Forever an overachiever

The addiction of success.

In the midst of finals season, I always tend to be burnt out. But even though I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted, I find myself with an asinine zeal to overachieve. Among all of the hours spent in sweatpants and oversized t-shirts with my hair coconut-oiled and tossed into a ratty looking bun, I also have that self-inflicted need to produce award-winning essays, over-study for my exams, channel my inner Rory Gilmore and declare, “Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?” 

The pressure to excel is absolutely insane. 

This is a deep-rooted issue and I’m more than aware of that. Since grade school, I got report card comments like, “Saskia is such a pleasure to have in class!” and the aftermath of parent-teacher conferences were along the lines of “Saskia is very bright and mature for her age!” Because of this, I’ve naturally wanted to maintain that standard. 

Being an overachiever means being someone who performs beyond what is expected or to a really high level, and it often goes hand in hand with academic success. Overachievers are typically perfectionists, and tend to do impressive things at a high level. They typically engage in excessive self-criticism, and sometimes even berate themselves when they don’t live up to their own high expectations. 

University students are continuously under the pressure to push themselves beyond their limits, to aim for the best—in the midst of that, it is easy to begin measuring self-worth by academic success. Especially since so much depends on post-secondary education, anything deviating from getting nothing less than a degree with flying colours can be seen as failure. 

The pursuit of success along with the sheer volume of work leaves students feeling drained, and from this emerges the lovely cycle of self-sabotage. Even though you know that you’ve got three essays due in one week, with a final around the corner, you’ll put off your work because you’ll just “get it done later.” Not only is this self-sabotage (let’s face it, will you actually get it done later?) but also procrastination, which is a pretty big evil during finals season. 

As a self-proclaimed overachiever, I focus on the future and am motivated by fear: the fear of failure, regret, embarrassment and ultimately, disappointing others and not living up to potential. While I’m obviously happy about the accomplishments I achieve in school, such as a good mark on an exam or an essay, they aren’t things I dwell for too long on. In fact, even if the grade is good I still find a way to nitpick and think that if only I’d done this better or that better, I could have gotten a higher grade.   

While the overachiever in you might just feel inescapable, let this be a reminder to take breaks and give yourself time to remember that not everything you submit and not every test you take will be the best one you do! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is okay to cut yourself some slack—it’s been a hectic semester.

Student Life

The end of a decade

There are 21 days until 2020. A brand new year, plenty of opportunities, adventures and achievements to experience.

But it feels grander, more important somehow. There are 21 days until a brand new decade and, while time is a construct, the idea of going into a whole new decade is kind of stressing me out—okay, very much stressing me out. I’ve had multiple existential crises, more than usual, when thinking about the future.

At the start of this decade, in 2010, I was in my last year of elementary school. When you’re 12 and someone asks you where you think you’re going to be in five, 10 years, it’s often along the lines of go to school, get a job. Well after those five years, I finished high school. Then I went to CEGEP. And now I’m in my last year of university.

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

I have no idea. And that thought scares me. Up until this moment in my life, everything has somehow fallen into place according to a relatively “normal” timeline. From here on out, I have no idea what to do, where I’m going to end up, what I’m going to be doing with myself and my life. And it’s absolutely freaking me out.

I have to remind myself to look at the past year, at what I’ve accomplished: I got my first job in journalism, got an internship over the summer for a job which I got to keep, I started my column in this paper, I got through another year of university without any major breakdowns, got good grades while balancing multiple jobs, and so much more. Looking back over the last decade? I’ve accomplished so much and most of it was just growing up: I survived multiple levels of schooling, got my license, bought a car, fell in love, had my heart broken, I’ve lost loved ones, made and lost some amazing friends, and began the journey to finding and establishing myself.

Thinking back to everything I’ve done over the years, it makes looking forward a little less scary. Did I know what I was doing with myself at 12, 15, 18, 20? Absolutely not. But I still managed to get things done, and I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished because it’s all made me who I am today.

Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I graduate. I don’t know what job I’m going to get, or when I’m going to fall in love, get married, become a parent, get my own place, buy a new car. I don’t know if I’m going to lose friends, make friends, gain a larger family or lose loved ones. I don’t know if I’m still going to be living in Montreal, in Canada, in North America, or if I’m going to be living at all.

While that might sound morbid, it’s just the reality of life; you truly can never know when your last day living is. While it may not be so simple to say that you should make every day the best day ever in case you don’t see tomorrow, it’s best to just live everyday. Work hard for what you want short term in case you don’t make it to be 27, but also work for what you want in the case you make it to 93. Be kind to people and to yourself. Don’t be afraid of telling and showing people how you feel because you never know when the last time you’ll be able to do that is.

I don’t know anything about the upcoming year and the rest of the decade and there’s no point in stressing about it because you just can’t know. No matter how much you plan, life has a funny way of throwing you curveballs that can completely change your life, for better or for worse.

So, If you’re stressed about the year 2020, or the new decade ahead of us, look back to the last 11 months and 10 days and see what you’ve accomplished; look back at the last 10 years of your life and see how much you’ve grown. You’ve accomplished more than you realize and more than you give yourself credit for. Life is hard, and even if you think you’ve accomplished nothing, just being alive and being able to read this says a lot about you and what you’ve done with your life.

May 2020 and the next decade bring you more achievements, adventure, moments of self-realization, happiness, pain, love and loss. Most importantly, I hope it brings you the satisfaction of getting through one more year, one after another. And if no one’s told you recently, I’m proud of you, you’re doing amazing, and you got this.

Graphic by @sundaeghost


We race for success, but what’s at the finish line?

University culture encourages competition and stress among students in their 20s

​Trying to be successful in a short amount of time definitely comes with a lot of stress. As university students, many of us feel the need to accomplish as much as we can as fast as we can. The pressure we put on ourselves to succeed creates a stressful environment for us to live in, knowing very well there are more important things to worry about.

I don’t believe there’s an approaching deadline for success, seeing as so many well-known people became successful later in life. However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and pressured to accomplish “success” in school when you hear your classmates talk about their achievements.

We often hear stories of young adults who have already accomplished so much. For example, Chloe Kim is a 17-year-old American who won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics for the women’s snowboard halfpipe. It can be tough to watch a bunch of fit 20-somethings achieve the highest level in their field. It reminds us of how unaccomplished we are in our own lives. Although there is no time limit for success, especially not in yours 20s, it can certainly feel that way sometimes.
​University culture plays a big part in the pressure to amount to something. We should be focused on our schoolwork and nothing more, but many of us can’t help but feel the need to get a headstart on our careers. Whether that means starting a blog or getting an internship, any step we can take to get closer to “success,” we take it.

The majority of university students I talk to usually say they’re stressed almost all the time during the school year. Although some stress is normal, our overthinking about success causes a large amount of unnecessary stress. Our 20s is when we start to figure out what we really want from a career and build our way up from there. We can’t expect to accomplish all our goals in such a short amount of time.

​In 2013, a study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that almost 50 per cent of students listed anxiety as the main reason for seeking help from a school counsellor. Even though there can be many reasons for having anxiety, I believe a major factor is school-related stress. In the same year, another study revealed that 55 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students feel stressed because of health, relationships and academics, according to The Globe and Mail.

Countless articles discuss the pressure students face to feel accomplished; it affects our health and self-esteem, and it sabotages our academic experience. However, I believe very few of these articles discuss why we feel this pressure in the first place. Maybe we don’t quite know all the reasons behind it. What I believe is that putting students in such competitive environments creates a pressure to be better.

The other students in your program are generally striving for the same career as you and can, therefore, be seen as competitors. This level of competitiveness is too often seen as positive because educational systems have emphasized that competitiveness is one of the ways someone can be successful. But there is no race to success. We have our whole lives to be able to accomplish everything we want to, so we shouldn’t rush through our younger years, always feeling stressed out.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Fight the FOMO with gratitude

Don’t let the fear of missing out ruin your chances at success

Have you ever had an itching need to attend a party at the cost of your schoolwork? It’s like you can’t help but wonder what exactly you would be missing out on. Your friends will probably have the time of their lives. They’ll probably run into Beyoncé and do the “Single Ladies” dance together, and you’ll miss out. Or at least that’s what your brain convinces you will happen. That’s FOMO knocking on your door.

For those who don’t know, FOMO is the online acronym for the “fear of missing out” on something. According to Boston Magazine, it was coined in 2000 by Dan Herman, a marketing strategist. An article in Time magazine highlights how FOMO is strong enough to make you pay less attention at school, and cunning enough to convince you that you’ve got your priorities all wrong. It’s a thought that strikes nearly every millennial to their core.

An article by Huffington Post presents studies showing how FOMO generates a sense of detachment and discontent in people, and that social media fuels these feelings. The fact is, many of us check our social media frequently—before sleeping, after waking up and even during meals. We just don’t want to miss out on anything.

Personally, I’ve come to realize that I experience FOMO when deciding what to eat. Sometimes, I’m scared to pick the wrong item from a menu—not because I’m worried it will taste bad, but because I don’t want to miss out on something better. Let’s be honest, most of us get nervous when thinking about missing out on a hot, cheesy burrito.

Truthfully, I believe the only way to overcome FOMO is to understand that focusing on your work moves you closer to achieving your goals. Temptations to postpone work will always be there—that will never change. What can change is your ability to say no to FOMO. But let’s be real: that’s easier said than done.

Let me paint you a picture. The day before a class quiz, I decided to spend the evening studying hard for it. I was happy to sacrifice my love of sleep—and then my phone rang (I probably should have kept it on silent). It was a friend calling to invite me to her house party that night. To make matters worse, I could hear “Single Ladies” playing in my head, tempting me to leave my room and go out. I started daydreaming: what if I meet a guy at the party and sparks fly? What if I miss out on all of that?

In that moment, I was convinced my decision to study was stupid because the quiz counted for just two per cent of my final mark. I started blaming my career choice for making me miss out on fun. Nonetheless, I’m proud to say that I chose to study that night. But it wasn’t easy for me to make that decision.

Two weeks later, here I am with a perfect score of 10 on the quiz. I realized that fulfilling your
goals brings greater happiness than the temporary pleasure of a party. Now, I am not saying you should only strive for long-term happiness. Rather, I believe moderation is the key.

According to an article in The New York Times, rewarding yourself for the hard work you’ve done is extremely valuable when battling FOMO. So, the next time you’re faced with FOMO, try to focus on your goals and pat yourself on the back when you do. When I was growing up, my parents used to get me a new pencil case whenever I got good grades. I am not that into pencil cases now, but I still like to reward myself when I work hard throughout the week.
I also remember to be grateful for the little things. According to the same Time article, research shows that feeling gratitude makes you a happier person, and it’s correlated to an objectively better life. Gratitude can also reduce someone’s FOMO, according to the same research. By practicing gratitude, I have stopped worrying about what events I might miss. It’s my weapon against FOMO.

Every time I am one step closer to my goal, I take a deep breath and thank myself for missing that party. I pay attention to how rewarding it is to work hard. To be honest, this practice is addictive. In fact, I now have a fear of missing out on thanking myself. Initially, it wasn’t easy for me, but cultivating strong, positive habits is always a work in progress. No pain, no gain. Right?

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


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


Does hard work actually get you anywhere?

Exploring the science behind luck, success and hard work in North America

There’s no way to achieve your financial goals without working hard. North Americans understand this fairly well—I think our economic system reward the hardest of the hardest-working individuals, which is partly legitimate.

However, luck and privilege are too often left behind when thinking about financial success. This shows when people approve right-wing economic policies such as austerity and major investments in the corporate sector. It seems absurd to me that in an already competitive society full of social inequalities, we want to advantage privileged people even more.

If we truly acknowledged external factors to financial success in Quebec, for instance, the Government of Quebec would not have invested billions of dollars in Bombardier while cutting in education. The year 2012 reminds us that protesting can turn things around. But the silent majority speaks volumes right now.

Although I am opposed to economic inequalities, I will define financial success, for the purpose of this piece, as earning significantly more money than the average Canadian or American person. This is not an easy project for everyone to undertake. The reason I think hard work is not enough is because no one can truly control his or her financial future.

The American Dream, the term coined by James Truslow Adams in 1931, proclaims: “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

In this definition lies the tacit assumption that hard work can get anyone anywhere. However, whether it is in the US or in Canada, attending the right schools and having the right friends, just to name a few, are likely to get someone further than just working hard.

What happens to those who also work hard but don’t have the same opportunities? They suffer from right-wing economic policies. With austerity and investment of tax money in the private sector, they end up living in world in which they cannot even afford basic necessities. Education and health services become market values, which increases already existing inequalities.

Social environment, education and the events that occur during our life—whether they’re positive and negative—shape how we manage our life. Additionally, many people contribute to our personal developmentteachers, parents and friends have an enormous impact on us. Thus it enables some to get where they want, while it disables others.

This is not even considering the fact that what most people want to do with their lives just pays average, if not less. Therefore, shaping our economic policies as if individuals were the sole determiners in their financial success is completely unfair.

It’s like giving all the credit to a chef for an extraordinary meal, never mentioning the farmer’s effort for delivering impeccably fresh produce. I believe we should take this into account when we position ourselves on the political spectrum.

We can afford to provide everyone who works hard with equal chances to be financially successful. Or at least we can make sure the lives of people who haven’t had great opportunities don’t get harder because of right-wing economic policies.

Being a Canadian or American citizen is a privilege in itself. It is unreasonable that one can have succeeded financially without the help of anyone, whether it is speaking about economic situation, social environment, and so forth.

People who struggle in life cannot be the sole responsible of their condition, just as the ones who are financially satisfied. If we acknowledge privilege factors, by opposing right-wing policies that just make rich people richer, then we will enable more hard-workers to reach financial success.

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