it. But, I do try to be as good to others as I can without trying to figure out how our relationship will benefit me. Sometimes, this gets me in trouble or people take advantage of my trusting and generous nature.

There has been at least once, recent years, where I was not as good to someone as I could have been. I had hate and anger in my normally good heart and I ripped into them like I’d never done to anyone before. My anger got the best of me and I purposefully hurt someone without thinking about it. I wish I had slept on it, things might be different.

I had held onto my anger and hatred of them for awhile afterward. I put it in a little corner of my soul to silently stew, almost to be forgotten, only to have it flare up every so often… but what did that really do for me? Absolutely nothing. My frustration faded after some time. I put myself in their shoes for a bit, trying to make sense of the ridiculous situation we had found ourselves in. I let go of my so-called grudge because it was of no use to me anymore.

However, don’t be confused. I still believe wholeheartedly what they did to me was very, very wrong and would not wish their actions on anyone. I also know my retaliation was wrong and things were said that likely cut deep. For that I am truly sorry. 

However, I believe this person still holds a very strong grudge against me, they even appear to wish death upon me. There is denial and cover-ups by mutual friends, but it sometimes comes out just how strong their hatred STILL is for me. I’d like to bury this hatchet, but many things stand in the way- mostly ego, a grudge, (and sometimes even people) are holding us back from being civil.

If I could say one thing about grudges, it would be this: they are a weight. Grudges drag you down without you realizing it. They do not make you a better person, they also don’t make what you did the right thing, they don’t escape you from responsibility or bad behaviour. They are a waste of mind space, because admit it… it does take at least some effort to hate someone.

I do not want to be the proud owner of a violent grudge. That is why I acknowledged their wrong of me, dealt with it the way I needed to, and then simply let it go. It’s a hard thing to do, but it really makes you feel good. When you hold a grudge, I don’t think you can ever feel 100% alright because the grudge occupies a space of yourself that could be filled with happiness, but you choose to fill it with hate instead… I’m sounding very New-Age Oprah in this post. 

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For that certain person, in case you should stumble upon this post or if a mutual friend should share it with you:

You’ve probably never read this blog and maybe never will, you likely do not give a shit what I think about the past situation. You may even laugh and let this blog post fuel your grudge. I know you have not let it go and that you have an inhuman amount of hate for someone who is trying to make things right, but is unable to get around the obstacles. You may not know that I am apologetic for hurting you because of these same obstacles. You and I will never be friends and that is understandable. But, the least we can do is be civil, understanding, and forgiving with one another. I hope you can take this to heart, know that I acknowledge my behaviour as wrong and you can do the same of yours. Take a deep breath and let it all go one day. Maybe that’s the day we can make peace. I truly look forward to it one day, in whatever form peace will take between us.

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People CAN evolve emotionally, that’s one of the wonderful things about us. We can change our opinions of people, empathize, and vow to live good lives where we are decent to one another. Choice is a wonderful tool at our disposal, but we also have to choose to use it (ay’ there’s the rub). I made a choice to evolve and I am so happy I did. After all, hatred is a terrible color on me.

Okay…. end of my New-Age hippie mumbo-jumbo. But it does feel good (and a little scary) to put this out into the universe.

Things I Love, N to Z

This is a series in which I detail the things I love and hate, outlined by letters of the alphabet. Miss the previous installment of this series? Here’s a link to Things I Love, A-M and Things I Hate, A-M.


Neon signs
There are certain cities that seem to hold a great legacy of neon signs. Vancouver is a wonderful example. I guess Las Vegas too, but I haven’t been there. This is a fun Flickr to check out if you enjoy neon signs too.


Old people who look like Santa
I just think this is fun, they often play it up too.


Popcorn
Popcorn is my favourite junk food. I had an airpopper, but it literally konked out on me. So, I recently learned how to make popcorn on the stove top. It is revolutionary and so much better.


Quotes
I enjoy a good quote. I tend to gravitate to those from literary characters or classic authors. Good advice, Oscar.


Road Trips
When I travel, I tend to go by car. I drove to Chicago. I also drove to Seattle and back. It is a great time to reflect and get back really just being you- no impressing anyone. Just you and the road.


Sparkling water
I really have a problem with sparkling water. I drink a lot of it. I don’t drink soda, but sometimes you want something bubbly. This is a great, calorie-free, chemical-free alternative. When I go to the USA, I usually bring back several cases because they have way more variety than we do here. The above is my favourite brand.

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Travel

I love to travel. I didn’t do a lot of it when I was younger and I really regret that. But I’ve been trying to go somewhere new every year. So far in 2015 I haven’t been able to make that a reality because I have been saving a lot of money for my upcoming move. Above is me in front of Buckingham Fountain in Chicago. I walked along Lake Michigan endlessly when it began to vicious downpour. I ran to a small shelter near the fountain and watched the scheduled light show with music. It’s a great memory for me.

shazam
Using the Shazam app

This app is great! I use it often in clubs, the mall, with the radio in a vehicle. I also try to use it with people’s conversations… it doesn’t work and I’m usually drunk when this occurs. True Story. And yes, I did make that photo.


Vinyl
I bought my first record player when I had just barely graduated high school. I found it at a thrift store and it continues to work to this day. I know I should invest in a better one, but I just haven’t. I like to play records in my sunroom when the weather is nice.


Walking
I walk everywhere. Last weekend I walked for 2 hours. The weather was nice and my legs work just fine. I walk to work, to the grocery store, to the gym. Everywhere I need to go is walking distance, so why wouldn’t I walk a lot?


X… xylophone? 

So, not a lot of things that I like start with X… But to be honest, when I was in elementary school, we had a music room that was filled with wooden and metal xylophones. I do think they make beautiful sounds and they always remind me of a simple childhood time where we sang in choir and listened to the Bellybutton song on record. And they actually looked almost identical to this photo.


Yoga
I’m not great at yoga, but I do enjoy it. I find it gives me a time to literally think about nothing. I get so focused on doing the poses that my worries and thought just completely disappear.

Seeing these pop up in my garden brings me more joy than most things in my life. #winnipeg #gardening

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Zucchini
One of my all time favourite vegetables. Zucchinis are so versatile- you can make a cake or a pasta with them. I like to grow these in the summer. The plants get so large and you can grow a squash the size of your head. But, you shouldn’t. The above photo was taken from my community garden plot last summer.

Well, that’s all for this installment. Stay tuned for the things I hate…

Where Has She Been?

Oh boy!

It has been about 3 weeks since I have posted on this blog. I guess it has been a busy, eventful few weeks. Out of the ordinary? I don’t know about that…

Ok, time for a recap!

Something exciting happened a few weeks ago- I had an article come out and it was picked up by three different news sources- Winnipeg Free Press, CBC, and Rabble. I was interviewed about the article on CBC News Radio One and got many positive comments on it. Here’s is where the article originally appeared.

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This conference reminded me that even one person can make a difference. It’s good to remember that sometimes.

I attended the National Congress on Housing and Homelessness this past week and had a really great time. I learned a lot and got to meet some great people, mostly young professionals like myself. Had a chance to catch up with some folks I don’t see too often too. There were pub nights and sometimes drunken dancing, but all in all, it was really great. It was really nice to be able to speak about advocacy and politics and urban design and so many things with people are are just like me. Twitter and IG handles were exchanged, cell numbers inputted… and all us young kids are talking about meeting up next year for this same Congress in Montreal. Looking forward to it!

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This graph came from one of our Keynote speakers, Christine McLaren, a researcher who worked on the book Happy City. As you can see, life satisfaction increases with more trust in your neighbours and community. I’m sorry to see that Calgary is really quite low on this graph.

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Spending some time in the Bay Downtown.

I’m really starting to transition my brain into a moving mindset. I’ve been calling for moving company quotes, selling off things, stocking up on boxes, and I even had to register for my classes this past week. It’s starting to get really REAL and it’s also really terrifying for me. I wish I had some support to make me feel better about this huge life change. This is just the countdown to freaking out for real.

I finished my second round of the Whole30. Not as good as the first time around. I’ve really hit a plateau. Time to change things up.

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Cherry Blossoms just starting to sprout.

I’ve really been getting into the Alberta Provincial election. So many interesting things happening with the NDP and smarmy things happening with the PCs out there. I think it will likely be close… but hard to say which way it will go.

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Working on repairing a smoke damaged kitchen in a rooming house and cleaning up the community/rooming house front yards with the tenants. Spent some time fashioning a grave marker for my dearly departed buddy/pain in the ass, Willis. I’ll be placing it where he is buried before I leave town. I also started a BurnOut Prevention Group, which I call BOP. Our first meeting is this coming Friday. And… I’m working on a project I spearheaded that could change the way rooming houses are subsidized (they currently aren’t at all).

Been damn busy at that work place, I guess…

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Lastly, I’ve been actually having some fun. Above is a photo of me at the Art City Fundraiser Party. Had a blast, but boy did my feet hurt! This coming weekend I’ll be in Toronto to see an exhibit of my absolute favourite artist at the AGO. Never before seen in Canada. Never before seen by ME in any gallery across the country/USA I’ve been too. I’m too excited for words.

And to wrap it all up, I’ve been spending lots of time in my sunroom listening to records, reading, playing Sudoku, and learning to use my new sewing machine.

What have you folks been up to lately? 

Life Milestones as told by Pantone

The company Pantone is known worldwide as the ultimate standard language for color. They have been declaring a colour of the year since 2000- that’s 15 years of unique colours. This got me thinking about my past 15 years and what events “coloured” those particular years. So, we float back in time…

2000
In 2000, Pantone chose this muted blue and I learned how to drive in this very similarly coloured Dodge Omni.

2002IMG_6906
In 2002, red was in and I was OUT of high school!

2004

In 2004, I moved into my own apartment, leaving the perennial Tigerlillies that appeared in our backyard behind at the farm.

2009Vancouver 049

In 2009, I graduated University and hoped my future would be as bright as Mimosa.

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In 2011, my life changed. I ended a 7 year relationship, lived alone, and got my first real job after graduation. That’s me with a horse on an organic farm. Just part of my awesome job! What a crazy, confused year… kinda like calling this colour Honeysuckle, aren’t those yellow?

2012183

2012 was this year I decided to start travelling alone, whether I had the money or not. That’s my little campsite in a rain forest in the Pacific North West. I can’t come up with a good colour pun, so here’s a bad one- you could say 2012 is the year I began my “tango” with life. (Blerg, I know).

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Now, 2013 and 2014 were full of hardships (almost as hard a time as I have choosing which of these colours is my favourite) and if you read this blog much, you know what those are- depression, anxiety, makeups/breakups, a few deaths, drinking, losing friends, and important people moving away.

2015

And now, it’s 2015! Marsala is kind of a dull colour for a year that is shaping up to be a wild ride.

Do any of these Colour of the Year chips jog your memory of days gone by?

Things I Love, A to M

Art
Above is Robert Rauschenberg, an American artist best known for his Combine paintings. He is a major influence for me and my work. I got a chance to see one of his pieces up close in Chicago. It was amazing and a moment I will remember forever.


B
obs Burgers
I’ve mentioned this show before and its ability to absolutely KILL me sometimes. I’m convinced Tina Belcher is my spirit animal and I find Linda Belcher’s vocabulary sneaking into my everyday life. “Alriiiiight!”

Coffee
I had a hard time with the C category. But I finally decided on coffee. I drink coffee pretty much everyday and I can be kind of a nerdy snob about it sometimes. For example, I (a less asshole word for ‘lecture’) coworkers on why you need to pour the coffee out of the french press and into a decanter. They just don’t get it.

Deer
I’ve started accumulating deer related items over the last few years. Look at that cute wobbly little guy!


E
arl Grey Tea
As much as I love coffee, I also love tea. Lately, I’ve been drinking mostly Earl Grey. A real classic.



F
ermentation
Now, you probably thought I was going to say foxes. I do love foxes, but thought I would go for the unexpected here. Fermentation is a fascinating process of preserving with bacteria cultures. It’s really good for you too. I’ve recently made fermented cucumbers and kombucha. I’ve been doing this type of preserving for several years now.

Gardening
I’ve been gardening for decades. I grew up on a farm and we always had a big garden and I loved seeing what could be produced from one little plant. When I moved into Winnipeg, I discovered community gardening and was able to keep the tradition of growing my own food alive.

Hudson Bay stripes
There is just something about the stripes that feels like home. I don’t know what it is. It could be remembering all those times spent wandering around the beautiful Bay Downtown store, looking at all the furniture we couldn’t afford but could dream about.

Green skirts and purple tights. It's how I roll. #dressedlikea9yearold #winnipeg #worklifeseries #fashion

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Instagram
It’s no secret that I love Instagram. Check out my page from the sidebar. It’s a great way to share your life with people you don’t see often or don’t necessarily have time to talk to everyday. It’s also a great way to show off my feet. I do that a lot.


J
ulia Child
She’s seemed like such a wonderful woman. Off-beat and ahead of her time. Also, completely fearless and not afraid to make a mistake or look like a fool. I’ve definitely used this above omelet method and it definitely works.

Kettlebells
Kettlebells originated in Russia and were originally used to weigh crops. This is one of those love/hate things actually. I love them because they are fun to use and it is an amazing workout for short amounts of time. But holy hell! Is it ever a hard workout.

One of my absolute most favourite of life's simple pleasures. Lilacs in the spring. #winnipeg #flowers #lilacs #spring

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Lilacs
I mentioned this in my last post about what I was looking forward to in spring. It is one of those simple pleasure that only lasts a few weeks and then they are gone til next year. I stop and smell these babies every chance I get. Gotta enjoy them while you can.

It's locally foraged shaggy manes for dinner tonight. #winnipeg #mushrooms #foraging

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Mycology
Picking mushrooms is a great summer time hobby. Last year, as wet as it was, produced a ton of mushrooms around my area of town. No one else is going to pick them, so I did. I do a lot of research into which are good and bad to make sure I won’t die. Everyone thinks they will die if they eat a wild mushroom, but if you tell them otherwise… they will take all your mushrooms! Never reveal your foraging spots!

That’s all for Things I Love A to M, next up will be N-Z. But before that appears, I’ll be writing Things I Hate A to M. Stay tuned!

The state of my workspace

I’m lucky enough to have my own private office in a building with around 10 other staff members. At my job, my days are never the same and never, ever boring. Sometimes there isn’t enough hours to get the work done and ensure my space is presentable. Sometimes my desk holds 5 empty, but used, coffee cups. Other times, I have a mile-high pile of articles to read. I’m getting better at filing and documenting in Word/Excel, but I still struggle with my physical space. Keeping it tidy and organized.

Here’s a little glimpse into my work space- meticulously un-curated, as is, on an average day.

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What’s your work space like? Tidy or similar to mine?

News about the Imposter Syndrome

Good news- I feel a lot less depressed lately.

Less than good news- I feel very beat down in some aspects of my life.

I was speaking to a friend very briefly today about how I feel I’m not measuring up. How every time I think I’ve done something exceptional, it seems to come back to me as having actually done a stupid thing or the wrong thing instead.

And these thoughts got me thinking about the Imposter Syndrome.

“a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.”

I’ve always said to myself and to other people with similar feelings “fake it til you make it, because no one else knows what they’re doing either.” But the latter part of that saying is the hardest to believe. Why does everyone seem to know more or be better at things? Why do I, and others with the same feelings, feel like we’re not measuring up all the time? I don’t believe it’s that we are not measuring up, but we are exaggerating everyone else’s success. Not to mention others are also exaggerating their own success to impress.

Interestingly enough, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. Of course,  I’m not going to call myself “high-achieving” because I don’t see myself that way… and that’s probably a bit of that Imposter talking. But why, as women, are we constantly second guessing our success and intelligence? Is it because women are still earning 70-80% less than what men earn? Or is it because affirmative action is practiced and we aren’t completely sure if we were the best candidate for the job?

Case in point, when I have to do public speaking I always feel like a blithering idiot. I get so nervous! But when I hear the recording or watch the video of me speaking, it does not sound the way I thought it sounded when the words were spewing out in what I thought was a jumbled mess! I get compliments from people who were listening/watching and I just assume they are being overly nice and trying to make me feel better.

I don’t have any answers on how you can feel less like a failure in life. But, when you start getting those feelings take a minute to step outside of your head and really take a look at yourself and your perceived failures. Also, remember that many of the people you may be comparing yourself to could be “in the middle of their story” while you’re “only at beginning of your story”. I often find I’m comparing myself to people 10 years older than me because we are colleagues or I respect them, their intelligence, and what they do. That’s really not fair to me when they’ve had an extra decade to gather knowledge and have learning experiences.

If all else fails, listen to April Ludgate.

Anyone else feel like an imposter sometimes? 

“Friends”… hitting a bit too close to home

I’ve been watching Friends on Netflix (as many people hovering around my age have been lately). When this show came on the air I was only around 11 years old or so and I couldn’t relate to much of anything that the characters were going through in the weekly episodes. I had never been without a job, had a roommate, or been on a relationship “break”.

But now, I am 30, rewatching these episodes and coming across some circumstances I can actually relate to. Most recently, I watched the episode where all the friends turn 30 and Rachael comes to terms with being in a place where she has to make some pretty heavy decisions. See below, you only have to watch to the 2 minute mark.

The plan. What is the plan? I had a plan at one point, but things happened to throw it off track and I’m now exactly where Rachael is- finding myself in the middle of having to make some very difficult decisions about life, future, and family. If only i had five wacky characters to rally around me and make it all okay. Oh well. I’ll figure it out as I go.

The Guilt of Spending Money

I have a hard time spending any significant amount of money on myself. I think it’s a remnant of growing up in a home where we were just barely getting by. As kids, we never went without, but I also knew not to ask for things I knew the family couldn’t afford. At the age of 30, I still have this guilt of spending too much money on myself and if I need to, the decision takes me forever to make.

I’m thinking of this now, because I need to buy a new laptop. I’m currently working on an old hand-me-down from a friend which is quite slow and is about ready to kick the bucket. I’m hemming and hawwing over the purchase because it’s a rather expensive one. I’m weighing the options of affordable vs. quality and since it’s something I use everyday, I’m trying to shift my mind to the idea that it’s okay to spend a bit extra money on things you need and use often.

So, I started to think of some of the things I’ve been wanting for years but haven’t purchased because of the guilt I associate with expensive items and I’ve compiled them below.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ~ $250

A car ~ $15,000+

A HBC Blanket ~ $350

Vladimir Kagan Furniture ~ $1000

Marc by Marc Jacobs purse ~ $300

Lenovo Yoga 3 ~ $1400

Around the World Ticket ~ $Priceless

Do you have a hard time spending money on yourself?