We all do little things to adapt to our environment. When it’s sunny, we wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Somebody with a peanut allergy avoids peanut products. We wear rain boots and carry an umbrella when it rains. I chose to take an extra year and take summer school courses in order to complete my undergraduate degree with less stress. Many other students are now choosing to take the same approach. I deliberately chose to go to graduate school at the University of Toronto/OISE in order to take advantage of the school’s convenient location and plentiful resources. It’s about making the most of what’s available to us.
We may have developed unconventional ways of functioning and adapting to our world. I have a fantastic echoic memory, so I don’t always have to write down what someone says to me in order to remember it. I Google certain school-related matters if I can’t find what I’m looking for on a main webpage. I browse reddit considerably for information on various topics of interest. We all have certain tricks and strategies that we develop for dealing with and potentially thriving in life.
Once, I was feeling pretty down about myself because I couldn’t do certain things like manage my time or exercise as well as other people. I was sad about my seemingly dysfunctional ways of navigating my world.
Someone who I met during my undergraduate degree at York University once told me something very important, which is that “some people may have different ways of doing things, but that doesn’t mean that they are defective ways of doing things”.
This particular individual was very wise, and she was absolutely correct. Unconventional ways of doing things are not always bad, and everybody could strive to be a bit more creative in the way they approach everyday life. I can think of one very good example of this principle.
This past summer, I spent five weeks learning French through the Explore Bursary French Immersion Program at the Université de Moncton in Moncton, New Brunswick. I had a final assignment in the last of the two French as a second language courses I took there. It was about picking a province, territory or particular city of interest and convincing the class to take a vacation there. It was individual, and everybody had to have some kind of visual aid – either a PowerPoint presentation or a poster.
Most of the people in my class opted to do a PowerPoint presentation, but I’m kind of a Luddite. I’m good at navigating social media and using Google, but not so good at making PowerPoint presentations or using Excel. Besides, I didn’t have a laptop with me and didn’t want to sit in a cold computer lab in order to do the assignment.
I remembered doing a presentation when I was younger where I acted out a legend I wrote using stuffed animals. That presentation was a resounding success, so I considered using a stuffed animal to represent tourism in my chosen province of New Brunswick for this particular assignment. When participating in the Explore Program, I particularly enjoyed eating lobster. It was with this in mind that I headed down to the city of Moncton, purchased a stuffed lobster from a gift shop, and named him François.
My main task completed, I focused on working on my poster and writing a dialogue between myself and François where we would discuss the main tourist attractions in New Brunswick. Presentation day came, and my classmates mostly presented PowerPoints with a lot of facts about their province/territory/city of choice. When my turn to present came, I went up to the front of the class and said:
“Bonjour mes amies! J’ai un bon ami pour aide avec ma présentation aujourd’hui.”
I took François out of the plastic bag I kept him in, he introduced himself, and the crowd went wild. We proceeded to have a riveting dialogue about the kinds of things that I and my family would enjoy doing in New Brunswick. Highlights of the presentation include François telling me about his visiting the Bay of Fundy with his friend Jacques the whale, and François getting scared because I said I liked to eat lobster. Overall, my presentation was a resounding success.
This particular case and various other instances in my life prove that I have to think outside the box. Sometimes, the standard way of doing something isn’t the best or more effective way for me. Maybe that’s okay. During HMC’s Bright Future Mental Health Recovery Conference, former HMC blogger Sarah Lindsay described her experience becoming self-employed and starting Polar Wellness Consulting. Sarah also related that there are different ways to help others or get involved in the mental health field, from writing a blog post to working directly with vulnerable people. There are many ways to be employed and productively contribute to society. I hope I find my way sooner rather than later.
About Anna Dinissuk
Anna Dinissuk graduated from York University in June 2016 with a BA Honours in Psychology. She's now pursuing an MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE/the University of Toronto. Anna enjoys writing poetry, going on walks, snuggling with her cat, and playing Candy Crush Saga.