Editorial: Slow Down and Look Around

Miss me? It’s good to be back in the captain’s chair. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to write another editorial after my first term as EIC, so I was keeping all my opinions and rants pent up inside myself, as is good and healthy. Now they’re giving me a soap box again, after I’ve had five issues of training on how to use it? Ho ho ho! The lack of foresight is astounding, amazing, unbelievable! Anyway, I’ll be using my supreme power this week to talk about a tiny piece of metal and come to the unique, never-before-considered conclusion that school is stressful. I guess I’ll put my dastardly plans to work in issue 4 after I have time to assemble them.

As always, this paper is only my doing in small part; it is mostly the work of the small army of people you see on the right. Thank you all so much for all of your articles and hard work. I know you were all busy with Hell Week and then recuperating with Slack Week, so I appreciate your efforts all the more.

First, I’d like to thank Stone, who really got into the trenches for Iron Inquisition. First he took time out of his pre-exam studying blitz to pick up the camera. Then he did real, on-the-scene journalism by interviewing his classmates and other students about just how poorly their exams went. I’d also like to thank Raeesa for covering for me during the upcoming staff meeting and making sure that the papers get delivered in my absence, and for writing an article for me on Sunday afternoon. Finally, a big shout-out to Donovan for offering up an old article he had written but never published when we had an awkward gap of empty space left.

This issue has a ton of great content to browse through. Hasan has some great Olympics coverage on page 3, especially for those of you who, like me, have found ourselves drowning in projects as opposed to patriotism. In case you’ve missed the announcement, on page 8 EngSoc President Abdullah has the list of new Executives who will replace him and his team come next term. While you’re there, check out page 9 for an update on the imminent arrival of Course Critiques. Finally, Janny tells the tale of a long-lost fish-eating Viking horde in Britain, also on page 3.

Three weeks ago, the graduating class of 2018 participating in the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer, more frequently known as the Iron Ring Ceremony or IRC (Engineers sure do love their acronyms; just ask the S.S.E. and J.S.Es, or anyone at a BOT.) Congratulations to all my friends and peers that I haven’t yet managed to fist-bump. We’ve almost made it. All that’s left to do is finish FYDP and cram for our bird courses the night before the final. There sure is a bunch of stuff that they don’t tell you, like what “giving knowledge” means (it means knocking un-obliged students on the head with your ring), or what really happens at IRS (I’ll let you all relive my experience of confusion and excitement when your time comes).

I have been having a great time with my Iron Ring. I’ve barely taken it off since I got it. There was a little scare when I woke up on Sunday morning with my ring stuck below my knuckle, but that hasn’t happened again. Since then, I’ve been parading around campus, knocking my pinky finger into every surface I can lay my hands on. It’s been a long journey so we celebrate in the most annoying ways we can: with revelry and by obnoxiously hitting lower-years on the temples with one-fourth of a knuckleduster.

I’ve had a 1616 day wait, by my count. In fact, it’s been even more. I’ve wanted to be an engineer for as long as I can remember and I’ve known, to some extent, that engineers could be identified by the “Iron Rings” they wore for much of that time. When I got my acceptance from Waterloo, one of my first acts was to read the Wikipedia page on the Iron Ring, to figure out what I had really gotten myself into. (That research was well-worth it since I dominated EdCOM’s trivia quiz a few months later.) The Iron Ring was a huge focus for me, a sign of my accomplishment. I couldn’t wait for my induction into a private, special society populated by like-thinking men and women who had gone through the same rigorous and exhausting academic education.

Until this term. This term has been so busy that the whole business snuck up on me. I knew that it was coming: there were emails about ring fittings and introductory talks, and Facebook posts about DUSTED and Laser Tag. It snuck up on me emotionally and mentally. I never took time to bask in my glory. I never took time to think and reflect on the meaning of the ceremony and on the intention behind the Iron Ring—about the commitment to good craftsmanship and safety that wearing the ring stands for. For half of Disorientation week, I wasn’t even excited about the pranks we were planning; they were just another item in my agenda, another thing to deal with that had a tight deadline, another commitment that I was happy to take on but had no emotional investment in.

Fortunately, I caught myself. I realized that I was letting something that I had been anticipating for, possibly, half my life pass me by. I relaxed about the pranks, started thinking about them as an exciting event as opposed to an extracurricular commitment. I scheduled time out of my day to reflect on what my obligation means. I’m so happy that I managed to take the time to relax and enjoy. I’m also so frustrated with myself that it took me until the last minute to do so.

It’s easy to get too focused on one thing and let other, more important, things slip by. It can happen in your personal life: spending too much time studying, not enough relaxing. It can happen in your academic life: cramming for an exam even though you know that going to sleep and showing up refreshed would do you more good. It can happen in your professional life: focusing on the one bad manager or coworker, as opposed to the many colleagues who want to help you out or give you more challenging tasks. Obviously, it isn’t productive to spend your whole time worrying about if you’re doing the best thing, the most productive thing, or the most fun thing every moment of your life. However, there is a balance that can be struck, some level of introspection that is beneficial.

Despite what it may seem, this editorial is meant to be empowering. I believe that for many problems people face, the most empowering step is information. If you enter a new work environment, you get safety training to tell you about the most significant and unique dangers in your environment. I suggest that a lot of grief and stress is needlessly produced because people get too focused on what they are doing versus what they should do. So consider this safety training that transcends any one stage of life or industry: introspection helps with stress. Of course, this isn’t true for all sources of stress and grief, but the only people who offer one-stop solutions to all that ails you are snake oil salesmen and homeopaths.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in first year or fourth, going onto grad school or seeking your second co-op. Please learn from my words, not from repeating my experience. There are a lot of things clamouring for your attention right now, but don’t forget about yourself. Hopefully you’re here because you want to be, and because it suits your goals. There is a risk that the things that excite you, the reasons you work hard every day, will fall into the background. They don’t have to! Keep them in mind, and be willing to sacrifice a few marks or hours of WaterlooWorks to get the most out of your university experience.

And take an easy load in fourth year; FYDP is worth two or three classes by itself. Plus, you don’t want to be spending all (or any) of your time working on homework. You want to spend it hanging out with friends, crossing the last few items off your bucket list, and finding your perfect full-time job.

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