Ditch the guilt

These past few weeks, we have been witnessing the world change as the infamous COVID-19 virus takes over the globe.

Our daily routines have been disrupted, our social calendars cleared, and the walls at our homes have become way too familiar.

Personally, I’ve been anxious and unproductive. The uncertainty of the whole situation is a daily struggle, since we as individuals have little to no control over what the next few months will be like, when will this end and how it will be afterwards. Anxiety is always ill-timed, but now even more so, as it has been getting in the way of my productivity.

Every morning, I wake up to dozens of notifications from different media apps covering the latest on COVID-19—its spread, the death count, the civil restrictions, which politician said what; the list goes on. This need to know and be informed is distracting and triggering, making me way slower at checking things off my to-do list. I mean, even this article was hard to write.

Now that staying at home is not a sign of laziness but a worldwide requirement to fight the fast-spreading of the virus, we are still expected to produce at the same levels we normally do from our homes, the place where all of our distractions are contained in one space. The pressure is real. The whole world cannot halt because our normal lives have changed. If that was the case, our whole system would collapse in response—not that it already isn’t anyway. Social relationships have also become difficult to keep up with since the list of excuses to not be available has shortened entirely.

In today’s capitalist world, we are measured by how much we produce and how efficient we are in doing so. We are socially pressured to be our most productive selves. I mean, look at all this time we have on our hands. When in reality, we are not. Now advertisements and apps are being tailored to this time of crisis promoting how to get fit at home, how to write a novel, how to organize our time wisely, and so on. This pressure is being created by all these external forces but also by our own minds, when the truth is that we are way more than our productivity or our anxiety. We don’t need to turn our lives around just because we have time. And we don’t need to be available to FaceTime and text all day just because we can. If we didn’t before, why would we now?

Not because Shakespeare wrote King Lear while self-isolating from the plague or because Isaac Newton came up with calculus during a pandemic, we should be doing the same. Extraordinary times don’t necessarily turn us into extraordinary people. We should be focusing on living as simple as that sounds, without feeling a strong sense of judgement weighing us down. There will be days where we’re going to feel like we have all of our shit together, and they will also be many others where we feel ourselves drifting further and further from that.

Realistically speaking, there will be people who will come out of this pandemic only with the newly acquired skills of washing their hands. While there will also be someone who will create something as big as Newton and Shakespeare did. Or not.

In times of distress like this, I believe it’s better to be honest and realistic with oneself, if you work well under pressure, that’s amazing. If you do not, why beat yourself up for it? We should all be doing what is right and works for us to fight the self-judgement that comes with underproductivity. Also, having these kinds of worries in the first place only highlights the amount of privilege with which we experience this global crisis.

Graphic by @sumdaeghost


Doing it for the ‘gram

Ten days ago, I deleted Instagram from my phone. I was tired of how mindlessly dependent I was on the app.

For the last few years, it was always the first thing I checked when I’d wake up and the last thing I did before going to sleep. Not only did I catch myself wasting time that could be better spent on anything else, I also noticed how much I was purchasing impulsively through Instagram’s shopping feature.

When the shopping feature was first made available, I was really into it. What a quick and convenient way to get what you want! With a few simple clicks, I could get my hands on whatever product I happened to scroll by. However, I soon realized I was just a fly caught in the app’s crafty marketing web. Post after post, ad after ad, I was convinced my wants were needs. And my needs, ultimately, were never being met until the next purchase.

I already had trepidations with Instagram prior to their shopping feature. Especially with the pressure to post a fun and exciting life, and the anxiety that came with that. We all have seen our friends go on amazing vacations, order amazing food and drinks from fancy places—and we have all been on the other side, going out of our way to get the perfect shot. But now, some people are going out of their way to look like their perfect shots in real life, aka plastic surgery. I was listening to a podcast, Call her Daddy,  recently about how some women have started to get plastic surgery to resemble their ‘perfect make-up face filter.’ You know, the one that makes you look like a Bratz doll? How unhealthy is that? As if women didn’t have enough beauty standards to attain, now we have to aspire to look like disproportionate dolls? I used to follow this yoga blogger named @Catmeffan who addressed this need to ‘look flawless’ at all times. She recognized how the face filters, ultimately, made her feel like she wasn’t pretty enough without them in her stories. But she caught herself and now refuses to use them, as she believes it’s important to feel like your own face is enough.

I don’t want to come off as a preacher and say you should all delete Instagram immediately, but I do strongly recommend taking a step back from it, even just temporarily. Instagram is always going to be there, and people won’t even realize you’re absent. (Sorry, I don’t mean to hurt your ego.)

I always complained about social media and how unhealthy it can be, but I contributed to it in my own way. When I decided to give being consistent a shot, I realized that the first couple of days after I deleted it, I still instinctively reached for my phone and tapped for the app even though it wasn’t there anymore. This reflex revealed how much I was used to being on it. Now, nearly two weeks without Instagram, I find myself doing more yoga, reading and writing more, as well as spending way less money.

This time I didn’t do it for the ‘gram. I did it for my own peace of mind.

Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Education for social change

Has your mind ever gone on a rant about all the things that are wrong with society? If yes, then I’m sure once you start, you spiral deeper and deeper into it until you come to the realization that everything is related.

It’s like a domino effect. It also seems impossible to pinpoint one solution, because for change to occur, many forces have to act in synchrony. On this note, I’m a strong believer that accessible, collective education would be a great place to start.

Personally, I feel like the more I know and learn, the more convinced I am that society’s evils will not change—at least not during my lifetime. This sounds conformist and hypocritical of me because I still try to be a social activist in my own way, in my everyday life. But it is hard to picture a world that’s more equal, caring, green, tolerant, empathetic, fair and so on when large numbers of people all around the world don’t have access to higher knowledge. One could argue that people can seek to learn in their own ways, but that’s just a weak argument. Especially when you consider how according to Humanium, 72 million children in the world are not in school. Or how poverty, marginalization and inequality have paved the way for 759 million adults to be illiterate and clueless about how to improve their conditions and the conditions of their children.

Isn’t that depressing––especially when you realize that these figures only consider access to primary education? Thus, reflecting how much of a privilege higher education really is. Even though BBC news has claimed that Canada has become “an education superpower,” by having 55 per cent of adults in the workforce with degrees, this still means 45 per cent of employees don’t have one. Plus, these figures don’t even take into consideration all unemployed adults that have achieved further education.

Although this is all a bit too grim, it is a great opportunity for us students to acknowledge how privileged we are to be in a higher education institution. Because even though we might not believe so today, we can change things in the future. Who knows, maybe one of you reading this will become a person with power and high morals one day. Education and awareness are tools we must value and use wisely, especially when you consider the large numbers of people who do not have the same luck. If we work towards making education a right, we’ll have a better chance at social improvement.

Making education available would create an elevated state of collective consciousness. This would challenge the status quo and would make a better world more tangible and possible. But as long as we remain an individualist and capital-driven society, the social gap will continue to broaden. The powerful and wealthy segments of society benefit through inequality, and why wouldn’t they when it is so profitable? This mentality combined with weak morals has kept the population ignorant.

Yeah, that might sound sort of leftist of me, but it isn’t, it’s just humanitarian thinking. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Girls just wanna have fun

Today, we live in a progressive world where sexual topics that seemed taboo a few decades ago are now part of common discourse.

Socially, we are comfortable talking about our sexual relationships, our sexual orientations and our body hair, to name a few.

However, the topic of female pleasure and masturbation still throw people off. Society has overly-normalized male pleasure specifically––their sexual drive, their masturbation, to the point where most women have been taught to repress their sexuality and their own pleasure. Men are not to blame for every wrong against women. But, does it seem fair that even though sexuality has progressed as a topic, female masturbation and pleasure still makes people uncomfortable, even as a topic between women?

It is ironic how in movies, television and media in general, we often see men masturbating, but how often do you see women doing it? Not often, and definitely not as often as we see men do it.  Sexually-liberated women are feared by a society that has sought for them to remain within the margins, which is why women are often shamed or judged.

You know what is even more tragic? Women who are sexually active are way less likely to orgasm than men. According to NBCnews, results from a study of sexually diverse group of 52,500 adults in the U.S. show that 95 per cent of heterosexual men said they always or normally come during sex. On the other hand, 65 per cent of heterosexual women claimed they usually did not orgasm. Such contrasting numbers are directly linked to the fact that women are less likely to explore their pleasure than men.

If you cannot make yourself orgasm, how can you expect someone else to do it for you? In a society where women are constantly kept from experiencing pleasure on their own to figure out what they like or not, it’s no doubt that they come less than men. Masturbating will free you from such chains. As shown by Bustle, women who masturbate and aim to explore their own pleasure are more likely to experience empowerment and become more comfortable in their own skin; not to mention the improvement in their sexual lives.

That being said, I’m completely aware of the fact that we all experience our sexuality in different ways. However, being more vocal about growing up as a woman and your own human impulses among your friends is a great way to push towards the normalization of female pleasure. As a matter of fact, more and more often I hear my friends talk about their vibrators, sexual fantasies, need to masturbate as a part of their ‘self-care routine’ and so on. Only good things can come out of talking more about our pleasure. Our words will resonate far and wide—young girls will learn to explore and accept their bodily impulses, instead of feeling ashamed, dirty and abnormal.

Even though we all explore our sexuality at different paces, expanding our knowledge of it can be extremely helpful. There are hundreds of sex-positive sources out there to get you started or to further your knowledge. Tons of articles can be found online about how to masturbate or how to improve at it. Sex Education on Netflix is a great show on the subject. Instagram is also a good resource to educate yourself on your own sexuality. Among my favourite accounts are @bellesaco, @talk.tabu, @femislay, @erikalust.

All in all, talking about female masturbation and pleasure is one step towards the normalization of this topic, as well as one towards the deconstruction of our own socialized beliefs. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Do you really have to buy that?

With the holidays right around the corner, it is hard not to notice the insane amount of people flooding the main shopping boulevards.

Our compulsive shopping habits spike through the roof, hurting our wallets and wasting our time. We all feel pressured to have a gift for everyone, as if it is a sign that you care. But more often than not, we buy useless gifts just for the sake of giving a loved one something to unwrap and enjoy for two minutes on Christmas. Is this compulsiveness a sign of the decadence of today’s world? If we know this special holiday is about spending quality time with those we love, why do we keep making it about material objects?

Every time I sit at a cafe and people-watch, I realize how captivating vitrines really are and how successful marketing strategies are in fueling our consumerist behaviour. We are all victims of it, you know the drill: you pass by a shop, you stare at what they have and in less than 2 minutes you find yourself inside. Maybe you’ll buy something, maybe you won’t, but once you have been lured in, there’s no way back — you immediately start looking for something to satisfy an often unnecessary desire.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that fashion is one of the most profitable industries. According to Statista, the fashion sector in Canada alone made US $6.81 million in 2019 and has an annual growth expectancy rate of 8.3 per cent, so by 2023 the market volume will be approximately US $9.37 million.

Going shopping at this time of the year is not just expensive, it is absolute madness. In less than a few moments in a department store, you could find yourself fighting over an ugly pair of boots with a crazy lady that’s determined to get her hands on them. The funniest part is you don’t even need that extra pair of boots. Our consumerism really brings the worst out of us, and we are not doing anyone a favour; we are just contributing to the toxic industry that deteriorates our environment at the cost of fulfilling our material desires. The high levels of dopamine our brain releases when we shop only keep us high for a second. As reported by Elle, studies have shown that those who are more prone to develop shopping addiction (yes, that is an actual thing) are also more vulnerable to develop depression or anxiety.

Maybe this Christmas we should try to keep our compulsiveness at bay and get what we actually need. Before going shopping, make a list of what is absolutely necessary, stick to your budget, and restrain from overtreating yourself or your loved ones. Our material desires often keep us from appreciating those around us and what we already have in front of us, so why not try something different for a change? After all, we should be focusing on spending quality time and being cozy, rather than wasting our best energies out in the cold, consuming in ridiculous amounts. And hey, if you’re good at arts and crafts maybe you can save a few bucks this Christmas by showing off your skills. It is sustainable and memorable!

Graphic by @sundaeghost


What’s really happening in Chile?

The social unrest and constant riots beginning on Oct. 14 have really taken a toll on Chile, which appeared to be the most economically and politically stable country in South America, as reported by BBC.

This alleged reputation has proven to be just a façade when a significant amount of the population decided to protest against the numerous years of social injustice.

As a Chilean living abroad, it hurts to see my natal city in flames, but mostly it is sad to see how for years, hate, human rights violations, resentment and oppression have taken over the country, until the people couldn’t take it anymore.

On Oct. 18, the metro fares in Santiago were raised by 30 pesos (approximately $0.05 CAD). This increase was the straw that broke the camel’s back after many years of undignified living standards. A student collective spearheaded a movement that called for fare evasion, known on social media as #EvasionMasiva. The initial protests resulted in turmoil; supermarkets were sacked, thousands of people marched the streets, and the majority of Santiago’s metro stations were completely scorched, as mentioned by Vox. 

Eventually, it wasn’t just Santiago’s students anymore. The movement had reached other cities in Chile, and soon, millions supported the cause. Since the police force was unprepared to handle the situation, President Sebastián Piñera declared the country to be in a state of emergency. He sent the military on the streets and reintroduced a strict curfew that Chileans last experienced during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

Furthermore, Piñera went on national television to claim that the country was “at war” with its own people, a statement that infuriated the protesters even more. Piñera later rectified his claim by proposing an economic reform and cancelling the rise in the metro fares.  However, these measures did nothing to smooth things over.

By now you may be wondering, why is it that people continue to protest and refuse to go back to their routines? Chile has an enormous accumulation of wealth where one per cent of the population earns 33 per cent of the country’s wealth. The social inequality has continued to expand throughout the years to the point where the minimum wage is so low that people spend about 20 per cent of their salaries just on transport. They have unworthy pensions, a poor health system, high rates for student loans, a poor educational system, draughts, precarious jobs, collusions, capitalization of national resources, and so on. But most importantly, people are asking the government for a constitutional change. Chile’s constitution was changed by Pinochet in 1980, and still remains the same today – which epitomizes the extent of the dictator’s legacy and is key in understanding the people’s frustrations.

Today, the protests continue, and the movement has adopted the slogan “Chile has awoken!” Those who endure to march refuse to go back to their normal lives and resign to the degrading living conditions caused by Pinochet’s neoliberal economic model. According to The Guardian, 7,000 people have been arrested, at least 18 people have died, and the number of people who were abused by the security forces is high, yet unknown. Santiago’s metro damages go up to approximately $400 million and businesses have lost near $1.4 billion. Despite this, the majority of the people march in peace, they are out there hoping to achieve a dignified living and basic human rights. As stated by BBC news, on Oct. 24, protests broke the record for the biggest peaceful march since the 1990 when Chile returned to democracy. 

It is distressing to see Chile go through this situation, but it was also inevitable. The people can only take so much social injustice and poverty. The situation goes beyond choosing a side; the international, local and social media each portrays different fragments of reality. Nothing is black and white, there are many different shades in between. Chile needs to rise above its people’s differences, come together, heal by solving its embedded issues and invest in its future.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


The missing bridge between two worlds

One student’s thoughts on leaving Chile and entering Montreal’s diverse atmosphere

Moving to a different country often leads us to feel between places and cultures. I’m sure most of us who have come from a foreign land to study here at Concordia struggle to find that sense of belonging, whether our place is here, there or neither. It is easy to lose your sense of identity and feel lost, or like you have no sense of direction after your studies. Does this sound familiar to you? Because for me, it is a recurrent state of mind.

It is important to acknowledge the privilege many of us have to have been able to leave our homes in order to pursue a degree. However, this is not the situation experienced by the vast majority of people who immigrate. Many do so due to the hardships, conflicts and lack of opportunities they face in their home countries. Regardless of the case, experiencing nostalgia, sadness and/or loneliness is common. We all leave a life behind in order to make a new one; making multiple sacrifices along the way, since parting with what is familiar to us is never an easy task. Of course, there are the family and friends you’ve left behind, which always encompass one of the biggest pulls between both worlds.

Personally, growing up, I always had a particular itch to leave Chile, in order to get a new perspective on both the exterior world and my interior one, too. I was so confident that a change was in order—that if I moved, it would be permanent. I was and I still am extremely grateful for the privilege I have that allowed me to make that decision in the first place. But now that three years have gone by, I’m able to acknowledge how wrong and naive I was. Ever since I left, I have felt in between places and countries; not fully here but not quite there, either.

In Montreal, we experience new challenges. Language becomes a barrier if you don’t speak French and learning it can be a difficult task. Especially since by attending Concordia, we are mostly exposed to English speakers, which leads us to connect with only a small percentage of Francophones. However, one of the best features this city has to offer is diversity. No city is perfect, nor has it all, but Montreal does have a certain degree of multiculturalism, which helps us bridge the gap between our two worlds.

I must also acknowledge the fact that we are students living in a student city—in fact, Montreal was named number one in the world according to a 2017 QS World University ranking, an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds. That being said, there’s always someone else you can bond with over the struggles that come with moving and living in a different country.

Nothing in life is permanent but change, and we are happiest when we do not resist it or overthink about the future. What I’m trying to say is that it is ok to feel conflicted, lost, homesick, sad, unsure, lonely—you name it. We must allow ourselves the space to experience the baggage that comes with moving farther away from home. This way, in this new place, we learn to grasp and contemplate our previous life from a new perspective. At the same time, we create a mindset that allows us to live and make the most of our current student experience.

Changing countries has multiple complications, which at times can be overwhelming, but feeling lost or homesick from time to time is natural. Getting anxious about where we are going next will only take away the peace that we enjoy in the moment. We will get there as we once got here. And if there is still a void you cannot fill, I strongly recommend you fill it with large quantities of Quebec’s greatest gift: poutine.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Disconnecting when being interconnected

One student’s thoughts on why we should consider putting our phone away and living in the present

I’m sure all of you who have smartphones have experienced some sense of guilt for devoting so much time to them every day. We are being reminded daily of the amount of time we spend in front of our screens. We live in a virtual world, where we maintain and develop connections, at the cost of engaging with those who are physically present. Why is it that despite having contact with others at our fingertips at all times, we still feel lonely?

According to Psychology Today, we are being haunted by a “loneliness epidemic,” where those of us who spend the most time on social media feel the most lonesome. Even if you have deleted all social media off your phone, you are still susceptible to this epidemic. Studies have revealed that the relentless use of mobile phones leads us to experience anxiety, depression, isolation and loneliness. Face-to-face interactions are losing value as we feel closer to our friends and family by nurturing relationships virtually. We are only drifting away from the reality in which we are living.

For those of us who use our phones as a means of sustaining connections with those far away, it is harder to find balance between living in the present and being elsewhere. We are victims of being virtually connected while in the presence of those we love, thus isolating ourselves even further. We are completely addicted to constantly checking the time, the weather, Instagram, Facebook, you name it; all of these are distractions that affect us more than they benefit us. According to The Telegraph, we are spending approximately 24 hours per week on our phones. Can you imagine being in front of your screen for a whole day non-stop? Of course you can, because this is our weekly reality.

We are prioritizing the virtual world over the real world. We feel empty as we try to capture every moment for social media and friends, and are not enjoying the present while we’re in it. This strikes a nerve because we are constantly seeking entertainment and wasting our time by overindulging in our cellphones.

I think it’s sad when a couple or a group of friends are sitting at a restaurant, scrolling down their screens instead of talking to each other. I feel bad for those who are in the middle of a forest recording every moment for their Instagram story. But the truth is that we have all done those things.

I know it sounds cheesy, but we should really be living in the present. No one truly cares about what we are doing anyway—you are aware of that yourself as you skip/scroll through other people’s stories or messages. Scrolling through our social media can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction with our own lives as we compare it to the perfect reality of those portrayed through pretty filters and thought-out captions.

The chronic need to check our phones prevents us from relaxing and checking in with ourselves. Rather than connecting with each other, we are disconnecting from our real lives and from the present. The first step in spending less time on our phones is to recognize the fact that we have a problem. Putting our phones down more often will help us obtain a clearer mindset. If you want to go further, maybe a real alarm clock will be the solution to late nights and morning screen scrolls. These are small steps that can have a big impact—why not start today?

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


Don’t damage the earth when getting dressed

How fast fashion negatively affects our environment and how we can do better as consumers

I know that as a student, it is hard to keep up with the fast-changing world of fashion trends that incite our consumerism while on a tight budget. We tend to buy from the stores right around the corner from our homes. It’s close, it’s cheap and it gives us access to more. But, have you ever stopped and thought about how damaging these stores are for the environment?

Fast fashion is characterized by the mass production of clothes and cheap prices, to the extent that some stores have around 52 different seasons every year, according to the documentary The True Cost. That means new clothes coming in every week, which hooks consumers and attracts those who are more money-conscious. It sounds great in theoryI mean, who doesn’t like variety and low prices? However, the reality and the manufacturing ethics behind these products are not so great.

Behind these clothes are starving women and children who work long hours and for little money, according to The Guardian. Not only that, but these workers are abused in order to meet unrealistic deadlines, according to the same article. According to The Independent, these factories mostly operate in Asia and are known for their use of toxic chemicals, large amounts of material waste and contamination of one of the most precious natural resources: water. Large amounts of water. Thus, fueling the overheating of our planet, according to BBC. Since clothes have become even more accessible than before, we buy more, we use less and we waste on a larger scale.

If you are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, you probably already have a grasp on how harmful agriculture is for the environment. But did you know that, according to Forbes, the second largest industrial polluter world-wide is the fashion industry? If you are committed to minimizing your consumption of animal products and you are already interested in being more environmentally conscious, why not apply this living ethic when it comes to shopping?

Montreal is known for its styleI’m sure you know what I mean. The further you wander out of downtown and into the Plateau-Mile End, the more evident this becomes. Thrift shops also start clouding your vision, as there are plenty, and some are really worth checking out. Buying second-hand clothing is an amazing step towards being more sustainable: you help small businesses, you reuse, and it is affordable (unless you’re shopping in the Plateau). Plus, it has its advantage beyond the environmental questionyou won’t be wearing what everyone else already is.

Some of my favourite items in my wardrobe have been found in thrift shops, and surprisingly, I purchased them from Value Village. It is a huge store and can be a little overwhelming, but if you have a good eye and some enthusiasm, you will find some valuable treasures. Another one of my favourite thrift stores is definitely Ruse Boutique; it is a consignment store that always has unique pieces from renowned brands at unbeatable prices. If you are not already sold by these two suggestions, you should try Annex Vintage, Cul-de-sac, Citizen Vintage, Eva B,  Empire Exchange, Bohême Friperie, or just walk up St. Laurent Blvd.

If thrifting is not your thing, you could start being more conscious when you shop by selecting only products made with recycled materials, non-toxic dyes or organic fabrics. Although these small changes won’t fix the global environmental issue at hand, they do make an impact that multiplies as more people adopt them. If this article sparked anything in you, I would highly encourage you to watch The True Cost (available on Netflix), investigate and stay away from the most damaging mass production brands, like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21. Reusing makes you feel and look better. And more importantly, will help the environment. It’s a win-win situation.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

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