Stress, Food, Sunshine… Vancouver!

The crazy month of March finally passed. Was I stressed? Hmm… I’ll let you be the judge of that…

As I predicted it earlier on, the past four weeks were filled with the ever-so-deepening dark circles under my eyes, and most of the muscles in my body didn’t get any exercise except for those around my fingers and wrists (necessary for never ending typing activities).

Unfortunately, when you are too busy to get everything done in time, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do them when you miss the deadline. Most journals and conferences, as far as I have seen, give you extensions on the original deadlines.

I think that’s the worst part.

If all deadlines were firm, then you will try your best to finish your stuff on time, and if you didn’t, then that would be the end of it – you can give yourself a pat in the back: “Too bad, maybe next time. You tried your best.” All the late nighters and lack of healthy eating habits during the few weeks(or months) of work will have an end, at least temporarily, and you’ll be able to take a rest for a few days. But if you thought it was all over, and they give you an extension, then you don’t get the luxury of slowing down. A few more late nighters would do… just a few more…

But at the same time, I also know that I always have the option of saying “No” to things. I could say that “No, I don’t want to give that talk” or “No, I don’t think I want to submit to that journal”, but as a novice grad student I somehow don’t see it as an available option for me – i.e., all my stress, and unhealthiness are my fault.

But at times like this, it helps to be in an awesome city. Let me tell you a couple of things I did to hold on to the faint light of sanity in my brain throughout the past month or so.

De-stresser 1: Rare joy of the sunshine, and the gardens on campus.

Throughout the month of March, I went out for good food with my friends, good coffee, and even had some time to enjoy the sun. I mean, did everyone take a walk around the city or the campus the past couple of days? Wasn’t it just simply BEAUTIFUL?

So a couple of days ago, I decided to take a walk to Nitobe Memorial Garden for the first time. I didn’t want to waste the lovely sunshiny weather in Vancouver that I have been longing for.

Nitobe garden is a Japanese garden located on campus, which is small yet really well maintained, and is free for UBC students to walk around (there’s a small entrance fee for non-UBC students). It was my first time visiting the garden, partially because everyone told me that it’s a romantic place for a lovely date, which is the kind that I would’ve jump for joy to go on but unfortunately never happened.

So I went as a single lady with a female friend of mine as an alternative to taking a jog around the campus – i.e., we were wearing yoga/track pants and hoodies. The garden didn’t have too much sitting space, but I could totally see myself bringing a novel to the place, sitting down by the pond and reading while the squirrels, the wind, and the tree hustle and bustle ever so uninterruptedly around me.

Mind you, there are many gardens on campus that you may not be aware of. There’s the rose garden which appears in the episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and there’s the botanical garden. I think there’s more, but I have yet to explore them.

De-stresser 2: Non-technical books… even those in different languages…!

After walking around the garden, I found the Asian Library that I totally knew existed but never thought to drop by. Oh man, was I surprised. Having loved Korean literature when I was little, I loved reading things written in Korean. Most of that stopped when I started my engineering career. But hey, the library has shelves and shelves of non-technical books written in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, all available for me to read!!! (Except, I can only read stuff in Korean and English…)

Usually, finding Korean books in Canada is a bit of a hassle, because you either have to buy them online to be shipped to your Canadian address, or go to a local Korean bookstore, which is next to non-existent in Vancouver – I couldn’t find one near campus/downtown. I am sure this is the case with books written in other languages as well.

So, now I can totally see myself going to the library to pick up a copy of a novel written in a language that I didn’t learn my engineering stuff in, and bring it next door to the Nitobe Garden to read. How awesome is that? Better yet, I can even take a little 5 minute walk down to the Wreck Beach and read it on one of the logs.

I realized that there’s so many alternatives to relieving stress here on campus. But why am I coming to this realization now (after 1.5 years of spending my life here already)? The only thing that seems to be getting in the way between me and the awesome reading of a novel on a beach / sunshine-filled garden / coffee shop / comfy couch is work, deadlines, and mostly … me – the very person who decides to say “Yes” to doing everything and anything that gets thrown onto her plate. So at the end of the day, it’s really up to me to find AND enjoy the glamorous life of a grad student here at UBC.

It’s up to me!! Ahhh, and knowing this, why on earth am I here at the lab on a Saturday afternoon?!

But don’t worry. I am also a lover of food, which has resulted in many food related trips throughout the stressful month of March (which is continuing into the month of April). More posts on epic stress-relieving food in Vancouver coming up soon…!

Oh, and before I forget, there’s this epic video floating around that shows you how ‘fun’ the campus CAN be to you. Check out the UBC LipDub forwarded to me, and all of the mech grads I think, via the Department Head (Dr. Sheldon Green):

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