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STRAND VICTORIA UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT NEWSPAPER VOLUME 63, ISSUE 3 | 28 SEPTEMBER 2020

productivity culture opinions | page 3

comfort and personal growth features | page 5

comfort playlist arts | page 7


01 EDITORIAL

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF | ELLEN GRACE & HADIYYAH KUMA EDITOR@THESTRAND.CA

the

strand V O L U M E

6 3

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF

ELLEN GRACE HADIYYAH KUMA

editor@thestrand.ca PRODUCTION MANAGER

ABBIE MOSER

production@thestrand.ca BUSINESS MANAGER

SKYLAR CHEUNG

business@thestrand.ca NEWS

Finding comfort in discomfort

SARAH ABERNETHY

news@thestrand.ca OPINIONS

T WILLIAMS

opinions@thestrand.ca FEATURES

KHADIJA ALAM

features@thestrand.ca SCIENCE

JESS NASH

science@thestrand.ca ARTS AND CULTURE

MENA FOUDA

artsandculture@thestrand.ca STRANDED

JAMES HANNAY

stranded@thestrand.ca COPYEDITING

FAITH WERSHBA

copy@thestrand.ca DESIGN

KEITH CHENG

design@thestrand.ca PHOTO

MORGAN MURRAY

photo@thestrand.ca YOON-JI KWEON

ART

art@thestrand.ca WEB

PARA BABUHARAN

web@thestrand.ca PODCAST

ASHLEY MANOU

strandcast@thestrand.ca

CONTRIBUTORS JANNA ABBAS , GOLSHAN ALAEI , CHLOE BANTLE , ANDERS BRESTEN , FELICIA CEBAN , SARAH EID ,

OLIVIA HSUEN - FARRIS , JAMES HYETT , SOOYEON LEE , TOEBI MAGWIRE , MICHAEL MEJIA , ALYSSA RAPOSO ,

SHSTA SEHGAL , BETH SHAW , KELLIE WEISSE , CANDICE ZHANG COPY EDITORS JANNA ABBAS , EMMA PAIDRA , BECK SIEGAL

DESIGN TEAM KEITH CHENG, ELLEN GRACE, HADIYYAH KUMA, ABBIE MOSER ILLUSTRATIONS GOLSHAN ALAEI, ANNA CARNEIRO, ANYA CARTER,

BAILEY CLASSEN-SCHNEIDER, FAITH DONG, MELAD JAJO LEE NGUYEN, NATALIE SONG, HELEN YU

PHOTOS CHLOE A, DAVID HALIM COVER ART YOON-JI KWEON

The Strand has been the newspaper of record for Victoria University since 1953. It is published 12 times a year with a circulation of 1200 and is distributed in Victoria University buildings and across the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. The Strand flagrantly enjoys its editorial autonomy and is committed to acting as an agent of constructive social change. As such, we will not publish material deemed to exhibit racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or other oppressive language. The Strand is a proud member of the Canadian University Press (CUP). Our offices are located at 150 Charles St. W., Toronto, ON, M5S 1K9. Please direct enquiries by email to editor@thestrand.ca. Submissions are welcome and may be edited for taste, brevity, and legality.

FOLLOW US @STRANDPAPER WWW.THESTRAND.CA

ILLUSTRAION | YOON-JI KWEON

ELLEN GRACE & HADIYYAH KUMA EDITORS-IN-CHIEF

of living. What matters is that we all keep going together and caring for each other, even when we are at our worst. We know it’s easier said than done. Giving strength to ourselves first is necessary in order to be able to be there for each other. Patience and understanding are key to communicating and working together on anything right now. We need to acknowledge that everyone copes in different ways, and we need to realize that self-care is often hard work. We all have things that make our lives a little bit better. If music is your source of comfort, why not listen to Olivia Hsuen-Farris’ comfort playlist in Arts and Culture? Or maybe Sooyeon Lee’s Feature, “What I owe to myself,” can remind you to love yourself and feel comfortable in your skin if you need a confidence boost. If you’re interested in the psychological science behind comfort, Shysta Sehgal’s piece, “A scientific look at our happy places,” will provide you with a digestible explanation of the brain’s fear and comfort processes. Masks have been a pertinent topic this summer and now into fall; if your mask is starting to feel more or less comfortable as the time goes by, you should still be wearing one to protect others if you’re able. Read about why in Kellie Weisse’s News piece, “Comfortable or not, wear a mask.” We hope you find comfort in this issue and remember to take time for yourself away from classes. Stay safe and do things you enjoy. We’re rooting for you

In the coming-of-age stories we read in high school, university was presented as a place in which we would finally be comfortable with ourselves. Suddenly, when thrown into a much larger group of peers, you would somehow find groups of people more like yourself. For many, this is not the case. University can be an isolating experience. There is this desire to feel comfortable in the university setting, while having to quickly become accustomed to the various teaching styles of your professors, not to mention perhaps a new living experience or living away from home. This is why we encourage you to seek comfort in any way that you can. For us, meeting with friends, whether virtually or inperson in a safe way, has provided us with some relaxation through connection. We want to share those feelings with you with this issue, and we hope that reading the words of others can help you feel less alone. You might have thought that you’d be walking to class as the leaves fall, and that by October, you’d be drinking tea inside a cafe with friends, both new and old. Unfortunately, things are different this year. The standards that you held for yourself and others last year shouldn’t be the same ones you hold now. This moment, especially, calls for reflections on what really matters to you. It’s not enough to say that by simply focusing on the positive, we can overcome the anxiety, sadness, and anger we feel all around us. The easing grief doesn’t mean we can’t *This mini-mag contains only a small sampling of acknowledge its deep wounds. Issue Three: The Comfort Issue. To see the rest of the But that doesn’t mean we should give up on issue, check out www.thestrand.ca.* finding some sort of fulfillment in this new way


NEWS 02

EDITOR | SARAH ABERNETHY NEWS@THESTRAND.CA

Comfortable or not, wear a mask KELLIE WEISSE CONTRIBUTOR

I booked my flight home to Florida in March of 2020, midway through my first winter term at the University of Toronto. That was the beginning of a summer ridden with reckless government policies in response to COVID-19. Amidst a pandemic, individual actions, such as wearing a mask, affect us all. Unmasked asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 can spread the deadly virus to people who may have pre-existing conditions, leading to serious complications. Aside from social distancing and basic hand-washing hygiene, wearing a mask is currently thought to be the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus. According to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, face masks may even provide better protection than a COVID-19 vaccine. Florida’s death toll climbs daily, reaching almost 13,000 deaths as of September 16, 2020. The reported numbers are likely much lower than the actual numbers due to the questionable accuracy of Florida’s COVID-19 data. Yet, the governor has

not imposed a statewide mask mandate for indoor spaces. The death toll and total number of cases per capita in Florida are over twice and eight times higher than in Canada. (See Figure 1 for COVID-19 statistics.) The lack of responsible leadership from state and federal officials in the US has led to staggering rates of illness and death. Without a mandate, local businesses struggle to fulfill the government’s job by enforcing their own mask-wearing rules. The main argument by citizens against a statewide mask mandate is that mask use should be a personal choice rather than a government decision. If Florida is any measure of the country as a whole, this “personal choice” tactic is not working. Canada has had a very different response than the United States to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian approach has been driven from the start by government policies that “were strict, broadly uniform and widely followed.” This may play a role in the fact that the number of cases and deaths per capita is much lower in Canada than in the United States. However, pandemic fatigue—the burnout that people experience from prolonged lockdown measures—is found in both countries, making mask

mandates difficult to enforce. Florida’s frightening statistics are a clear warning to mandate-doubting Canadians of what can happen when people fail to wear masks. Putting a mask on is nothing more than an annoyance for most people. Choosing not to wear one is not a demonstration of one’s right to freedom of expression; it is a failure to show common decency. In Canada, a rise in COVID-19 cases has led to stricter restrictions and rollbacks on the reopening of provinces, including Ontario. When paired with other sensible health policies, widespread mask usage helps businesses stay open and allows students to continue to live in universities’ residence buildings. A pandemic is a public health crisis. The government must temporarily sideline individual freedom of choice, prioritizing our universal human right to life. The dead do not have freedom of choice. In times like these, prioritizing personal comfort is reckless endangerment. We all have the opportunity to show care for others through the simple act of wearing a mask. It may not be comfortable, but it does not demand great courage or sacrifice. Comfortable or not, wear a mask.

An overview of the Scholar Strike The history, origins, and follow-up events of the Scholar Strike in the UofT community CANDICE ZHANG STAFF WRITER

Content Warning: Mentions of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and police brutality. The current civil rights movement against police brutality has been transformative. After George Floyd’s murder, record numbers of people protested around the world, calling for justice and equality. Petitions to defund the police circulated across social media, demanding reformation and alteration of the current judicial systems. The movement reignited after the shooting of Jacob Blake, causing officials from other industries to question the ongoing brutality exhibited by the police. NBA teams and players have joined in the protest: playoff matches were postponed as the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers made their own statements. Other sport leagues also supported the movement, such as the WNBA, MLB, NFL, and the MLS. The sports boycotts coupled with ongoing events inspired a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Anthea Butler, to start a similar movement within academia. The initiative commenced with one tweet and overwhelming passion. Canadian scholars have also joined this movement, now known as the “Scholar Strike.” Organized by Dr. Beverly Bain of UofT and Professor Min Sok Lee of OCAD University, speakers hope to educate students and other attendees on different forms of police brutality and colonialism. The Canadian event took place near Labour Day, on September 9 and 10 with an introductory session hosted by the organizers and journalist, Desmond Cole. As a response to institutional racism, faculty members who participated in the event chose to pause teachings and administrative duties. Digital teach-ins from historical and contemporary perspectives were organized in order to educate attendees on the effects of marginalization. Moreover, attendees were encouraged to amplify the message on social media and participate in campaigns. Overview of the Sessions The “Scholar Strike” event consisted of six sessions on September 9 and seven sessions on September 10. The teachins were approximately 90 minutes on average, with some ranging from 30 minutes to four hours. UofT scholars were speakers for around 50% of the sessions in total on both days. The four sessions listed below are the ones with UofT participants.

Abolition or Death: Confronting Police Forces in Canada “Why do we need to have armed people? When we go out into the streets and say ‘enough killing,’ and we are confronted by the same killers…again?”- Desmond Cole

officials, stating that the workers are under "constant quarantine." The myth of "essential workers” and the structural discrimination in employment are key components of this session as public health officials state that they will "protect” migrant workers but refuse to follow through with it.

In this session, Professor Beverly Bain, journalist Desmond Cole, and Professor Min Sook Lee introduced the Scholar Strike event to the attendees. Bain initiated the session with a Land Acknowledgement Statement and discussed the intensified anti-Black attacks across the world. After, Desmond Cole spoke about violence against racialized communities and the routine malpractice among police officers towards women and LGBTQ groups. This teach-in summarized the flaws of police reformation and the judicial punishment system, with Cole arguing that these methods should not be perceived as an assurance of safety. Rather, these systems perpetuate inequality and discrimination— such as the immigration status and the child welfare system—due to colonial practices.

Race to Incarcerate in the University “The university is….an extension of the state and its processes” -Beverly Bain.

Solemn Promises on Stolen Land: Policing and TreatyBreaking on 1492 Land Back Lane “The criminality is understood within a black letter interpretation of the law, ignoring the very language that they used to characterize the relationship, which is the language of inherit recognition.”- Dale Turner This session included four speakers who are/were a part of the UofT community: Elder Eileen Antone, Kevin White, Dale Turner, and Susan Hill. Courtney Skye, a Research Fellow at Yellowhead Institute who was arrested on September 3, gave a presentation about the history and media coverage of 1492 Land Back Lane. The other speakers, including Dale Turner, talked about how the arrests at 1492 Land Back Lane go against the definition of human rights and restrain Indigenous voices. At the end, Dr. Susan Hill acknowledged the people who are part of Land Back Lane and encouraged others to advocate for peace. Migrant Workers in Canada: Unfree Labour on Stolen Land “Hell…yo, no we aren’t going anywhere—we are going to demand our spaces in the academy, and outside of the academy as well. -Chris Ramsaroop Chris Ramsaroop, a PhD Candidate at OISE, talked about the migrant workers program in Canada. Throughout the session, Ramsaroop argued that the pandemic exacerbates dangerous conditions for workers, along with them being perceived as transmitters of the virus. For example, he shone light on the treatment of migrant workers by public health

The speakers of this session were Beverly Bain and Rosalind Hampton, both of whom are part of the UofT community. Bain discussed how the University is not taking enough initiative to address the issues related to mental health on campus. She also stated that people of colour in university faculties are more at risk for mental health struggles as police brutality has escalated. Moreover, the role of the institution’s administration on campus police and criminalization of students was analyzed by the speakers. Throughout the lecture, Bain references a situation around two years ago, when campus police handcuffed a student in distress. What the University has done The Faculty of Music, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, the Women and Gender Studies Institute, and the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies have mentioned the event on their respective "Announcements” pages.The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering further stated that drop-in hours, hosted by the Action Group, were available throughout both days of the event. Additionally, the Faculty of Music launched Workgroup on Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (AREDI) has put out a call-to-action for faculty members and students. Furthermore, the Dean of Aerospace Studies issued a statement on behalf of the UofT Engineering department and notified that the University is actively working to eradicate anti-Black racism. Although classes were not cancelled, students and faculty were encouraged to engage with resources addressing racism and Black inclusivity. The Scholar Strike event can be perceived as a historical landmark for professors and students alike. As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, members of different institutions across Canada are coming together to learn about police brutality, segregation, and oppression among racial groups. Unfortunately, these situations, continue to occur across university campuses, and UofT is no exception. However, with the increase of racial and cultural inclusivity events, academia has the potential to change in the future. We must hope that every institution finally takes this advice and listens.


03 OPINIONS

Pr odu

EDITOR | T WILLIAMS OPINIONS@THESTRAND.CA

ctivity Culture ILLUSTRATION | LEE NGUYEN

FELICIA CEBAN CONTRIBUTOR

Among students and academia, busyness has become a status symbol. The widespread message is if you’re not constantly working, you’re falling behind. The pressure to set oneself apart from others at a large research university often means that students fixate on schoolwork and spend their “leisure” time seeking out extracurricular activities, leaving themselves with little to no breathing room. It’s easy to see why a competitive attitude is ubiquitous when students tend to measure their own success by the standards of their peers. We cloak this as “ambition” and take pride in always being busy—even at the expense of mental and physical wellbeing. This mentality affected me deeply during my second year. I grew distant—though I was physically present in my lectures, I was mentally absent. Constantly working, it became easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. I was so focused on memorizing information that every class began to feel like a deluge of disjointed facts. The lifelong passion that I had for science was wavering. In my mind, my schedule was so precariously arranged that any sudden shift in plans would cause me to fall behind. I was walking a tightrope, but my legs were cramping. I often thought to myself: once I get past this week, once I get past these exams, then I’ll have time to relax. Unfortunately, such a time never came. I questioned why I was feeling unwell—I was doing everything right, operating at full capacity, yet I felt consistently inadequate. I reached my breaking point at the start of my third year, when the thought of facing another grueling eight months was paralyzing. The attrition of my spirit left me exhausted and jaded, unable to concentrate and feeling impotent as everyone around me appeared to thrive. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep up the constant work. I began to study less and gave up my strict schedule and suddenly… I had free time! After a few months, I thought I had failed as a student; I mentally prepared myself

to watch my GPA tank from the sidelines. But paradoxically, my grades were better than ever. I was astounded; this went against everything I knew at the time. I couldn’t comprehend how I could possibly be doing more by doing less. I decided to research the topic of productivity and stumbled upon Parkinson’s Law on Quora. This was the idea that brought everything together. Parkinson’s Law is not really a law at all (though it does come along with a mathematical formula). It is the concept that work expands to fill the time available, with minimal effect on its quality. The reverse is not true. This means that if given a year to do a project, a person will take a year to do it. But if given a month, it will get done in just as much time. You might be familiar with this idea as “cramming”. Though it doesn’t apply to every case (especially in creative domains), time constraints force people to discover new methods of working in order to do the same amount of work in less time. It’s always uncomfortable, but the time saved is well worth it. This idea was first articulated in 1955 by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist, where he expressed that “It is a commonplace observation that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” During his time in the British naval service, he observed that although operations dwindled and the number of ships decreased by two thirds between 1914 and 1928, the number of admirals continued to steadily increase. From this, Parkinson posited what he believed to be a fundamental flaw concerning bureaucratic logistics: the addition of more management positions creates more work. I think this concept applies to any system increasing in complexity. The evolution of the cerebrum has afforded human beings an awesome capacity for extremely complex thought. Yet, it is this same ability that often causes unnecessary suffering from overthinking and worrying. Parkinson’s Law has two implications. Firstly, that work will never end so long as there is no deadline. Secondly, that most output

stems from a small amount of input. In other words, productivity isn’t linear, rather it follows the law of diminishing returns. This second corollary is a theory of its own called the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule: 20 percent of the work creates 80 percent of the result. Parkinson’s Law is not a universal solution, nor should it be used to set unreasonable deadlines. Instead, it should encourage students to maximize efficiency and develop self-discipline by setting hard deadlines instead of relying on external ones. The feeling of always being overwhelmed by work may be an indication to re-examine the approach. In this way, Parkinson’s Law helped me to break the self-destructive habit of constantly working. I learned to trust my abilities and focus on the significance, as I no longer gave myself time to waste obsessing over details. I was finally able to enjoy my courses because I could think critically about the material. I still learned everything I needed to, but now I had time to do other things, too. We are often told to maintain a “healthy work-life balance” because it will help to prevent burnout. It’s ironic that we should relax so that we can do more work. Conversely, there are countless books, apps, and motivational talks on how to optimize work—not so it can be finished faster, but so there is time to do even <i>more</i> work. I believe that we should work more efficiently so that we have time to relax purely for our own well-being, development, and enjoyment. In summarizing Helmuth Plessner’s work, Corina Stan says that “Human existence is a striving between being and becoming.” The temptation to sacrifice free time for work is now stronger than ever given that many of us are working in our living spaces. However, without free time to think, one fails to develop their personal values and ends up living according to the standards of others. An individual’s intrinsic worth is not dependent on their output, and although students may learn a lot in university, it is during free time that they learn about themselves.


SCIENCE 04

EDITOR | JESS NASH SCIENCE@THESTRAND.CA

A scientific look at our happy places

Should we try to simulate them? ILLUSTRATION | FAITH DONG

SHYSTA SEHGAL CONTRIBUTOR

Holding your partner’s hand while watching the sunset, having a cup of coffee while reading a book, watching the ebb and flow of tides at the beach, and playing with your pet are just a few examples of how the word “comfort” encompasses different meanings and situations for different people. Walking in a dark alley where you can hear dogs howling might leave you on edge and make you feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, going for a walk near your house at night might not make you uncomfortable. What makes us feel comfortable and safe with a certain person or in a certain place? While it’s difficult to observe whether a person is feeling comfortable or not (as it’s difficult to map mental processes), the reactions—behaviours—that are caused due to the feelings of comfort and safety can be studied more easily. These reactions might be in the form of relaxed muscles, a smile on the face, or appearing less self-conscious. These behaviors tend to be multifactorial and are related to both nature and nurture. For a skydiver, being at an altitude of 8000 feet might lie within their comfort zone; however, someone who is acrophobic might instantly panic just visualizing the situation. One potential reason for this difference is how the inherent biochemistry of the brain varies from person to person; this leads humans to set a diverse range of boundaries for their comfort zones. When we perceive a situation to be comfortable, several centers in the brain worktogether to make us feel happy and relaxed. The brain secretes two hormones—serotonin and dopamine—that regulate well-being and how we feel pleasure, respectively. Through differences in the regulation of these hormones, one person could be biochemically predisposed to feel comfort in different ways than another person. We also tend to hold preconceived notions for a lot of scenarios that lead us to decide how comfortable we are in a given situation. For example, we

might be at ease while going out alone during the day, but we might get second thoughts while doing so in the dark. We might feel more on edge and be more vigilant, which is due to the brain secreting adrenaline. This is because humans have evolved in a way that makes them fear the dark. Adrenaline is secreted in fight, fright, and flight situations. Fear leads to an increase in blood pressure, pupil dilation, and redistribution of the blood from the digestive system to the muscles. This helps a person respond to this quickly in dangerous situations. Coupled with this biological predisposition are environmental factors that can take a wide range of forms, from the familiarity of a situation and the development of social support systems to the setting of the environment. Someone who is acrophobic could go through systematic desensitization to get comfortable at higher altitudes. When people become familiar with a setting, they also undergo the process of acclimatization. Several physiological changes take place in the body during this time. Specifically for higher altitudes, acclimatization includes loss of regional cortical grey matter. Having examined some of the various factors that interact to make us feel safe, happy, relaxed, and comfortable, an important question to ask is: “Can we control comfort?” Most of the time, individuals can control the environmental setting that they’re in to adjust their comfort levels accordingly; however, it might be harder to increase the production of hormones like dopamine and serotonin that are the primary drivers of making us feel comfortable. Even more interesting to explore would be ways to increase dopamine production in relatively stressful environments. Dopamine levels can be increased naturally (although not by a lot) by various changes in lifestyle like a healthier diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, meditating, and listening to soothing music. Similar steps can be followed for an increase in serotonin levels. However, these boosts don’t guarantee that these hormones will be released in stressful situations. Consider this: If someone started following a

healthier routine, do you think they’d be able to feel safe if a robber invaded their house? Being comfortable in such an anxiety-provoking situation would require us to go against our fundamental nature and can by no means be achieved through lifestyle changes. However, if we could somehow develop ways of producing dopamine and serotonin in labs and transmitting them to the bloodstream in larger quantities than they’re usually present, we might be able to produce artificial comfort. The main obstacle to this endeavour would involve the tight regulation of the brain’s biochemical balance (since dopamine and serotonin are produced there) and our lack of in-depth knowledge regarding the physiology and mechanisms of the brain. If we managed to overcome these barriers, artificial comfort could be highly useful in overcoming fears, rational or irrational. For example, it could be used to help people overcome stage fright. Easing the tension in such a situation might help people get over those occasional stutters and become more effective public speakers. However, this artificial comfort could interfere with physiological homeostasis or even make us do things that we don’t want to do. In the robber example, we are better off with adrenaline pumping through our veins and being alert than getting a dopamine rush. So, should we actively look for ways of simulating comfort? Since it would be very difficult to regulate situations in which this comfort was produced once the hormones were transmitted into humans, it might not be a good idea. As far as minor situations are concerned, like overcoming stage fright, it can be argued that familiarizing oneself with being in front of a large audience and using natural ways to boost comfort hormones would be better. Such methods won’t have unknown health implications and might help people expand their comfort zones, as the boundaries of these comfort zones are flexible. In the end, the next time you feel safe and comfortable (or uncomfortable) next, I’d encourage you to reflect on what is going around you and in you to make you feel the way you do.


05 FEATURES

EDITOR | KHADIJA ALAM FEATURES@THESTRAND.CA

by sooyeon lee

The relationship between comfort and confidence Content warning: this article discusses body image. It always begins in my chest. As more and more unfamiliar faces pour into the room, I feel my chest growing tighter and tighter. I simultaneously both know and don’t know the people around me: close enough that I can clumsily put names to faces, but not enough to slide myself into the established grooves of conversations. That’s the cue to begin my practiced routine: scan the room, exchange a couple of hellos, share a hug or two, make some small talk, and then, when the tightness becomes too overwhelming to bear, leave to find a quiet spot somewhere else. Sometimes, I’ll pop in earbuds to fill my ears with familiar beats instead of the irregular beats of my own heart. I’ve found these sorts of situations uncomfortable for as long as I can remember. The same feeling has followed me since when I was six years old and didn’t know what to do on the first day of summer camp. It was there when I was 13 and clutched onto my phone as a security blanket at family gatherings. It made its presence known when I was 18 and found myself at parties as the third wheel again and again. The thing is, I’m comfortable in large crowds when there are people I know; it’s the feeling of drifting around without an anchor in a sea of unfamiliar faces that makes me want to hide. Of course, being the “odd one out” in a room full of people isn’t a unique experience; it’s definitely happened to everyone at least once. Not everyone responds the way that I do, though. Some look at the situation as an opportunity to meet new people and others get clammy hands just thinking about it. I belong to the latter half, but I’m not sure if I want that to continue. One night, during my junior year of high school, I stumbled upon this quote by Anne Lamott while scrolling through Instagram: “Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, or imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like

when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” I lay there in my bed reading the quote over and over again. I hadn’t realized how many things I had let pass me by just because they were outside of my comfort zone. My future flashed in front of my eyes in that moment—I would be old and grey without having done anything interesting, all because I had been too afraid to push my boundaries. That wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to live. That night, I vowed to purposely make myself uncomfortable when given the opportunity, not because I enjoy feeling strange in my own skin, but because I wanted to stop living on the bleachers in the game of my life. The next month, I decided to run in a house-system election for my senior year. It was honestly the most terrifying thing I did throughout my entire time in high school. I didn’t get my hopes up about winning; I told myself that I had a lot of other excellent, qualified candidates running against me. My friends would come up to me in the halls and comment on how surprised they were that I was running. I found myself super uncomfortable with the attention—I wasn’t used to being in any kind of spotlight. When my name was called during the school assembly held to announce the winners, I noticed the sheer number of students looking in my direction. I realized then that I’d be making myself known to the whole school, not just my grade. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of my journey. Throughout my senior year, I pushed my comfort zone in ways I had never imagined. I gave a welcome speech in front of new students during a camp trip, co-hosted cake boss competitions, and led a dance to Bruno Mars’s “Marry You” in a lip-sync contest. I made sure to smile, laugh, and be larger-than-life whenever I could because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was actually incredibly nervous. I wouldn’t say that I graduated as a speech-performance-lip-sync master, but I was sure that I would be more comfortable in similar situations in the future. My plan had been a success. I would continue to push my boundaries and test my limits in university, signing up to sing a duet at a talent show, running through choreography in front of strangers in dance classes, and writing things that others could


FEATURES 06

@STRANDPAPER THE STRAND | 28 SEPTEMBER 2020

read through The Strand (surprise!). As much as I have worked to become more comfortable in certain situations, there’s still one thing that I find extremely hard to become comfortable with: clothing. I gravitate towards loose jeans, sweaters with collars peeking out underneath, lowtop sneakers, and hoodies that I can swim in. This isn’t necessarily reflective of the clothing I want to wear, though; I envision outfits in my head where I’m in clothing that I would normally never wear—crop tops, miniskirts, and skinny jeans, to name a few. I think that confidence plays a huge role in drawing the line between comfort and discomfort. Is your discomfort a reflection of your insecurities, or are you genuinely uncomfortable in the outfit you’re wearing? Do you feel uncomfortable in that dress because it’s not indicative of who you are (or it’s made from a scratchy material, or you’re too cold in it), or do you find yourself criticizing your body when you’re in the dress? These are just some questions that I’ve started asking myself when I think about my sense of style and the relationship I have with my body. I’ve come to realize that it’s not that I’m physically uncomfortable in crop tops and skinny jeans; it’s that I’m mentally uncomfortable in them. I’m uncomfortable because I’m not confident. I want to overcome the insecurities that I have surrounding my body. I want to feel good in the clothing that I own and feel comfortable in it—both physically AND mentally. This won’t be an overnight process; it will be difficult to address the reasons why I’m uncomfortable in certain outfits and certain situations. But, as Anne Lamott said, I don’t want to wake up one day and

illustration | helen yu

realize that I’ve been missing out on doing and wearing things because of my own internal discomforts and insecurities. As for the discomfort that stems from being the odd one out in a room, I’m not sure if that’s something I’ll be able to overcome. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if that’s something I really want to overcome. Over the last year, I realized that I’m okay with making myself uncomfortable in situations that I know deep down I want to be in, such as performances and showcasing my creative work. On the other hand, I realized that I’m not comfortable with being in a loud room with faces I don’t recognize, nor do I want to place myself in that situation to push my boundaries because I know I don’t want to be there in the first place. If I wake up one day and realize that I would love nothing more than to strike up conversations with strangers at parties, would I work towards doing so and push through the discomfort? Absolutely. But besides that, I’m only human. I have my limits. I know that it’s okay not to be okay with certain things. There are things that I won’t ever find comfortable, and I accept those parts of me the way they are. I believe I owe myself the pleasure of doing things that I want to do. We all owe ourselves things that make us happy. Everyone is given the same 24 hours a day; it’s our choices that determine where we’ll end up and what quality of life we’ll live. And the truth is, we’re not on this rock floating in space for a very long time. So, I’m going to bask in the fading glow of the sun on the beach, let the wind rush through my hair on late night drives, laugh with my loved ones, and capture these moments for ages to come with lasting fondness in my heart—for I deserve happiness.


07 ARTS AND CULTURE

EDITOR | MENA FOUDA ARTSANDCULTURE@THESTRAND.CA

Fall(ing) for comfort A playlist of autumnal Canadian tunes OLIVIA HSUEN-FARRIS CONTRUBUTOR

My dad once told me that he thought music figured large in all young people’s lives. He asked me, “Why is it that music is so important to you when you’re young, but loses importance as you grow older?” I don’t know if his theory is universally true—I know many adults who value music greatly—but I have a half-baked answer to his question: comfort. We listen to music when we’re sad and in need of melodious sympathy. We listen to music to find support, even in our happy moments. It’s there to snuggle us to bed, wake us up, and provide atmospheric reinforcement to parties and gatherings. We all need comfort from time to time, but perhaps young people need it more than others. Below is a list of my favourite songs by Canadian artists to bring you comfort this Fall. Next time you need musical support, head to your Spotify app and open up this playlist.

ILLUSTRATION | NATALIE SONG

Ruby Waters - Last Cigarette

Desiire - Light Down Low

Tange - I Love Him So Much

Lydia Képinski - Premier juin

Ontario-born, Métis artist Ruby Waters is an essential on any Canadian playlist. With vocals that are a gift to any listener, “Last Cigarette” will keep you warm this Autumn. Fall in love with the mellow tunes and chill vibes of this Toronto band.

HMLT - Roses & Cigarettes

Musical collective HMLT (pronounced “hamlet”) provides the perfect backdrop for studying and relaxing alike.

Luna Li - Trying

Luna Li is a glittering gem with songs that lift listeners out of this world and into heavenly, paradisiacal realms.

This Congo-born, Toronto-based artist is a shining star. Enjoy “Light Down Low” late at night with a vodka tonic (or two). Québécoise musician Lydia Képinski will bring you joy as the weather changes. “Premier juin” is ideal for pretending you’re the star of an indie music video as you walk down St. George street.

Quantum Tangle - Tiny Hands - Reimagined

This Juno Award-winning duo reimagines their song “Tiny Hands” with darker hues and added warmth. With music drawing on Inuit throat singing, oral storytelling, blues, and folk, both the original and reimagined version are treasures.

Erez Zobary - Love Me

Erez Zobary wraps listeners in a warm blanket with her rich vocals and vulnerable lyrics.

Joyia - Come Down

Joyia’s “Come Down” offers the best grooves to play while drinking your essential morning coffee.

Clairmont The Second - Gheeze

Go out with a bang. Listen to this track from Clairmont The Second’s Juno-nominated album Lil Mont from the Ave to find comfort in all your late-night jams.

Space and comfort Getting comfortable with this uncomfortable term SARAH EID CONTRIBUTOR

With this unprecedented semester, the challenge of space is not limited to adjusting our learning for online classrooms, but also maneuvering learning in new physical spaces. Without access to campus, libraries, cafés, and quads that breeds the productivity that UofT expects, we’re suddenly out of bounds. For many, this means learning how to work in the same places that they would normally unwind in, spaces that they’ve designed for tranquility. How do we strong-arm ourselves into listening to Zoom lectures from the very locations that we’ve dedicated to bringing us rest? As we began the first few weeks of this new academic reality, I was stunned to find myself reacting so strongly to the transition to homebound classes. Like many of you, I entered the term braced to deal with my own educational downfalls (time-management, fear of office hours, burnout) that I knew would be heightened without the structure of in-person classes. And yet, as someone who is usually so spatially aware, I was quickly taken aback by how restless I was feeling about working from the same spot—and it had only been a few days. For years, I’ve sworn off studying at home. I’ve always had the privilege of escaping to a nearby library or coffee shop, anywhere that would make me feel obligated to remain focused. This allowed me to keep my home space separate from the stress of schoolwork. So, as this pandemic forced us to retreat into our homes, I was both overwhelmed

ILLUSTRATION | BAILEY CLASSEN-SCHNEIDER

with discomfort and determined to learn how to function in the same space I once refused to work in. It started with superficial acts: declutter, reorganize, create a warm atmosphere. Have my calming, “Van Life” study playlist playing softly in the background at all times. Be near natural light. Move around from room to room throughout the day. While these things certainly helped, I needed to take a step back to realize how I was functioning when doing schooling from home. I was restless because I wasn’t taking time to get outside throughout the day; I was overwhelmed because my to-do lists seemed never-ending; I was uncomfortable because this September felt so different from what September should feel like. Without in-person classes, my kneea-jerk reaction was to compensate by working for more than twelve hours and setting my goals for the day too high to ever accomplish. Unlike a regular term, the work wasn’t being broken up into blocks of class, breaks, and commutes. Instead, I was trying to fly through it by hunkering down at my desk from the moment I woke up, to the moment I had to sleep. It wasn’t fueled by socialization between classes, and, while I tried to think of my lack of commute as saving time in my day, it actually just gave me a reason to think I had to work more.

Ultimately, I was left resentful of the space I was in, even though I was in my own home. It wasn’t until I reminded myself that I was allowed to take my time with school that this feeling began to fade. A regular semester at UofT is certainly stressful, but it doesn’t have you trying to get through a week’s worth of material for five classes the moment it’s released. Usually, it’s filled with darting across campus to hit a 13,000 daily step count, which means I can grant some of my day to getting that same exercise. And while we’re all used to dedicating ourselves to schoolwork throughout the term, if we could make time to do things we love then, we can make time to do things we love now (that are safe, please—we’re still in the middle of a pandemic!). Maybe this September can’t give us the gratification of reunions and the excitement of being back on campus, but it can still give us the inspiration we need to have a good fall term. We may be missing the sight of the orange, autumn campus, but our being home now is exactly what will get us back to normal in the future. Until then, our discomfort in our physical spaces might be the thing that reminds us that just because the semester has started, doesn’t mean our whole lives need to be about the semester.


STRANDED 08

@STRANDPAPER THE STRAND | 28 SEPTEMBER 2020

Every day I take comfort in knowing that I was the best on-screen Spider-Man

I can rest easy knowing that Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland’s performances just don’t stick TOEBI MAGWIRE CONTRIBUTOR

It’s been approximately 4,625 days since the airing of my last appearance in the Spider-Man Franchise, Spider-Man 3. In those 6,660,000 minutes, never once have I doubted that I have been the best on-screen, live-action, Spider-Man actor. I embodied what it meant to be Spider-Man. Right from the moment that that “fake” spider “bit” me, I lived Spider-Man. More than that, I realized what it meant to be Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker. People say that my acting was bad and that I was dorky, but that’s who Peter Parker is. Peter Parker was never some glamourous, funny, or handsome boy—he was just a nerd who got bit by a spider. I was dorkier and way more of a loser than Tom Holland, no doubt, but at least I wasn’t a dweeb like him.

forget that. Look at James Garfield and Tom Holland, on the other hand, and you get a different story. Emma Stone shone so bright in Garfield’s movies that I thought she was playing Spider-Man the entire time. Tom Holland has to compete for screen time with Zendaya. There is no way that stacks up in Holland’s favour. Holland’s movies shouldn’t even count. He was babied with new age Disney funding, and I had to make do with early 2000s graphics and Paramount Pictures. Disgusting.

let Emma Stone die in his movie. There is no way I would let Kirsten Dunst die.

If we’re being honest, each Spider-Man after mine was a rip-off. Garfield’s movies were all a redo of my movies. EVERYTHING was copied from me. Even with better budget, he STILL did worse than I did. I made more money and I had better ratings. Garfield is garbage, but at least he’s better looking than me, by, like, a lot. Tom Holland grappled with the Vulture and Jake Gyllenhaal in a cape with my nephew’s smoke machine and disco ball, When I web-slinged onto the scene, everyone oooo scary. I battled, and defeated, the Sand Man, knew what time it was. It was pizza time. No one Venom, The Green Goblin, AND James Franco. can ever take that away from me. My swag walk after absorbing the Venom Symbiote? Iconic. I I represent the 2000s, an iconic comic book charwatched Uncle Ben die, and you could see the hor- acter before high-brow Marvel movies, and I killed No matter what the critics say, I know that my ror and sadness in my face. Andrew Garfield yelled the role. I. Am. Spider-Man. performance was radical. I had a stacked cast be- a bit. Tom Holland never even saw his “uncle” die hind me in every movie—Kirsten Dunst, Alfred on screen. I had to save my own Aunt May from Molina, Willem Dafoe, and, not to mention, Doctor Octopus. The other two didn’t have to do James Franco. I outshone Every. Single. One. of that. Tom Holland’s life was actually made easier those actors. I was Spider-Man, and no one will by the presence of Marisa Tomei. Andrew Garfield

ILLUSTRATION

| ANNA CARNEIRO


09 STRANDED

EDITOR | JAMES HANNAY STRANDED@THESTRAND.CA

My comfort food I’d just like to remind everyone that this is a safe zone and you can’t attack me on insta bc of this GOLSHAN ALAEI CONTRIBUTOR

Top 10 Comfort Foods of All Time: -Dipping popcorn in ketchup -Spreading ketchup on pizza -Squirting ketchup on pasta -Taking a bite out of a raw tomato, sprinkling salt on top, and then eating the rest slowly -Iranian ketchup bottles that are shaped like an adorable bear!!!! *refer to photo* (k wait I just realized that makes absolutely no sense cuz like... bears don’t eat ketchup...? ok ok dw: my theory is that the market first started off with honey containers shaped like bears, and since those do well in sales, a smartass on the design team came up with applying the exact same technique to ketchup bottles (?) (but wow… it did work… like, no one questions it…)) * -Juicy tomatoes on pizza that give the crust a perfect ratio of sogginess to crunchiness to fluffiness -Ketchup on its own when there’s nothing else left to eat and you want to remind yourself of your sweet, sweet childhood of sucking on a Heinz ketchup packet while tricycling in a park in Iran and then being shamed for it from a random stranger but ending up just tricycling back to your mommy & not quitting the habit for a second until you entered elementary school ILLUSTRATION

| GOLSHAN ALAEI

Rating things I’m allergic to ELLEN GRACE CO-ALLERGEN-IN-CHIEF

Green Food Dye 6/1 Really stupid allergy. I don’t understand it. Green dye is cool and found in lots of cool snacks like gummy worms and sour cherry blasters, both of which I just don’t eat the green part. I would usually just give it to someone else, but now that it’s corona time, I can’t do that anymore. Overall, green dye is a cool product and I’m sad I can’t consume it. Dairy 0/10 Really common allergy so it’s boring to say you have it. Gross that it exists and is, like, cow excretion, so I’m not sad about not having it. Vegan cheese is actually good, but the best part about it is that it doesn’t make me sick! The smell of onions and garlic -2/10 This allergy is the worst bc I like the taste of onion and garlic. I can’t be in a room where either of those things are being cooked, which means I can rarely consume food with those ingredients. I’m convinced the government is able to cure me of this allergy, but they just choose not to, which makes it so much worse. Laundry detergent 2/10

Using detergent in your laundry is for wimps. Use apple cider vinegar like the rest of us. It makes my life easier bc then I don’t have to wash my clothes twice bc the washer gave it laundry detergent smell. Overall, it’s a product that I guess exists for a good reason, but I think the laundry detergent industry has many a secret they won’t tell us.

Wool 9/10 Wool is cool bc it comes from sheep and sheep are cool. My allergy to wool lets more sheep keep their fluffy fur, so it’s a win-win. Also, at my multiple jobs in high-end women’s fashion, if a customer asked if something had wool on it, I could quickly rub it on my hand to see if I got a rash instead of having to look it up. Winwin-win! ILLUSTRATION

| YOON-JI KWEON

Profile for The Strand

The Strand | Volume 63, Issue 3 - The Comfort Issue Mini Mag  

The Strand | Volume 63, Issue 3 - The Comfort Issue Mini Mag  

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