How to be a happy romantic in a hookup culture

One student’s experience with romance and realizing why it begins when you stop partying

It took years for me to realize that it’s possible to be a happy romantic in a hookup culture. And it all started in April 2017, when I made the conscious decision to stop partying.

Throughout my years of partying, I surrounded myself with hookup enthusiasts who constantly told me that my romantic aspirations were juvenile. They warned that I was “too serious” for my own good, and a big part of me believed them. YOLO and FOMO smothered my brain like thick cobwebs. I wanted to experience the euphoric young adulthood talked about in all those hype dance songs, and portrayed in all those badass Hollywood movies. Consequently, I became desperate to emancipate my heart from emotion.

I wanted to go out and dance with cute guys, without caring whether they asked for my name. If they asked for my name, I wanted to answer without hoping they’d ask for my number too. If they asked for my number, I wanted to flirt without expecting the conversation to blossom into something more meaningful. I failed miserably. Every time a cute guy would prove that his interest in me was purely physical, I’d feel a pang of disappointment deep in my belly. Every time a crush flirted with other girls the way he flirted with me, I’d feel a punch of rejection bruise my heart.

Hookup culture was crushing my inner romantic and the desire I had to find someone legit. At the time, however, I didn’t see it that way at all. I resented the pain, and told myself it was proof that I desperately needed to get a handle on my emotions. When I stopped partying though, I was no longer under the influence––not of friends, of alcohol, or of hookup culture. I was able to weed out anxieties and facades that I kept having to live up to while in the skin of a social butterfly.

Without a shadow of a doubt, abandoning nightlife was integral to my confidence as a romantic person. It was step one along a path that, almost two years later, led me to a wellspring of happiness and peace. I do not believe I would’ve been able to access this wellbeing had I continued partying.

We live in a culture that constantly encourages us to believe that we can be anything. And in some ways, that’s inspiring. However, too many millennials are trying to transcend desires that they’d be better off embracing: feelings of wanting more from one person intellectually, emotionally, and romantically. It saddens me to think that I ever villainized my desire for loyalty. I bought into pop culture’s highly manipulative lie, which says that the happiest young people are those who are down for anything, anywhere, with anyone.

If you’re a romantic millennial, I urge you to tread cautiously in environments that propagate hookup culture. These scenes will trick you into believing that you’re your own worst enemy. But in the words of inspirational speaker Alexander Den Heijer, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” If in your heart you are hoping to meet somebody special, the dance floor isn’t so much a place of freedom as it is a vortex that forces you to be something you are not.

To my fellow romantics: I can confidently assure you that none of those parties will go down as the best nights of your life. Conversely, they’re liable to endanger your happiness, and demotivate you from seeking the loyal relationship you deserve. Your person is out there, but they’re not waiting for you in a room that ridicules the real you.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


You don’t need to shout to be seen

Why one student believes the media is sending the wrong message about shyness

Millennials are trying to ward off nerves like they’re a disease. Under the influence of celebrities who constantly show us their sass, we’ve become a flashy society that worships extroverts. Nerves have been pitted against confidence, and now, being shy is seen as a sure-sign of insecurity. Well that’s garbage. The truth is, you can actually be both super shy and super confident.

It starts by unlearning what the media has taught us about confidence. Pop culture promotes confidence as the ability to handle the spotlight. Confident people are those who easily hold conversations, address crowds and bring the room to life. According to this logic, the easier time you have expressing yourself face to face, the more confident you are. The problem with this definition is that it makes confidence all about your rapport with others, when truly, it should be about the relationship you have with yourself.

To me, confidence is less about how you talk to others, and more about how you talk to the person in the mirror. More specifically, it’s exuded through an ability to show yourself unconditional love. The keyword here is “unconditional.” Truly confident people are not those who never get flustered, but conversely, those who do mess up and don’t hate themselves for it.

Our generation underestimates the coolness of being shy. That’s right, I just used “shy” and “cool” in the same sentence. Here’s why: if you don’t automatically feel comfortable in every room you walk into, that can actually be a statement about how well you know yourself. The fact that you feel less comfortable in certain environments simply means you’ve explored your personality enough to know that other activities, topics and people interest you. By sitting quietly instead of trying to insert yourself into the conversation, you’re showing that you’re not a shapeshifter who molds their personality to fit in—and in a society of posers, that makes you a breath of fresh air.

Sure, eloquence and extrovertedness demonstrate some level of self-assurance. However, being bubbly in front of others doesn’t automatically mean you treat yourself with love and enthusiasm. Lots of effervescent public figures battle insecurity behind closed doors. They cannot bear the idea of messing up, and therefore, the belief they have in themselves is conditional. It rests on the requirement that they constantly control their nerves.

Except, the healthiest bodies are those whose organs don’t need to be manipulated; stomachs that digest without the help of an electrical stimulator; hearts that beat without the prompting of a pacemaker; blood that flows without the aid of a circulation machine. There are so many reasons to be grateful for our body’s intrinsic clock. Why on earth do we punish ourselves for blushing cheeks, accelerated heartbeats, and lungs that get short of breath? Society wants us to view nervous reactions as weird and embarrassing, when the truth is that they’re just as natural as the reactions keeping us alive.

For me, the most impressive people are those who refrain from gossip when they see other people’s nervous tics, and those who don’t talk themselves down for getting awkward. How wonderful it is when a person can get nervous, laugh about it or simply carry on with their day because they know it’s not a big deal.

So long as you can identify a few environments or specific individuals who bring out your more conversational side, you don’t have to feel bad about getting shy. You’re not chronically insecure, nor are you missing out. You’re simply an individual with specific interests and friends, who isn’t automatically titillated at every turn. In a generation filled with attention-seekers who require constant validation, that actually makes you quite rad.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


A helping hand versus hypocrisy

Why one student believes getting ghosted by an aspiring public figure isn’t okay

Hordes of millennials are trying to become famous. And these aspiring public figures all seem to have one thing in common: they are convinced that they have the potential to positively impact the world. They want fame, not just for fame’s sake, but because they believe they’re more perceptive to society’s problems than mostand whether through music, writing, or simply sharing their personal stories, they claim to have a sincere, overbearing desire to help others.

And yet, many of these same people put their “hustle” above anything else, including friends and family. When you need a shoulder to cry on, or an activity to get your mind off things, do not call an aspiring public figure. Between perfecting their craft and practicing the answers they’ll give Ellen DeGeneres in their success-story interview, many simply don’t have time for your mediocre company. Aspiring public figures also experience extremely unique emotions that only Oprah Winfrey can understand. Trying to express their feelings to small-minded people is exhausting.

For this reason, the aspiring public figure has the absolute right to ghost you. And you’re not allowed to be disappointed or hurt when it happens. Instead, you should automatically support their decision to move onto #BiggerThings.

Ok, enough with the sarcasm. Some aspiring public figures are hypocrites. Behind goodwill hashtags of “authenticity” and “purpose,” these hustlers operate on selfish agendas, and very calculated displays of compassion. Notice my use of the word ‘display’ here. These people jump on social and charitable opportunities that can be plastered all over Instagram, but never take the time to help anyone behind closed doors.

I’m speaking from both observation and experience. I, like most millennials, have befriended some people who are trying to grow their platform. And unfortunately, I’ve found that most have no problem dropping me like a hot potato. I can’t count on them to check in with me.

Instead, I must chase themand if I somehow do manage to squeeze into their impossibly tight schedules, I find myself being treated more like a fan than a friend. The most selfish aspiring public figures will have you believe that their grind is eternally sacrificial. If you comment on how much fun and freedom their lifestyle provides, they’ll follow up with a reminder of the pressures and vulnerabilities involved. This is a clever and profoundly manipulative way to downplay how much fun they’re actually having. They don’t want us to notice the pleasure and freedom involved in chasing big dreams, because that’s how we’d begin to perceive flaws in their integrity. I personally believe many aspiring public figures are using “passion” and “purpose” as excuses to absolve themselves of responsibility. With swollen egos, these people have grown to believe nearly everythingand everyoneis beneath them.

Disclaimer: not every aspiring public figure is like this. Some are genuine, and their grind is sacrificial. But, to those who might see themselves through my words: Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” To be clear, that’s not to say you shouldn’t help strangers––but it is to say that you should be willing to help people in private too. If you forget how to be a friend on your way to being that world-renowned public figure, truly, there is no point.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Poker-faces are pathetic, people!

Why we need to start embracing emotions rather than fiercely rejecting them

If emotions make you sensitive, passionate or compassionate toward others, congratulations, you’re an empath. Plenty of people are glad that the word ‘empath’ exists. And yes, I suppose it is needed. But only in relation to the super messed up society we live in, which tells us that feeling anything other than indifferent is gross.

Think about it: you can’t feel hungry anymore without also being body shamed. You can’t feel shy without also feeling like a loser. And God forbid you feel sad or concerned for someone else, because that sure is useless!

So this word is used to differentiate those who acknowledge emotions from those who pretend they don’t. And now, empaths are made to feel like they’re overemotional. If we get emotional at work, we’re deemed “unprofessional.” Among friends, we’re known as “the sensitive one.” In the dating world, showing emotional depth is equated with vulnerability. But what are we vulnerable to? Understanding? Acceptance? Connection?

Indeed, we empaths seldom look at ourselves (or each other) in a positive light, and that’s a real shame. Because being thoughtful and compassionate is the first step to true heroism. So no, I don’t think it’s fair that the word ‘emotion’ gets tethered to other words with negative connotations, like immature, fragile and, worst of all, weak.

But in a world that worships fake looks over real personality, it’s no wonder everyone is striving to feel as much as a cardboard cut-out. Social media, television and pop culture have done a fantastic job at fooling us into believing life is all about fronts. This hasn’t just propagated unrealistic standards of beauty, it has promoted unrealistic standards of what it means to be human.

Under the example of celebrities, political leaders and #influencers, feeling 100 per cent fierce 100 per cent of the time has become everyone’s main goal. You’re not supposed to feel heartbroken; you’re supposed to feel numbness toward romance, yet with an insatiable need to have sassy sex with strangers. You’re not allowed to feel nervous when speaking in front of a crowd; what you ought to feel is extreme assurance that you own the room. If you’re anything less than certain that your presence is a privilege unto all who cross your path, then you’re not strong, and that’s pathetic.

This is the lie we empaths have internalized, thanks to the sickening logic of self-absorbed capitalists who toy with our emotions to fill up their pocketbooks. And it makes sense for them to trick us; the more walls we build, the more we underestimate the value of immaterial pleasures like true friendship and romance. Indeed, equating emotion to weakness is just another clever marketing strategy used by public figures to keep the rest of us locked in a matrix of chronic insecurity. Feelings shouldn’t be talked about—they should be covered up with a brand-name poker face, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Behind even the most decked-out bulletproof vest beats the heart of a living, breathing, feeling human. To my fellow empaths, as you go about your daily lives, being made to feel inferior because of the intensity with which you perceive the world, please remember this: to the right person (i.e. another empath) your ability to be authentic will make you more attractive than even the most airbrushed Kardashian or thick-skinned Hercules.

One day, you’ll meet someone who will love and embrace you, not in spite of your feelings but precisely because of them. So don’t feel ashamed… just feel.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


How to go from being lonely to a lone wolf

Stop romanticizing social interaction and reevaluate what it means to be alone

Call it being woke, spiritual or cynical. The fact is, you read past the title, which tells me you’re likely on a different wavelength than most. Everyone else seems to see the world in technicolor. You see it in hues of grey.

Indeed, people who are most in tune with the complexities of human existence are often the loneliest. We speak half as much as we think, and even then, other people only understand a fraction of the things we say. This can make us feel like we don’t quite fit in anywhere.

But feeling lonely isn’t healthy. It can lead us to dark places. In order to escape the crevices of our own mind, we often opt for… dear Lord… a social life.

We go to parties. Get coffee with a new friend. Hookup with our latest Tinder match. After all, life is short, death is scary, and other people can help us forget all that, right? Not quite. When you’re sensitive to the world around you, loneliness can creep up whether you’re in a room full of people or in bed by yourself.

Which is why we’ve got to stop romanticizing social interaction, and start re-thinking what it means to be alone. As singer Alessia Cara melodiously puts it, lonely people often go out only to find themselves asking: “What am I doing here?” Just moments into something that’s supposed to be casual, loneliness pushes us to surrender, and we find ourselves hanging onto Sia’s metaphorical chandelier (that’s right, “Chandelier” is actually a song about feeling sad while at a party!).

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to undermine how hard it can be to be alone with your own thoughts. However, I am encouraging you to remember that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side; because it’s also sad to look into another person’s eyes, and realize you’re trying to be something you’re not. Or that you’re exhausting yourself in the process of explaining your perspective to people who don’t think like you.

Pop culture has fooled us into believing that a full social calendar is the antidote to loneliness. Not true. It all depends on who you’re with—and because most millennials have equipped their hearts with bullet-proof walls, it can be really hard to connect.

When you stop romanticizing social interaction, you realize that lousy company isn’t actually better than no company. So how can you work through loneliness on your own? First, get creative. Write, draw, go ham on an instrument. Bake a delicious treat you can indulge in later. Once you start creating worlds of your own, you’ll no longer be experiencing solitude, but privacy—a much healthier, and entirely valid way of understanding what it means to be by yourself.

Second, remember that people are generally a bit lonelier, or sadder than they appear. Nobody’s life is perfect. Don’t compare yourself to fronts, especially not those you see on social media. Often the biggest smiles hide the deepest pains.

Finally, remember that loneliness is temporary. Right now, it may seem like you’re destined to be forever alone—but as new chapters emerge in your life, so will new people. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to be a lone wolf. Use moments of privacy to explore your personality. As you delve deeper into your hobbies and interests, you’ll find your true self—the you that will attract better relationships in the future.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Knowing when to skip the damn party

University lifestyles often promote binge drinking, but how do we know when to stop?

In April 2017, I made the decision to take a break from partying. No more frantically clearing my schedule for an event in fear of missing out (FOMO). No more rushing to clubs at midnight, hoping to meet someone special on the dance floor. No more anxious cab rides holding in a queasy stomach. No more making excuses for an activity I never really enjoyed.

Of course, it took me years to realize I don’t actually like partying. I used to be one of those people who hyped my friends up; I’d hear an electronic dance music song on the radio during the day and remember a time the DJ dropped it at 2 a.m. Immediately, I’d get this overwhelming itch to gather everyone I knew on any dance floor. Oh, and to drink half a bottle of spiced rum by myself.

This was until the day I finally accepted that this behaviour was squeezing the life out of me. From anxiety to disappointment, the majority of my nights always drifted into gloom. I mean, sure, there were those exceptional moments of hilarity, hype or authentic conversation that made me think going out that night was worth it. Those exceptions kept me coming back for more and, ultimately, had me romanticizing a toxic lifestyle.

Partying is an integral activity in university culture, and for many, it’s a source of freedom. However, that’s not always the case. How could it be, when alcohol is a depressant, clubs are loud and crowded, and drunk actions are typically frivolous and forgotten? For old souls, pouring time and energy into a lifestyle that provides fleeting satisfaction is more draining than fulfilling.

If you’re constantly making excuses for the negative emotions you experience during or after a night out, I urge you to take a step back from partying. Don’t overlook your feelings in the name of being “hungover,” or thinking that you’re simply “too sensitive.” Don’t blame a bad night on logistics, like a cheap venue or crappy weather—it’s quite possible that, like me, partying just doesn’t cut it for you.

One great way to assess whether you should party less is to make a list of your top 10 life memories—moments you remember fondly and would relive in a heartbeat. How many of them happened during a night of binge drinking? If the answer is less than five, I’d say party in moderation; that list is proof you won’t be missing out.

If you’re still unsure, consider this: in 2014, a study about drinking habits around the world found there’s a whole slew of millennials who don’t actually enjoy binge drinking; and no, it’s not because they’re under some repressive religious or political regime. I’m talking about countries like France, Italy, Spain—places plenty of North American millennials dream of visiting. In these cultures, the majority of university students actually think drunkenness kind of sucks. The nausea, irreversible texts and embarrassing mishaps all make the idea of losing inhibition much less appealing. These millennials don’t owe each other explanations as to why they’re not overdoing it. They’re free to go to the party without actually partying.

How does one do that, you ask? Well, here are a few tips: don’t stay out too late. Drink less. Go out with people who like you when you’re sober; go out with people you like sober. And before going anywhere, ask yourself why you’re going. If FOMO is the reason, just skip the damn party.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



The millennial pursuit of monetizing passion

One student’s realization that passions are valuable whether they bring you success or not

An interest in yoga has transformed into the pursuit of becoming a fitness model. A knack for style has evolved into the goal of owning your own fashion label. A passion for music has morphed into a dream of becoming a world-renowned rapper.

Among other defining characteristics, millennials’ willingness to pursue their dreams sets them apart from generations past. Unlike our parents, who weren’t necessarily encouraged to envision futures beyond desk jobs, millennials live in a world constantly inspiring us to nurture our passions and interests.

To be in our 20s today is to live in a time of endless possibility—a time when social media can become your ticket to superstardom, like it did for Justin Bieber; a time when your own voice can propel you past homelessness and poverty, as was the case for The Weeknd.

Despite a generation of baby boomers who tend to label us as lazy and entitled, our reverence for creativity makes us one of the most ambitious generations this world has ever seen. We believe there is nothing hard work and perseverance can’t achieve, and we are unapologetic and fearless in the pursuit of our dreams.

As a millennial myself, I am an avid believer in unearthing individual talents and interests. Art, dance, cuisine, writing—whatever it is, I encourage you to discover the joy and fulfillment that comes with asserting yourself as a unique individual.

I am, however, troubled by the sense that a materialistic mentality has pervaded my generation. What started as a goal in the name of passion has been overtaken by a thirst for money and fame. Our passions matter as much as the attention they receive. This is particularly evident through our changed relationship with social media, where our posts and popularity are as valuable as the likes and followers they generate. The song you post to YouTube isn’t impressive because you made the beat yourself—it’s impressive because of its view count. It doesn’t matter that I took the time to write this article—what matters is that you took the time to share it on Facebook.

In the pursuit of careers that will satisfy our intrinsic interests, millennials disregard passion for passion’s sake—doing something simply because you love it, with no ulterior motive like making money or getting noticed. Our sense of purpose becomes tethered to popularity, and we wait for the day when we will finally be recognized as the superstars we really are. In the meantime, we disregard things that make “everyday” jobs appealing, and overlook those who work nine-to-five jobs instead of pursuing a career they’re passionate about. Stable hours, benefits and a reliable salary aren’t good enough for the go-getting millennial, who scoffs at the idea of working in a cubicle.

But just because someone else hasn’t made a career out of their passion doesn’t mean they’re living a mediocre existence. They have worked just as hard to get to where they are. And they too are individuals with talents, interests and passions. Conversely, just because someone hustles in a field that they love, doesn’t mean they’re ever going to find success.

For those of you who think I’m saying these things because I don’t have any dreams, you are wrong. I hold a desire in my heart which many have called a pipe dream. I no longer measure the value of my passion based on whether or not I am able to turn it into a career because I made the disheartening discovery that, sometimes, hard work doesn’t actually pay off.

Indeed, contrary to what we’ve been told our whole lives, working towards your passion is often not enough. The difference between being good at something and getting paid to do it depends on a variety of factors beyond your control, like connections, timing and luck.

In a world that constantly measures you in likes, followers and cash, I urge you to remember that the value of your passion goes far beyond a dollar sign. You do not need recognition from others in order to enjoy or be good at something. Whether you are able to turn your passion into a career is irrelevant. The beauty of your passion is that it is yours, and that is valuable beyond measure.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Why glorifying drinking isn’t fair to either sex

Regional campaign in York, Ont., paints an overly simplistic picture of alcohol

You’ve cut the tag off your new black dress, curled your hair, paid your Uber driver and finally got past the bouncers in front of the club. Now, all that’s left to do is wait for “prince charming” to buy you the cosmopolitan you’ve been craving all week.

From song lyrics telling us to be on our worst behaviour to Hollywood blockbusters painting alcohol as the cure to a boring existence, pop culture wants us to believe the best nights of our lives are the ones we don’t remember. Partying is labelled as the defining element

of our youth.

Infatuated by the ideas of only living once and the fear of missing out, it’s no wonder so many of us perform the role of partiers willingly. We must be confident, bold and loose—and not just with each other, but with our drinks too.

According to the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, women are generally more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men for a variety of reasons, including less overall body weight and more fat tissue.

These facts prompted the regional municipality of York, in southern Ontario, to launch a campaign against binge drinking at the end of August, right before frosh week. While this seems like a good idea, many felt the campaign was inherently sexist.

The campaign’s poster depicts a young woman staring at her cellphone in horror alongside the slogan, “Don’t try to keep up with the guys.” At the bottom of the poster, the line reads: “It’s not just about keeping an eye on your drink, but how much you drink.” While done with good intentions, it is a message that shames, guilts and blames women.

The campaign was heavily criticized for suggesting women are at fault for their own victimization. Emphasizing the idea that women must control their drinking insinuates women can prevent bad things from happening to them so long as they don’t drink too much.

As a young woman, I found the ad problematic but not for the reason it came under fire. Yes, perpetuating the myth that drunk women are “asking for it” is undoubtedly problematic and wrong. Nonetheless, I appreciated that someone at least tried to expose the pressure women feel to live up to binge drinking standards.

What disappointed me about this ad was how it completely failed to communicate that this pressure is not put on us by men, but by the media.

By focusing on sex alone, the ad ignores critical factors which impact a person’s drinking habits—what age they started, how often they drink, if they’re drinking on a full stomach. None of these considerations have anything to do with sex, yet they have everything to do with a person’s susceptibility to alcohol.

Both the media and the York ad campaign paint overly simplistic portrayals of alcohol. Cultural media, like television, music videos and song lyrics, paint binge drinking as an amazing escape. But being drunk doesn’t guarantee that you’ll feel bold or happy. In reality, being drunk triggers different responses, ranging from euphoria to depression. The ad campaign fails to communicate this, and instead paints binge drinking as a problem rooted in biology.

Even from a biological standpoint, though, the ad completely misses the point. I guess its creators forgot that tall women exist. Being 5-10 myself, I can attest to the fact that some women are able to take in more alcohol than “the guys” before ever feeling a thing.

The York campaign is problematic because it assumes that binge drinking is a pressure felt only by women. In reality, binge drinking is a pressure placed on both sexes by media which glamorizes the effects of alcohol. Pop culture places binge drinking on a pedestal. We are taught to praise alcohol for its ability to make us “go with the flow.” What many fail to realize, however, is that the media’s glamorization of alcohol instills pressures on us to behave in gender-specific ways. The stereotypical view perpetuated by mass media is that binge drinking is bold, confident and expected. Saying no is weak, boring and odd. These stereotypes apply whether you are male or female.

I believe the success of a responsible drinking campaign lies in exposing one very simple truth: the media profits off our compliance to gender stereotypes in nightlife culture. It’s up to us to reject the myth that masculinity and femininity are measured by how much you can or can’t drink.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the organization that created the binge drinking campaign. The campaign was launched by the regional municipality of York. The Concordian regrets the error.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


The line between incautious confidence and paranoia

One student’s experience with harassment, and the steps she takes to stay safe

I enter the metro car to find it practically deserted. Despite the empty seats, I decide to stand. I look around, but there isn’t much to see. A woman staring pensively out the window, a young guy shouldering the burden of a school bag and a man sitting with his legs spread apart. He is sitting behind me, so I’m able to observe his behaviour in the reflection of the glass. That familiar, feminine voice announces the name of the next metro station, and I notice the man shift in his seat.

Suddenly, I can feel his gaze on my back. I take a step towards the door, pretending that I’m getting off at the next station. The man jolts up out of his seat, like this has suddenly become his stop too. Of course, when the doors open and I do not exit the train, neither does he. Instead, he drops right back into his seat and waits.

A minute passes before we arrive at the next stop. Now, it really is my turn to get off. I squeeze through a sea of faces on the platform and join the others waiting for the green line. And I wonder about the whereabouts of the peculiar man from the metro car.

That’s when I spot him just a few feet away from me. I notice details about him: his long, grey coat, his sunglasses, his ghostly skin with red patches. I start to worry the man is following me, so I decide to walk away from the platform. He follows me. My instincts propel my feet into action. I dart to the orange line with steps as fast as my racing thoughts—what are my options, where is the exit, who can I call, am I exaggerating, what is he planning to do, what was he wearing?

That’s when I spot the man, stomping furiously back in the direction of the green line.

In a recent report, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) received a rating of A+++, earning the title of best transit system among major Canadian regions, according to CBC News. Factors considered in the grading included the number of passenger trips per service hour, passenger trip intensity and operating cost. Unfortunately, safety was not taken into consideration. Perhaps all the flashing lights, slick screens and sophisticated sounds of the new Azur metro cars distracted these examiners from spotting the new danger of one endless train—potential predators are no longer cars away. They’re steps away, always.

At least the old, separate metro cars inherently minimized your chances of encountering a predator, or at least gave you the possibility of switching cars if you were uncomfortable. I admit the old cars need upgrading. And while improvements are being made, there are still too many issues to warrant top marks.

The Montreal transit system doesn’t need praise. It needs police. In fact, a more effective police presence is the only advantage I see to having one long car. Now, a single officer can monitor the safety of a whole train, rather than just one section. But until I actually see police roaming the new trains with vigor, I won’t feel any safer taking the metro.

When I finally got to class that day, after I was followed in the metro, I was so relieved I could have burst into tears. However, the city’s streets haven’t always been a sanctuary of safety for me either. After some window shopping between classes, I walked into the EV building to sit down and eat my lunch. My appetite was quickly spoiled, however, when a man plopped himself beside me and said he’d spotted me out on the street. “I followed you in here so that I could say hello,” he explained, waving his hand in the air innocently, as if that would shed years off his wrinkly face.

Recently, the Crime Scene Index evaluated the level of safety in 15 Canadian cities. Being followed in broad daylight is just one of many reasons why I’m not surprised Montreal came in 13th in that ranking. All too often, women disregard experiences like these as mere instances of discomfort. They console themselves with the fact that he walked away, or that nothing really “bad” happened. They convince themselves that they’re making it into something that it’s not, or that they’re just being dramatic.

They see men gallivanting through the streets alone at midnight, jamming with headphones on in the metro, wearing whatever clothes they please, and many women think they too can live with these same freedoms, without worry. I used to think that way too, until I realized this was an arrogant approach to take toward my own safety.

Women cannot live in constant paranoia because that is self-destructive and unhealthy. Yet, they cannot live with their head in the clouds either. Paranoia and incautious confidence are two extremes, and our solution is found in between. Do not become shy and reserved in an effort to avoid low-lifes and losers, but don’t live in denial that there are creepers lurking.

For me, being less arrogant about safety has prompted me to make very specific changes. I look up from my phone every once in awhile to observe those around me. I keep my music at a slightly lower volume than before, so that I’m more aware of my surroundings. I tie a sweater around my waist when I’m riding the metro in an effort to thwart at least a few strangers from unnecessarily lusting over my body. I carry a rape whistle.

Some of these tips might make sense to you, while others might not appeal to you in the slightest. The good news is that these are just a few amongst a plethora of options women have when it comes to taking a more proactive approach to their safety. At the end of the day, only you will know what works for you—what changes or sacrifices you are willing to make in the name of safety.

But options aside, I do urge you to choose proactivity over arrogance, because half the victory lies in acknowledging there is a battle to fight in the first place.

Graphics by Zeze Le Lin


Obtaining the unattainable A+

Experiencing the worst tease of your university experience

I will never forget the day I was told that I couldn’t.

It was my first semester at Concordia University. Having just graduated with a college degree in commerce at my parent’s request, I was excited to finally be in a program I was passionate about: English literature. Bring on Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. Bring on the 2000-word essays, discussion questions and take-home exams.

My moment finally came when my ENGL 260: Introduction to Literary Studies professor handed out the instructions to our first written assignment. After years of memorizing formulas and digesting the 4 P’s of Marketing, I would finally be able to let my creative juices flow.

But my creative train of thought quickly derailed. I watched as the professor stiffened his posture, settled his glasses on the tip of his nose and drew in a deep, powerful breath. He proceeded to warn us not to expect any A+ grades in this class.

His rationale, he explained, was that such high grades are reserved for the level of knowledge and quality of work that graduate students produce. At this point in our academic journey, we should be content with Cs, he said.

I had been judged before writing even a single word. My confidence and my ambition—not to mention my GPA—would suffer for the simple reason that I was in my first year.

Somehow, I managed to get through the hours of reading and thinking required to write that essay. I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t get a high grade, but that wasn’t enough of a reason for me to slack off. I couldn’t put my name on something I wasn’t proud of and, for that reason, I gave this paper my absolute all.

A couple of weeks later, an ugly “C” stared back at me in bold writing, the ink as red as my boiling cheeks.

Should I have chosen a different topic? Picked a more interesting thesis? Given different examples? After reviewing my essay with both my TA and my professor, I realized the answer to all of these questions was very simple: no. There was nothing I could have done to get a better grade.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot wrong with my essay. However, after speaking with my professor and T.A., I realized the ‘mistakes’ I had made in this paper were understandable mistakes that any student in their first year would have made.

As an example of their overly high expectations, I was told I should have explained what I meant by the word “well-being.” With a plethora of ways to interpret that word, how could I not provide a definition in my essay? It was a mistake any newbie could have made.

But how is it fair to penalize my current abilities just because I will be smarter by the time I graduate? Can’t I still have something meaningful to say in the meantime?

When entering a more creative program of study such as English literature, there is no calculator from which you can derive your answer. There is no formula for understanding ideas. The grading scheme of such disciplines is different and less regulated than, say, the John Molson School of Business. This difference, however, should not mean disappointment.

I am not saying I deserved to get an A+ on this particular paper. However, I do believe that it is because of this professor’s high standards for the A+ that my classmates and I received such low grades.

Whether you are a high achiever or not, the lack of A+s in a university curriculum should worry you. To treat the A+ like a hero is to villainize the student mind, and it is precisely this kind of thinking which encourages a disrespectful power dynamic between teachers and students. For the sheer fact we are paying to be here, we deserve a chance to get that A+ if we damn well work hard enough for it.

High achievers should not have to write a revolutionary piece in order to achieve good grades. Similarly, students who are content with satisfactory grades should not have to work twice as hard just to receive a passing grade.

No student should be told their best efforts aren’t good enough at any point during their academic career.

I have since encountered some professors who are willing to hand out A+ grades to well-deserving students. These were the classes which encouraged a strong atmosphere of mutual respect.

The unattainable A+ is an unnecessary tease. On behalf of students everywhere, I urge professors to leave the teasing to their own private affairs, and off the syllabus.

Graphic by Florence Yee


Le Concierge: Exploring the meaning of home

 Concordia professor Federico Hidalgo’s film screened at La Cinémathèque Québécoise

It was a special weekend for Montreal filmmaker and Concordia communications professor Federico Hidalgo. His latest chef d’oeuvre, Le Concierge, premiered Friday, Feb. 3 at La Cinémathèque Québécoise, attracting film enthusiasts and the general public alike for an evening of entertainment, reflection and intrigue. Hidalgo not only wrote the film, but also acted in it and directed it.

Le Concierge tells the story of a concierge responsible for the upkeep of a small apartment in Montreal. As part of his duties, the concierge must also show the vacant space to potential renters. Despite its lackluster appearance, the space becomes highly desired by people from all walks of life, including an immigrant artist, a widower and a teenage girl seeking independence.

As he meets with more interested clients, the concierge becomes increasingly disturbed by a peculiar reality—the owner of this building refuses to choose a tenant. With people continuously opening up to him about their house-hunting struggles, the concierge bears a heavy weight on his shoulders. The audience is urged to reflect on notions of honesty, humility and, ultimately, home.

Hidalgo’s film features very little dialogue, letting the mise-en-scène tell the story instead.

Members of the audience at Friday night’s screening included some of Hidalgo’s students from Concordia. Nasim Gizabi, who is completing a specialization in communications, said seeing his teacher on the big screen was “a great experience.”

“I think maybe now, when I see him in class, it will be different,” he said. “He always talks about the films we make in his class, and now we know how he himself makes them. I saw him actually doing the things that he has been teaching us about—cinematography, mise-en-scène and acting. It’s amazing.”

Gizabi also pointed out the similarities between Le Concierge and works by Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk. “He makes films with characters who don’t speak at all. I personally prefer films with minimal dialogue, and Le Concierge was something like that. I liked it,” he said.

Zoé Realffe Dagenais, who is pursuing a major in communications, said she enjoyed the way the film was shot, and agreed that seeing her professor on screen was a unique experience.

“It was kind of weird seeing my prof on screen, but I have more of an appreciation for him now,” she said. “When you see your prof actually doing something that he’s teaching you, it’s kind of cool. That he acted, directed and wrote this film is really inspiring.”

As an exploration into the many reasons why we seek a place to call home, Le Concierge maintains an ambiance that is both insightful and introspective. “The mood is kind of mysterious and psychological,” said Hidalgo, who starred in the film as the concierge. The idea for the story emerged from his own experience renting an office in an apartment complex.

“I saw a lot of people who were going through difficult transitions in their lives, taking these little apartments like the one in the film,” he said. “I became interested in how you can pick up a sense of the types of difficulties they were going through, even though you don’t know them very well.”

Staying true to his real-life inspiration, Hidalgo sought out a small space to film. However, this meant working with a smaller production team of three to four people, plus Hidalgo,  compared to some of his previous films which could include over 50 crew members.

Le Concierge did not receive any grants. Instead, Hidalgo relied on the support of family and friends to put the film together. Making use of the resources provided by family and friends is one of the ways Hidalgo encourages aspiring filmmakers to get their foot in the door. “Start by taking stock of what things you can put together, aside from getting some money. Then, start writing and think of things you can do with the resources you have already at hand.”

“Instead of writing something that you would need a lot of resources for and hoping that one day you get it together, think of [scenes] you can make with the resources you already have,” said Hidalgo. Similarly, he also encourages writers to create scenes according to the spaces which are available to them.

With a series of accomplishments under his belt, including winning Best Screenplay at the Brooklyn International Film Festival and the Miami International Film Festival for his 2003 film, A Silent Love, Hidalgo maintains a special appreciation for the film scene here in Montreal.

With so many beautiful locations in the city and such a diverse population, Hidalgo said Montreal filmmakers hold a unique ability to tell many different kinds of stories. “I find it very, very inspiring because you don’t feel limited by one homogenous culture that can only understand certain types of films or certain languages,” he said. “It’s very competitive, but it’s competitive everywhere. I think it’s a pretty good place to make films.”


The mandatory attendance policy at Concordia

How the university’s policy actually improved my educational experience

I enter the dim lecture hall, eyes drooping with fatigue and boredom.

It’s the beginning of the semester, and this is my third and final class on a long Tuesday afternoon. I’m wandering the room in search of a seat, already counting down the minutes until I can leave.

A guest speaker is introduced amidst a clatter of emotionless clapping and deep resentment. I realize I’m really only here for one single, simple and superficial reason: to sign my name on that damn attendance sheet.

Welcome to Journalism 206: Introduction to Reporting, also known as the mandatory conference.

For the next hour, I will stay put and pretend I am not fantasizing about catching the next bus. The only time I will move is when I am confronted with every student’s greatest foe: the infamous attendance sheet.

Having been at Concordia for three semesters, I’m all too familiar with the terms and conditions of the university’s attendance policy. According to the university regulations listed on their website, “class participation which, in certain disciplines, may justify an attendance requirement,” implies students have to go to class to get participation grades.

Despite my pride as an ambitious university student, my academic merit is subject to the same policing and babying of a high school student.

I thought by now I wouldn’t have to justify myself when I can’t make it to class—let alone be punished for it.

I really don’t have time to listen to someone else’s success story, I think to myself. “I’m trying to create my own.”

Yet to my surprise, after attending this mandatory conference for the past few weeks, I suddenly realized how wrong I’d been about this class. When Montreal Gazette reporter Christopher Curtis spoke to our class, my world was revolutionized. He told us that we can infuse our journalism with creativity, and use our writing as an expressive tool to disseminate thought. Curtis was definitely insightful, and if it hadn’t been for the attendance sheet, I would’ve missed this inspiring lecture.    

I receive school credit for listening to the testimonies of successful people in my field. I get to learn the dos and don’ts without so much as lifting a finger. It is the most valuable hour in my entire week, and remarkably, it is also the most effortless.

Concordia often holds special events at which alumni and guest speakers are invited to share their stories. When stressed and overworked students need to sacrifice something from their schedules, most likely, they will end up skipping the extracurricular visit. Only those with spare time and flexible schedules can afford to attend these events. All students deserve an equal opportunity to receive real-life inspiration. By making the guest speaker conferences mandatory in the curriculum of every university program, this chance would be made fair.

Fortune favours the prepared mind. No matter how high your GPA, no matter how great your personality, you will always be at a disadvantage if you shelter yourself from the realities of the field you are trying to enter.

As a student who loathed the mandatory attendance policy for the past three semesters, I am happy to say that I am finally pleased to see an attendance sheet. I sign my name with pride, knowing that my presence is not just a boost to my GPA, but to my wisdom as a professional.

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