Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creative cats


I was watching a TED talk yesterday given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006. Usually, I am unable to listen to a speaker for longer than 10 minutes, since my mind likes to wander and I get bored very easily. But I was riveted by this talk. Sir Ken Robinson was such a confident and hilarious speaker. Nothing quite resonates with me like humour. And given that the entire audience was laughing, yet listening, I know they were spellbound too.

The talk was about how the education system of today focuses solely on educating children, and urging them to excel, but only in certain areas. Intelligence is narrowly defined by book smarts. When a child doesn’t display conventional intelligence, they are often labeled with a learning disability, or some ‘problem’. The talk highlights the neglect that other wonderful talents experience, and how the neglect of these talents and the push towards a defined intelligence, ultimately, kills creativity.

In particular, one line reverberated with me: “If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original”. He said that kids are not worried about being wrong…if they don’t know something, they will at least take a stab at it. Think back to your own childhood…I know I certainly was never scared about being wrong. Nowadays, the very thought of it sometimes cripples me.

While my parents certainly strenously emphasized getting good grades, I was also very fortunate that they allowed me to explore and cultivate other talents. Our house was always full of music, I had mountains of books to read, and they taught me about the beauty of art. My sister, in fact, is incredible at drawing. These will certainly things I’ll have to think about when I have kids (thankfully, many years down the line).

I don't think the cultivation of creativity simply ends with childhood though. I believe it's something we can continue to work on throughout our lifetime, maybe just through small actions. Take a dance class you otherwise wouldn't, pick up a non-fiction book (or any book for that matter), watch a play, take a stroll through the park. There's no set way of expanding your creativity, but I do believe there are set ways of killing it. I've certainly been trying to step out of my box this past month, and so far, I'm loving it! 

Here's the link to the talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just a student...remember?

Sometimes I think my supervisor forgets I'm just a student.

He's so knowledgeable, in a sort of intimidating way, and I feel that he sometimes forgets that not everyone is on the same level as he is. Especially me!

While he's extremely understanding when experiments don't work and always receptive to questions, no matter how basic (i.e. stupid), he sometimes just talks right over my head. I think it's because he genuinely forgets that my knowledge of the lab is limited, outside of my own project and my own experiments. Nonetheless, it overwhelms me and makes me feel as though I'm behind...although, I'm not really sure what I'm behind...maybe where I think I ought to be in my head?

Given that he has been so amazing by welcoming me into his lab, I never like to appear confused, lost or directionless in front of him. But, being a student and still a rather green 'scientist', I obviously feel like that a lot of the time!  Guess it's just something I'm going to have to come to terms with in my head...and realise that asking for help and admitting I don't know something, even though I hate to, is not a sign of weakness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The bittersweet side of friendship

Next Saturday, one of my close friends from high school is getting married. When I came to Canada, almost 8 years ago, she was one of the first people I made friends with. I remember asking her if I could sit with her at lunch during religions class, and being so worried that she would say no. Of course, being the wonderful girl that she is, she said yes, and it was history from there. We haven’t always stayed the closest of friends, and there were definitely times where we barely kept in touch, but I think we have the kind of friendship that picks up right where it left off. I believe that kind of “laissez-faire” friendship is rare, and probably blossomed from the belief that one day we would make it through IB, hopefully with our sanity still intact. The jury is still out on that one! 
We celebrated her last nights as a bachelorette girl on Friday and Saturday. While both nights were filled with the type of crazy fun you can only have with other girls, it was bittersweet at the same time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we’ve all grown up. Responsibilities have changed from simply completing homework to paying bills, and incorporating someone else’s life into your own (at least in her case). My girlfriend is moving to another country shortly after getting married, and it makes me wonder if I’ll ever even see her again. Sure, you give keeping in touch a valiant effort for the first little while, but it’s always a gamble as to whether the friendship will stand the test of time. Friendship sometimes takes a backseat given all the other responsibilities its important to juggle. 
I’ve noticed that happening in my own life this past year. It’s easy to forget the significance of friendships, when deadlines are approaching, and how important it is to maintain them. The sheer ease of being friends in high school tends to require a little bit of work and effort as you get older, move apart, and take different paths in life. I’ve certainly pruned my friendships throughout the years, so that the ones I do have are more meaningful and my life isn’t filled with trivial people. While that has certainly depleted my friendship count somewhat, the ones that I do have are much richer and I know I can always count on them...which really is what friendship is about anyways. 
I really wish my girlfriend the best in life as she embarks on this new chapter. I’m sure she’ll make a success of it, as she’s done so many other things. Even if our friendship flounders, from the distance and time zone difference, I have so many fond memories with her and our group of girls that will always be cherished. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Niching myself in?

Possibly one of the hardest parts about growing up is deciding what you want to do in life. Everything seems so simple as a kid...you go to school, you graduate, you get that long-dreamed about perfect career (usually, a doctor or an astronaut), and life goes on. 
Unfortunately, when you’re actually living that time of life when you’re supposed to be deciding on career, everything becomes a little murky. Actually, more than a little murky. There are so many aspects to consider that were never conceived of as a kid. 
Will I be happy in my career? Will I be fulfilled? Are my values going to be represented? Will I wake up every morning with an eagerness, or in a depressive state?
Right now, I’m doing my Masters program and trying to decide what I want to do afterwards. Initially, when I changed labs, I was convinced that I was going to transfer in the same lab and do my PhD. I loved my project...it was my baby. Once I developed it, I could not imagine passing it on to someone else. It was amazing feeling that way, but now that I am 7 months at my new lab, I find myself wondering about the right path for me.  
First, I am not very convinced that I am a lab person. I cannot imagine spending hours on end at the lab, and still finding a joy in life. I’m a people person. I love social events. I love dressing up, putting on my dancing shoes, and hitting the town. Not that I’m saying lab people can’t do that...but, I think those that are dedicated to science and dying to make a great scientific discovery, don’t mind “living” in the lab. That’s not me. 
Second, I can’t imagine staying in this city for the next 4 years. While this city is great for a student, I can’t imagine making a life here. I have my own place, which is awesome, as the rent is cheap and my freedom is maximised. If I was in Toronto with my apartment, I’d be paying through my nose. But I can find the freedom of my own place anywhere else. This city stinks and half the people are nutters. It’s not a place where I want to spend, and waste, my youth. 
Third, I’m worried about niching myself in. If I continue in this same lab, what other opportunities am I missing out on? I want to expose myself to more science than just my little project. Sure I’ll be incredibly knowledgeable on this little piece of the science world, but what about the other areas of interest I have?
Fourth, there are so many other things I want to do in life. Isn’t RIGHT NOW the time to explore those options? What if I keep putting it off, wake up one day realising I’m 50, and haven’t accomplished anything I set out to do? 
Still, I have my Masters to finish. I have less than a year to go, and now is the time for me to dedicate myself to it. Sometimes I wish it would just finish itself, but then I would be missing out on so much learning. Ahh...to be a kid again!