By Sam BeanThe Department of English Language and Literature Student Blogger for 2022/2023
As I entered the final days of my summer job, I said private goodbyes to my least favourite parts of food service. Goodbye to the flies in the maintenance room. Goodbye to the loft from which the managers could assess our work efficiency at any time. Goodbye to the smelly mops, goodbye to the dishwashing nozzle that would inevitably splash water back at me no matter what angles I would spray the dishes at, goodbye to putting on food safe rubber gloves only to be told that you have to go do something that requires you to take them off and then have to put a new pair on again. These routine annoyances, compounding each other in unique ways every day, made me daydream often of quitting in the middle of my shift, of throwing a temper tantrum and walking out to never be seen again.
Luckily for the fast-ish food chain that I am contractually obligated not to disdain in a public forum, a few key factors prevented nuclear meltdown in the long four months of what I hope is the last service job that I’ll ever have to work. My coworkers, a scrappy mix of local nineteen-year-olds who don’t take things too seriously and international students vastly overqualified for the work they were doing, kept the atmosphere light. I ate my weight in free food. While hardly attractive, minimum wage did let me keep a roof over my head. These benefits, however, barely outweighed the tedium of changing the same six garbage cans and wiping the same twelve tables week after week. In short, I could not be happier to be back at Carleton for my Master’s degree.
Hello reader, I’m Sam, and I’m the next in line to be the “Life in English” student blogger. Like a lot of people I know, I simultaneously love to talk about myself and struggle to write on the subject. I graduated from Carleton with a B.A. Hons in English in the spring and am back for more, except this time with a Climate Change Specialization (still finding out exactly what that entails). I came to English through a deeply felt love of people and the stories we tell ourselves. I was born and grew up on Treaty 13A land, which was sold by the Mississaugas of the First Credit to the British government under false pretenses and this deception remained unresolved for 200 years1. (Parenthetically, the restitution from the Toronto government, which amounted to a one-time payment of around $20,000 per claimant,2 is still only a fraction of a percent of the money that owning that land has produced. Is this really a land claim settled? Is this really justice?). My mother is Irish and a teller of long winding stories, something that has rubbed off on me in a serious way. I am a seeker of novelty, much more of an ‘idea person’ than an ‘execution person’. I am very sentimental; when I found out as a child that the plants in our garden died every winter and had to be replaced every spring, I was inconsolable for several days straight. I often bring things home that I find on the side of the road, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. I’m a Pisces moon with heavy Aquarian influence, and I half believe that my astrological profile meaningfully describes me.
Everything I’ve listed in the previous paragraph is a version of how I might introduce myself at a party, in a mixer or on a date. They are expressions as much of the person I want to be as they are the person that I really am. The real me, like the real you or the real anyone else, is built every day in small pieces by action, personal experience and moments of connection. This is, however, little comfort for someone meeting a lot of people and making a lot of first impressions in a short amount of time.
The real me, like the real you or the real anyone else, is built every day in small pieces by action, personal experience and moments of connection. This is, however, little comfort for someone meeting a lot of people and making a lot of first impressions in a short amount of time.Sam Bean, Department of English Language and Literature Student Blogger for 2022/2023
The real me, like the real you or the real anyone else, is built every day in small pieces by action, personal experience and moments of connection. This is, however, little comfort for someone meeting a lot of people and making a lot of first impressions in a short amount of time.
The fact that academia marks the beginning point of many people’s careers adds another layer of stress on top of meeting new people. The very idea of ‘networking’ has always made my skin crawl, especially as a young person and student with very little to offer in terms of reciprocity for advice and connections. As the short- and long-term prospects for employment seem increasingly unstable, family, work and school have all seemed to push the idea that making these ‘professional connections’ is necessary to building a durable future for myself. At an introductory presentation to FASS graduate students, one of the presenters said something along the lines of “making connections and securing reference letters is a central part of graduate studies” (I suppose it’s possible to somewhat agree with a statement while hating the way it’s made and its implications). There is an undeniable urgency to having limited time access to a group of highly motivated, thoughtful and lovely people in your peers and faculty members, especially when these people could give you your first big break. Just making normal friends can be hard enough.
When I first came to Carleton, I signed up for Frosh, half-heartedly attended the first event and then hid in the Canal Building to read a copy of The Charlatan front to back three times before going home. Flash forward several years and things are very different. Attending faculty events and meeting my cohort are now for me a huge source of joy and excitement. I wish I could go back and comfort my younger self, give him a few words of encouragement. Since I can’t do that, I’ll write what I would say here.
These observations are obvious to the point of banality, but their obviousness helps me relax into meeting people. It’s not that complicated, it’s not final, it’s not a reflection of personal worth. It's a chance to say hello and take the first step into everything that’s to come.
I can’t wait for all of that.
1 I first found this information through a fantastic online application, the Whose Land interactive map, which highlights treaty land and Indigenous nation land, among other functions.
2 Read more.
About Sam:Sam Bean is a first-year Master's Student in English Literature with a Climate Change Specialization. He is a free-floating writer who has worked for the Charlatan, a dubious tech startup and the Ottawa Art Gallery Communications team. He also writes poetry in his spare time. He is from Mississauga but insists that everyone back home calls it 'M-Town.'
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