The Science of Life

Allostasis is a commonly known medical term. The definition of allostasis is termed to oppose that of its synonym homeostasis. Allostasis is used to describe the body in it’s attempt to attain a new normal after it is altered by an external stimulus. Homeostasis on the other hand, is used to describe the bodies set, standard normal. If you’re not in a science field and that sounds like a bunch of wonkiness to you, don’t worry, I’m not going to go much more in depth. I might miss school a little bit and I might be a bit of a nerd but I won’t bore you to death. 

Although both of the terms allostasis and homeostasis are used to describe the body in relation to equilibrium, they can be incorporated into life terms more broadly. Maybe allostasis and homeostasis can be seen outside of our bodies ability to regulate our temperature, hunger, thirst and blood pressure. Maybe both of the terms can be interpreted in our mental processing of change. When we experience external change we must re-adapt. We embrace new environments, meet new people, accept new guidelines and in some form or way move on from the previously accepted way of living. Although these measures may be slightly more conscious than our bodies internal thermostat, they both involve a stimulus that introduces changes, a control center that attempts to regulate the change and an output that tries to rebalance the system.

Allostasis can easily be interpreted with it’s relation to coffee. When we begin drinking coffee regularly, our bodies undergo an allostatic change which builds a tolerance to the caffeine in coffee. Before you begin drinking coffee everyday, your body is at homeostasis. In life, this can be seen as how you’re living before a change that alters the path of your everyday world. It can be the set normal you had living at home with your family before heading off to university, the life you established when you were away at university, the loss of someone close to you or the addition of a new family member. There are constant changes in the duration of life, some small, others much bigger.

These changes may be implicated every so often or much more regularly. Just like our body regulating our systems, we may have control over some of these changes but we are also at a loss to control others. We find different interests, potential dislikes, learn new lessons, meet new people and well, find a new place to put your keys so that you don’t have to hunt for them every time you try to leave your house. Whatever the cause, we adapt. These changes, over time become our new normal. Just like when you start drinking coffee everyday, your body has to reset internal reactions which then leads to a higher tolerance. Little by little, this new chapter of your life just becomes your life. This higher tolerance eventually becomes your “new” homeostatic level. It becomes your normal, standard, everyday routine. Similarly as to how our bodies will send us through withdrawal if we go cold turkey on our coffee consumption, life has it’s obstacles to keep us moving forward instead of backwards.

Homeostasis and allostasis act as a compromise between change and balance. We continually adapt and reset ourselves to handle change, either big or small, internal or external. We learn new tactics, different tricks and all the while; we may just have to try that decked out that extra whipped cream, double caramel, no cream frappuccino at Starbucks.

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Because these Ten Pointers Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas

Viva Las Vegas, sin city, the city that never sleeps and it goes on; we’ve all heard the many scandalous and playful sayings associated with Las Vegas. If you haven’t, it’s safe to say you live under a rock. It’s also safe to say that you should consider watching the Hangover. However, I’m almost positive that the vast majority of you are familiar with the famous city of Las Vegas. Situated in Nevada’s Mojave desert, Las Vegas is tailored to attract tourists with casino’s open 24/7, themed hotels, bright lights and never ending party scenes. After spending four days in Vegas myself, it’s easy for me to say that everyone should visit Vegas at least once in their lifetime. Why you may ask? Because Vegas has it all. There’s good restaurants, pools to relax and tan by, clubs to party at, outlet malls, crazy strips to walk through, night shows, unbelievably architectured hotels and of course, gambling. Las Vegas really isn’t like any other place in the world. As we all know, some of the things that happen in Vegas should probably stay in Vegas but I don’t think that everything should; especially not these ten pointers I’m going to give out. If you are thinking of going to Vegas or are in the midsts of planning a trip to Vegas, here’s ten things that you should really consider doing!

  1. Get a promoter

Seriously, get a promoter. It will make your life a lot easier and your wallet a lot heavier. Promoters not only get you into clubs for free, bypass lines and provide tables with bottle service but they also save you the hassle of finding the most popular clubs the nights you are visiting. Sounds like there should be a catch right? Well just as much as we want promoters, they want us to attend their events; it’s a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t have a connection to a promoter, I’m your girl.

-This information may be exclusively for girls. Promoters would often check to make sure that we were a group of girls only, sorry fellas!

  1. Walk the Old Vegas Strip in Fremont

Often tourists will stay on S. Las Vegas Boulevard, the modern strip of Vegas, and consider this downtown Vegas but it’s not. The real downtown Vegas is found about 15 minutes away from the modern strip on Fremont Street. Fremont street is a four block long strip that retains the traces of fame and glamor that depicted the strip in a previous era. The strip is covered by a digital light screen and is lined with vintage hotels, live music, bars, buskers and even includes a riding zip line that overlooks the strip. A family friendly destination during the day, the strip morphs into an erotic block party at sunset. Live performer’s are scheduled each night and buskers test their limits on covering themselves with apparel. Although the strip itself only takes about 20 minutes to walk, it’s hard not to become enthralled with the varying degree of things to do and see on Fremont street.

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The entrance of Fremont.

  1. Go to a night show

The entertainment industry is incredible and renowned in Las Vegas with shows ranging from famous singers concerts to inhumanly acrobatics to magic shows to strip tease performances; once again, Vegas has it all. From the sounds of the shows in Vegas, you really can’t go wrong and with the variety of options to chose from, you will be able to find a show that you and whoever you are going with, are interested in. Tickets for these shows can be purchased online from Ticketmaster, where prices rise the closer you are to the date of the show. If you are staying in the hotel that hosts a show, you may receive a coupon to cover a small cost of the price you paid for your ticket. Certain hotels in Vegas will also promote half priced tickets the day of a show to fill empty seats.

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We went to chippendales… It was pretty fun.

  1. Take a trip on the high roller

On the modern strip at the LINQ, the world’s largest observation wheel can be found standing at a remarkable height of 550 feet tall. The ferris wheel type structure is composed of 28 enclosed, circular cabins that fit up to 30 people in each individual pod. From these circular cabins a hawk-eye view of Las Vegas can be seen during the 30 minute rotation. Prices for the high roller increase by ten dollars during nighttime and 20% discounts can be found if purchased online through expedia.ca.  

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One of the views from the high roller. 

  1. Visit the Bellagio

Found on the modern strip, the Bellagio one of the most extravagant and architecturally wondrous hotels. The luxurious Bellagio is not only a hotel and resort with 24 hour casinos but also contains a gallery of fine art, a spectacular outdoor fountain show at night, some of the most elite shopping venues and a mosaic garden that will leave you speechless. The Bellagio will be like nothing you have ever seen before and more than you can imagine at the same time.

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Part of the mosaic gardens in the Bellagio.

  1. Find the white bengal tiger in the Mirage

Yup, shockingly Vegas also has a white tiger habitat in the Mirage Hotel and Casino. Not only does the hotel have a habitat for white tigers in their secret garden but it also houses white lions, leopards and dolphins. Tickets can be purchasable ahead of time for a day visit. I repeat, day visit. Trust me when I say the gardens close before 11 pm.

  1. Go to an all you can eat buffet

Surprisingly, buffets are a huge deal in Vegas. I wasn’t even aware that eating at a buffet was a classic Vegas experience until my visit. Let me tell you, I was glad I went. Vegas has some of the best buffets in the world, some pricing up to 700 $ for 4 people for all you can eat chinese food! That’s actually the one we went to as well. Just kidding, we didn’t try that one but we did eat at an everything all you can eat buffet and it was unreal. If you’re already in Vegas you might as well get the full experience am I right?

  1.  Check out a pool party

They’re a blast, I swear even being sober at a Las Vegas pool party would be a good time. Every place we went in Vegas had an unbelievable atmosphere but I’d have to vouch for the pool party to snag the number one spot. How can a pool party be anything but fun with the warm desert sun, cold drinks flowing, live DJs playing and everyone dressed to impress in all kinds of crazy swimwear. We attended Encore and heard amazing things about Wet Republic but I’m sure there’s many more. Also if you have a promoter check to see if they are promoting a pool party before getting tickets!

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An inside view of Encore Beach Club.

  1. Walk through the outlets

Often forgotten in the typical Vegas madness, outdoor outlet malls are located a 15 minute drive away from the strip. These outlets are a perfect break from the Vegas lifestyle and allow you to soak up the sun while browsing a wide variety of stores found in their directory.

  1. Gamble

Saving the best for last of course, or at least leaving the most obvious Vegas association for last. It’s impossible to forget gambling when it comes to Vegas. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to walk into a building that doesn’t have something at least related to gambling. In Vegas, there’s never a bad time to gamble. Since it’s the city that never sleeps, it only makes sense for the casinos not to sleep either.

So if you end up using all these pointers or just a few, I can guarantee a once in a lifetime experience and a forever residing urge to visit the famous city of Las Vegas again. Just one warning for anyone that returns from Vegas- you will forever want to carry around open alcohol.

 

To the 2017 Grads!

You just take one foot and you put it in front of the other. And then you do it again. And then again and again. And guess what? Yup, you might have guessed it; you’re walking. We’ve been doing it since we were two. That was probably the last time walking really had much significance. Taking your first steps is a big deal but then after that, it’s just walking. You walk to your car, you walk to classes, you walk from restaurants; you walk a lot, all the time, everyday. But what if I changed the scenery for you. What if you were walking on a stage, in a black gown, with a strange, square, black hat on in hopes of getting a rolled up piece of paper. Sounds kind of funny doesn’t it? But suddenly, walking becomes significant again. Crossing that stage, placing one foot in front of the other, is much more than just a walk. It signifies walking into a different part of your life.

A few months ago, one of my friends said something that stuck with me. She said; “we always think about going to university, but we never think about actually graduating.” Think about the time and effort we put into looking for the right university. The student council meetings you attended, the pamphlets you received and the tours that you went on. Your parents input helped guide you and you and your friends would calculate distances from different prospect universities. We put so much thought into going away to university that when we actually get there, we forget that one day we will have to leave.  

Most of you are probably in agreement. Some of you might be thinking hell no, I’ve been thinking about graduating since the moment I set foot on campus. Well, to those people, you might have been thinking about being done with university but not necessarily graduating. Graduating is an incredible accomplishment, a celebration. However, graduating means closing a chapter of your adolescence and stepping into the real world. Stepping into the world of adulting, of responsibility, of jobs and payments.  

Going to university is the first step in our lives where we truly receive our independence. This space helps us discover who we want to be.We find our passions, we set goals and we become a version of ourselves that we believe we are. We make friends that become our second family. We also learn our limits – in more than just one way. We change from who we were and what we wanted from when we were in high school and somewhere along the way, we forget that these university years have a time limit.

Graduation marks a time of celebration and recognizing accomplishments. It’s the time that all your hard work, the studying and homework assignments over the past four years gets rewarded. It’s also a time to reminisce over what you have been through over the past four years; the funny times and the sad or hard times that you can now laugh at. It signifies a transition of who we were coming into university and who we are now that we are leaving.

With all the celebration recognizing the grads themselves, it’s easy to forget the people that supported us along the way. Graduation not only celebrates the grads themselves but all the people that have allowed us to become successful in the position that we are fortunate enough to have. It wouldn’t have been possible for us to be the graduating students that we are today without the support from our family, friends and professors.   

It is a bittersweet feeling having to say goodbye to everything that we have built for ourselves over the past four years. It’s hard imagining our lives without the people we have gotten used to seeing everyday. To no longer finding the comfort of our routines that we created at our first homes away from home.

Although, at the same time, we get to start a whole new adventure. We can literally do whatever we want. That’s right, anything. There’s no right or wrong answers when we graduate because all that’s left is life. We aren’t held back by grades or classes we didn’t want to take. Whatever we do from here on out, is our decision. This is a time in our lives where we have no commitments. We can travel, we can take a fun job that has nothing to do with our major, go back to school or head into the working world right away. It doesn’t matter, there’s no wrong choice. As long as we are doing what we feel is best for us at the time, the rest will fall into place.

Just as we took those steps to cross the stage, we will begin to walk into our new lives. We will never forget the memories or friends we made but now we are free to test our own horizons.

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If You’re Looking to Get Lucky this is for You

I’m sure some of you clicked on this post because of what the title implies. Either from serious concern, interest or curiosity. Well, for all of you that are thinking that this post is about what this phrase generally means, you’re going to be let down. But only for a second because this post will still relate to you. And anyways.. You’ve already read this far so I bet you are at least slightly interested in the direction of this article.

This post, believe it or not, is about luck. Just luck, not any other metaphor. It’s about the four leaf clovers, the horse shoes, the rabbits foot and the pennies that are found heads up. Luck is something that we all hope to have in our lives. But, if you’re like me, you’re wondering if you have even 1% of good luck in your whole body. I can acknowledge that I am very fortunate but luck is not fortune. Luck is success or failure by chance rather than by one’s actions, while fortune is chance or luck as an external arbitrary force affecting us.

So, if you are like me, you are most likely stringing these thoughts together: broken mirrors, black cats and walking under ladders. You might be thinking of the last time that you encountered any of these things. Maybe to give you some clarity as to why you haven’t caught a break lately. Maybe to backtrack and see if you have some reason to deserve bad karma. Or, if you’re like me and you adopted a stray black cat a few years ago… well you’re just thinking you’re fat out of luck.

I have almost non-existent luck. I only say almost non-existent because if my luck gets any worse, I’m screwed. You may think I’m overreacting but I’ll back that up by recounting the 7 days of my spring break this past year, just as an example. It started when I went to a dentist appointment where I sporadically had to get dental surgery. I then tried to cheer myself up by baking muffins… only to have the oven break. So I decided to watch Netflix… but the router stopped working for 5 hours. I then tried to make a smoothie… only to find out the blender was broken. And then, 5 days later when I was finally feeling better, I went for a walk with my parents and asked to pet someone’s dog that was walking by. For the record, I live in a ghost town, so seeing someone out is a rare occasion. When I leaned over to pet the dog, she jumped up, we slammed heads and… I got a concussion. Yup. Sounds too unfortunate to be true. But when it’s my life? Anything is possible. My teachers probably thought it was the most creative “my dog ate my homework” excuse they’ve ever gotten.

It’s in these moments, despite the degree of anyone’s unluckiness, that it’s typical to think, “why do I deserve this?” or “what does the universe have against me?”. But maybe, we are focusing on the wrong thing, maybe, we are missing the big picture. That big picture being that luck is just a matter of perspective. I remember reading a fable once. It was about accepting even the unluckiest forms of luck as luck itself.

The story was about a farmer and his son. I don’t remember all the details but this is the gist of it: the farmer asked his son to pick apples off the tallest tree. His son fell and broke his arm. Everyone said this was very unlucky but the farmer just said that the world worked in mysterious ways. The next night, when his son would usually sheer the sheep, he wasn’t able to because of his broken arm. The next morning the sheep were killed by wolves. Everyone saw this as unlucky. The farmer, however, thought it was lucky. If his son hadn’t have broken his arm the day before, he could have been killed by the wolves as well. The story went on like that, except written much better. But still, kind of mind-blowing right?

This theory raises the ideal that maybe, luck is relevant to our situation. This story encourages the perspective that despite the unlucky, initial situation, there’s is something much more behind that one event. That maybe, in a strange way, unluckiness can be seen as luck if it saves you from even worse luck. The thing is.. we don’t know. And for the majority of us, we will never know. Maybe this is just the hopeful thinking of one incredibly unlucky individual. Or maybe, it’s just better to think of the world as wanting the best for us.

If we never know what the universe is doing, we might as well soak in the most positive version of it right?

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Concussions : What they are Like, not just What they are.

It’s an invisible injury. Something that’s not really there. Just a trick of the mind. That’s what you might have heard. But lately, more recently, you might have been told that it’s real. All those invisible injuries, the fake ones, they’ve been proven to really be there. So what is it like to live with an invisible injury? I’m sure some of you know the feeling. Hiding what is going on under the surface because it is impossible to explain. Because it is impossible for other people to understand. These invisible injuries are far from fake. But they are far from being understood. I have had an entire year of experience with an invisible injury. I can’t say it was the funnest thing I have ever dealt with. I had a concussion for year, last year. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t like looking back on my concussion until I started writing this. But I want this to help people. I want people to understand what it’s like to have a concussion, not just what it is. Maybe this will help someone understand what a teammate, a friend or family member is going through. Maybe this will help someone that has a concussion know that they are not alone and that one day, they will beat this. Maybe this will just raise more awareness about concussions. Either way, I hope that despite what I had to go through, this helps someone, some way, some how.

It all started October 2, 2015. It was the first game of the year, I was on the half wall on the power play and I faked a pass back to the point before cutting back sharply. That’s when my head got body checked and I dropped. After the game, people would tell me that it looked bad, really bad. That I dropped like a sac of potatoes. My trainer would tell me later that when she crouched down next to me on the ice, I said “I just got rocked.” But all I remember was that my sock was pushed half way down my shin pad and my leg was cold from the ice. I remember saying that I was fine to play the last 5 minutes, that I just felt a little out of it. I remember being told to undress. I remember doing memory and balance tests. And then, 30 minutes later I remember my first headache. The headache that would last me a year, little to my knowledge at the time. It hit me all at once, shooting pains through my head, aching across my forehead, all the while my head felt like someone had tried to inflate it with air.

I have a high pain tolerance for headaches. I have always had them growing up. Perks of not knowing you’re gluten intolerant until you’re 19. But since I was so used to headaches I brushed it off a first. I really thought it would be gone in a week. I stayed out of most of my classes and away from hockey the first week. I stayed in a dark room. And then it was another week and another. It felt like someone had physically removed me from my own life. Like I was a petal that someone plucked and left drifting in the wind. I went from a full day of classes, practice, seeing my teammates, making meals, working or volunteering and doing homework all in one day to maybe going to a class or two. I remember trying to write a one page paper review that would normally take me less than an hour take me an entire day. I remember holding back my nausea when I would drive the 5 minute distance to school. I remember feeling like the projector screens were going to burn holes in the back of my eyes. And I remember dreading having to read labels and look through items at the grocery store because I would feel so dizzy. All the while I remember the sharp pains shooting across my forehead and the ever increasing pressure pushing against my skull.

Three months later I was getting impatient. I was going to vision therapy, I still couldn’t play hockey, I still couldn’t do anything but go on the bike and I was still getting headaches. I remember starting to feel frustrated that I couldn’t go to parties, go on road trips, or participate in the life that I once took for granted. I remember starting to feel lonely but I still remained hopeful. Because it was only three months. People usually get better around three months. But I didn’t. So I stayed at home over intercession to see a specialist. It was helpful to be at home because I could make sure I didn’t try to push myself too hard to get better quicker. That’s the other thing. When you’re an athlete, you think the hardest thing in training is pushing yourself beyond your breaking point. Mentally forcing your body to work even when it feels like it weighs 500 pounds. It wasn’t until I got my concussion that I realized the hardest thing was not to push yourself. The hardest thing was to bike for 50 minutes without your heart rising above 80 beat/min. Yes that is a walking pace. The hardest thing was to think about all the training you put in for the season that you wont get to play in. Never knowing if you would feel normal again, let alone play.

It was around this point in my concussion that I was getting scared I wouldn’t get better. The worst part is; no one can tell you it will. Because no one actually knows. They can’t give you a time frame like any other injury. There’s just, “if you keep doing the right things for your brain, one day it will be better.” As a doctor, it’s easy to say. But when it’s your life? It not easy to hear. It feels endless. It makes you feel anxious, helpless and hopeless. But you can’t do anything about it so you just have to keep trying. At the end up of January I was doing better. Keep in mind though, that all I was doing was gradually progressing my work outs and maybe watching a half hour of TV a day or hanging out with a friend for an hour. Yup, that’s it. Concussions make you tired. Really, really tired. I would sleep for 15 hours every day. The rest of the time, everything hurt me so much I would just lie in a dark room. Trust me, it gets old fast.

At the start of February, I came back to school. The headaches came back full fledge right away. Classes were too much for my head. My doctors all told me to lower my class load but I was stubborn. I had my own agenda of graduating on time. I probably would have gotten better sooner if I did. Instead, my life revolved around surviving my days. I could only do so many things in my day without my head feeling like it would actually break. So I had to pick and choose what I did each day. I picked only the essentials, rehab and school. I would go to class, I would take hours on homework assignments because I had to take breaks every ten minutes my head hurt so badly. I would take naps. I would do rehab. I would go to bed early. And repeat. I was a zombie. I was starting to lose all sense of reality. I still couldn’t travel with my team so I was alone every weekend. It felt like my old life no longer existed. I almost couldn’t believe a time where I could even listen to music in my car higher than at one bar.

I remember one weekend, my parents drove me to my teams playoff game in Penn State because I couldn’t be on the bus, or in restaurants, or have a scheduled day because my head would hurt so bad. I remember watching the game with the loud music in the rink. I remember throwing up because it was hard for my eyes to follow the game and the game horn was so damn loud. I remember moments like these scaring me not just because, well that’s just so beyond normal, but because I was scared they would set me back even more. That since it got so bad that day, I would have to live an extra week with a concussion.

When playoffs finished I was around 6 months deep into my concussion and it was getting scary. Dark rooms were really starting to wear me out at this point. I wanted to be able to have fun and go out with my teammates but my head hurt so badly it wasn’t even worth it. It was around this time that I started to feel like I was losing it. Like actually going crazy. Because it was at this point, that I forgot what it felt like to live a normal life. I remember I would tell myself I could only cry for ten minutes a day. I would set a timer. I was scared I wouldn’t stop if I didn’t. Sometimes, on really bad days I would let myself cry twice. Some nights when I couldn’t sleep because it felt like someone was hitting my head with a hammer, I would just drive. I would drive an hour away at 1 am and then when I felt a little better I would drive back.

It was never that people weren’t there for me or tried to understand. It was that no one could really understand, even if they tried. It was in these months that I realized how truly alone I was. Medically, there was no cure. Emotionally, as much as people tried to make me feel better, they couldn’t. The only thing that would have made me feel better was to be better. Concussions don’t just sideline you from your sport, they sideline you from your life. They take your ability to live. I mean really, what can you do if you don’t have a brain? I couldn’t really work, I couldn’t really burry my head in school work, I couldn’t be around groups of people, I couldn’t be in loud or busy settings, heck I couldn’t even watch Netflix. You are just left alone, day in day out, sitting in a dark room with your thoughts and killer headaches. Your crazy, scary thoughts start to consume you and it’s hard not to think about how you don’t even know who you are anymore. If you will ever really be happy again.  If you will ever be a functional person in the world. I missed living. You start to realize that there is no reason to cry for help. That there really isn’t a point in crying.  Because no one can really understand and no one can make you better. You start to accept the loneliness.

When school ended, things started looking up. I went home for the summer. I went to a vestibular therapist and they helped. I went to a concussion optometrist and they helped too. Turns out my whole perception was off, I saw the whole world a little too much to the left. I couldn’t even walk straight. I had to wear prism lenses. I wish someone could have told me that 9 months earlier. Over the course of summer without school, I started to feel better. I started ramping up to doing my teams work outs and I had my eyes set on getting cleared in the fall. Funny thing is, I did get cleared. I remember thinking that when I got cleared, this nightmare would be over. I would be like my old self again. I don’t know why I was so naive. Being back playing hockey again was amazing. Waking up without a headache was amazing. Reading a chapter of a book without a pounding headache was amazing. All of these little things we take for granted everyday, that’s what I loved the most about feeling better. And although all these things were amazing, I felt like I had stepped out of a time machine. Like a year of my life was fast-forwarded. I could play hockey again but I hadn’t touched the ice for a year. I was back with my team again but I missed a whole year of inside jokes. I missed a whole year of my life. I was in the same house, played the same sport, went to the same school but everything was different. I was different.

I wasn’t as carefree and I was structured. I was scared that if I started to do everything again I would get headaches. I was right. They came back a little. But they were tolerable. I could deal with tolerable. I couldn’t deal with another year in a dark room. Looking back at my years at RIT, it’s hard to say that I was really here for four. To me, my third year doesn’t even count. It’s hard to count it as existing because really, I think of my third year as a dark room. But just like any scar, they heal. Just like my head did. But scars, they stick with you. I would get panic attacks if my teammates went hard into the boards. Even if they were fine, the initial moment would send me into sheer panic. The last thing I would ever want for anyone was to go through what I went through. When I got cleared to play, I was scared too. I never got back to playing like I used to. Partially because I missed a whole year of hockey. Partially because I couldn’t get past my subconscious fear. The thing is, I didn’t want to get past it. I wasn’t scared of getting hit in the head and dying, I was scared of getting hit in the head and having to live with another concussion. Of having to watch everyone live their lives while I stayed in a dark room, counting down an undefined number of days until I would be better again. It sounds twisted, dark and morbid but it’s the truth. It’s my story. These are concussions.

Even now, 7 months from when I got cleared, I can’t say I’m the same as I was before. Just being in the same place, the same school is a constant reminder of what I had to live with. I feel like I am living a never ending loop of my concussion. I have to use a special blue light screen on my laptop. If I do too much school work in a day, I will feel it. I can’t cram before tests or I will get a migraine. Maybe it will be better when I take time off school and really let my body rest but then again, no one can guarantee that for me. I can’t say that I personally will ever be the same person that I was before my concussion either. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I think it’s just different.

It’s easy to say my concussion wrecked a year of my life. In some ways it definitely did. But bad things happen. Bad things happen to people everywhere, all the time, whether they deserve it or not. It’s life. It happens. In all reality, life is just what we do with what we are given. My concussion sucked. No better word to describe it. And yes, it changed my life. But maybe, in some strange way, my concussion changed my life for the better. My concussion made me appreciate everything. It made me fall back in love with all the little things. The things we take for granted so regularly in our busy lives. My concussion forced me to see the world in a light that was so different from how I normally saw it. It forced me to see the truth behind some friendships. It made me recognize the amazing support system that I have. It showed me what was truly, at the most basic levels life, important to me. It allowed me to understand a situation that most people will not ever, despite their best efforts, fully understand. I believe there’s reasons for everything in life. Sometimes, it’s harder to find meanings behind some reasons. But I do believe that if we want to look for them, we can find them.  Maybe we don’t have all the answers, but I think we need to find a way to make peace with them ourselves.

It Will Change Your Life

At one point in everyone’s life, we have all met that person that tries to shove volunteering down your throat. And in that moment, we have all wanted to punch that person in the face. I promise I’m not a super aggressive person, I’m just saying it like it is. But today, I am going to be that person. Not the one that wants to punch someone in the face, but the person that people want to punch in the face. Because I truly and sincerely believe that volunteering is an opportunity that everyone should engage in. The thing is, I’m not going to shove volunteering down your throat. I just want you to consider the idea of it. I’m not going to tell you to dedicate your whole life to volunteering or to drop everything you enjoy to volunteer. I’m just saying that in some point in your life, if the opportunity to volunteer arises, you should take it. It will in some way, shape, or form change your life.

For the past two years, I have been volunteering at the hospital local to my university. There were many different reasons why I started volunteering. One of these reasons being that I have always wanted to volunteer. I like to help people. But I would be lying if I said that was the only reason. As a Biomedical Sciences major I wanted to immerse myself in a hospital environment. Considering I am wildly indecisive, I thought the experience would give me a better idea of what career I may want to pursue in my future. Another part of me, as much as I hate to admit it, knows that volunteering looks good on applications. I would be lying if I said that those thoughts never crossed my mind. I also just so happen to love working with kids. I didn’t realize how much I even liked to work with kids until I started volunteering. For the past two years I have been volunteering in the paediatric wings at the hospital. And as cheesy as it sounds, no matter how good or bad my day is, it always cheers me up to try to cheer them up.

So maybe, in a way, I was largely influenced to volunteer by the career aspect of my brain. Not that I never wanted to help or be a volunteer but those reasons may not have been the only, initial, driving factor. For people that want to check out an opportunity, volunteering is a great way to know if you will enjoy the environment you are looking into.  I may have initially been interested in volunteering to expose myself to a new environment but that’s not the reason why I continue to go back. The funny thing is, those previous initial driving factors have been completely replaced by other reasons. I truly look forward to volunteering every week. And I am truly disappointed if I can’t make my three and a half hour commitment if I am sick or for any other emergent reasons. Volunteering, as typical as it sounds, has made me a better person. It has forced me to see the practice of empathy and gratitude to a greater extent. It has forced me to see that no matter how bad something is, a smile and laugh can take anyone a long way. And I am sure, that if you were to try volunteering as well, you would find the same thing.

Volunteering has emphasized that being there for someone, giving someone company to lessen their burdens, is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. The patients I work with have taught me so much. And yes, maybe the majority of the patients I work with are less than half my age, but they have a refreshingly different perspective on life. The thing is, there’s lessons all around us, sometimes we just need to open our eyes a little wider to see them.  It’s hard not to be grateful for anything in your life when you see a 4 year-old with a central line attached, smiling, chatting and playing happily. They are incredibly strong. Maybe some of the strongest people I have ever met. They inspire me. And I can only hope that I can lighten their pain even to the slightest extent. 

It’s not only the strength of the patients that I find incredible; it’s the strength of the families as well. In the wings that I have volunteered in, we are fortunate enough to see that most families regularly come to visit their kids. To many of you, this might be expected, to visit your kids regularly. But you also have to consider that these parents are jumping through hoops to visit their kids. For extended periods of time they are juggling and rearranging work schedules, matching schedules with their spouse, arranging care for their other kids while they aren’t home and for most families, the hospital isn’t exactly just a walk down the street. All the while, they are keeping a brave face for their kids even though it is breaking their hearts to see their baby in pain. These are all the things the volunteer form doesn’t tell you. And these are all the reasons why you should volunteer. These are the things that can’t be told. They have to be felt. They have to be witnessed.

Maybe not everyone is comfortable with hospitals and that’s ok. There’s lots of places to volunteer. Heck, my brother volunteers at a brewery! Not all types of volunteering are for everyone either. We all have our own interests and passions. It’s important to volunteer for something you are passionate about. That’s how you can truly indulge yourself in the experience. If you engage yourself as a volunteer, I promise you will learn something new about yourself, of the people around you or you will find a different perspective. Maybe you will even find all three of these things.

So if you were considering volunteering before you read this, I hope you do. If you never thought about volunteering until now, I hope you consider it. If you are already a volunteer, I hope you are having an amazing experience. And if you take anything from this post at all, I hope that you remember that the greatest gift of all is to lessen the burden of another. 

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Through The Looking Glass

If you have ever even heard of Alice in Wonderland I hope this title has some relevance to you. If you haven’t watched Alice in Wonderland… well you should watch it. I’ll tell you right now for free it’s on Netflix. Some of you might be thinking it’s a lame, children’s cartoon movie. Well, simply said, Walt Disney Pictures did justice to this story. Before I get way too off topic – I promise this does actually tie into my blog. I’m not just forcing movies on people. Through the looking glass, a metaphor created by Lewis Carroll, entails a parallel and strange world where nothing is quite as it seems. Maybe we can’t all step through looking glasses into parallel universes, but we have all experienced a slightly altered world when we are inflicted by change.

Change is defined as to make or become different. At least according to Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Realistically, I don’t even need to define change because each and every person has been touched by it. Everyone knows first hand what change is. At some, or rather at several points in our lives, we have all experienced change. It can be as simple as getting a new haircut, changing your room colour or switching up the meals you regularly make. Or change can be as drastic as getting a new job across the country, the diagnosis of a chronic illness or a death in the family. Change is perpetual. It is personal. And it is all around us. Change may be a process but it is also the initial onset. Change is the twig that starts the avalanche.

Often times when we configure reasons for paths we chose in our lives we return to instances of change. These are the moments that set everything into action. These moments expose us to different parts ofourselves. They steer the decisions we make and influence the paths we chose. Or at least that’s what most of us think. But maybe we are wrong? Maybe change doesn’t guide our direction; rather it is our new found perspectives caused by change that choose our paths. Change can be viewed as something positive and exciting as well as something scary and unknown. It can be a leap of courage or a forced new endeavor. Either way, for something to be considered change, our psychological self goes through a state of crisis. Everyone has a different severity of this phenomenom but everyone still goes through it. Because change means that you have to move on, either permanently or temporarily, from something or someone that gave you purpose and aspirations.

A few weeks ago came the day where I played my final hockey game, ever, and hung up my skates for the last time. After dedicating years, time and trading moments of my personal life for playing the sport I loved, in just one moment, it all ended. There was no post-season training, no excited anticipation for game days in the fall, no planning activities around already packed school and practice filled days. It was just done. Just like that. You always know that one day, like the blink of an eye, the day will come. This thought comes either as a reassurance on your worst days or as a motivator on your best. But until you are in that moment, you never believe it. The funny thing is, it isn’t just hockey. Somewhere along the way of the 6 am practices, killer bagskates and irreplaceable friendships, hockey becomes part of your identity. What you do, who you are and what you aspire to be. It is what you plan your days around which evidently leaks into your whole life. Losing hockey is hard, but the scary part isn’t just losing hockey, its losing part of your identity. Or rather, modifying your identity.

I think that’s what makes us all struggle with change the most. Whether or not you lost the sport you love, moved across the country or changed your occupation, it all comes down to identity. Change redirects the things that give us direction and purpose.  Personally, I have never found change easy. I also don’t believe that anyone finds change that easy. I just believe that some people are better at embracing it. With respect to those people, I have always admired and have been envious of that ability. You see, accepting change is a skill that is constantly and repeatedly used and developed throughout life. The better you are at embracing change, the easier it is to discover new attitudes, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses that all compose our identity. Change doesn’t take away from who we are; it only allows more opportunities for us to define whom we are. At least that is how I have decided to look at it.

Sometimes, we all need to go through the looking glass to find a strange and mysterious new world to learn something new about ourselves. Life would be too easy if we didn’t right?

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When One Chapter Ends, a Fresh Page is Turned

When one chapter ends, a fresh page is turned… and that fresh page for me just so happens to be a web page. Specifically, a web page for my blog. So why now? And why after all this time? Honestly this could just be a “I’m going to graduate soon and real life scares the crap out of me” kind of crisis. But it’s also because I’ve been wanting to write a blog for a while now. I just kept chickening out. You see, I’m not the best at expressing myself and I’m definitely not the best at feeling vulnerable. For the most part, no one even knows I write.

So why the change? Well it’s a combination of a few different things. The change was actually largely caused by change itself. Recently, I became a graduate of my university hockey team. Losing the sport I love and that I have played for the past 14 years of my life has been an adjustment. This transition finalizes an era in my life. It has made me question who I am without hockey and what other passions I might have. This change is only amplified by the slowly approaching date of my graduation which accentuates these unanswered questions and thoughts in a different light. This whole experience has given me a desire to learn more about myself and find different interests that I didn’t have time to explore before.

So, simply said, one of the heavy weighing reasons why I started a blog now is because I actually have time to put into it. Well at least more than I am used to since I now fall into the category of a NARP (non-athletic regular person). So I figured I might as well fill the void in my life with something I have always wanted to try. So here I am. I may be the worst blogger out there or I might have a knack for it but at least this way I will find out. Lately I have been trying to make time for things I don’t normally do, including things that scare me. I started embracing the opportunities that I usually shy away from because I want to challenge myself. I want to find out more about my passions, likes and dislikes. In the last few weeks, I started to apply myself in situations that were out of my comfort zone. Blogging just so happens to be one of those things.

I have been thinking of different blog ideas and themes for a while now but this one has stuck to me. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Maybe because I finally stopped denying that I still have a lot of life to figure out. Maybe it’s because I started realizing that almost everyone, no matter what age, feels the same way. Or maybe it was because I finally figured out that fighting the things we can’t control is helpless and enjoying the moment instead is much more worthwhile. So here’s to blogging, trying new things and sorting out my many thoughts and ideas. Some good, some bad and some potentially just downright strange. Either way it’s all here for your amusement, thoughts and interpretations. So…. here we go!

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