Life of a SHADuate, Day 1 | SHAD 2016 Series
Jul 30, 2016 • Sad SHAD Matthew Wang • ~ 9 minute read • 1194 words
Note: this was heavily edited on 12/22/2018, but I believe the post still means the same thing. Since a lot has changed in these two years, I’ll put in italics more accurate information.
I’m sad. I shouldn’t be - I’ve had one of the best months of my life so far - but I am. I’m sad because I’m going to miss a lot of people: 55 other SHAD students, 7 Programming Assistants, and 5 senior staff, to be exact.
Let me give you some context. I’m “celebrating” my first day away from the SHAD program, which is a month-long summer program set in 10 different universities across Canada. I had the pleasure of doing the program at McMaster University, just a good two hours away from where I live.
Editors note: SHAD is now in more campuses throughout Canada.
SHAD brands itself as a STEM program, though I think it’s more than that. First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to meet tons of amazing people from across the country: living in Toronto means that I live in a bubble, and I don’t understand the different experiences of people in Canada. And yes, you do learn STEM related stuff, but you also learn soft skills, like leadership, and focus on building a community and making friendships.
Editors note: SHAD now brands itself as a STEAM program.
It’s hard for me to explain what exactly SHAD meant to me, but I’ll do my best - by answering some seemingly unrelated questions.
How long do you need to know someone to call them your friend? Good friend? Best friend?
This is an interesting question - I’ve never made so many best friends in one month than I have now. I’ve spent a grand total of 27 days with all of the SHADs, but it feels like I’ve known them for years. To be fair, I’m not normally in close proximity with most of my friend group 24/7, 7 days a week - and I’m sure that increased exposure is partially why. But, that’s not the whole story. SHAD does a great job of attracting people from all over Canada with different passions, whether it be professional yo-yo-ing (I’ve been told that this is called being a “thrower”), ARCT and national pianists, internationally-competing javelin throwers, or people who really, really, really love mechanical keyboards (that’d be me).
Seeing all of these diverse passions come together is amazing, and it makes it a lot easier to be friends with them - we always have something to talk about, and even if our passions are different, we always have something in common - how much we love what we do. It’s not that my other friends don’t have similar passions in breadth and depth - but the way that SHAD introduces us to each other, with our passions on our sleeve - just makes it all that easier.
Back to the question. I think it’s less than an hour for a friend. As long as they aren’t a total asshole in the first hour of meeting them, we can probably be friends. To be good friends (an arbitrary term in itself), I don’t think there’s a time limit - but there’s a barrier, one in passion. To be good friends with someone, you need to recognize and understand their passions. Most of the SHADs fall into this category: they’ve verified that they aren’t douches, and they’ve demonstrated their ability to work hard, play hard, and love long and hard. I want to emphasize how arbitrary time is here: I’ve been just friends with people for 8 years and running, but some of the SHADs I knew I was going to be good friends with in the first day. If I had to give an answer, I’d say as little as a day.
Editors note: I don’t believe this any more. Welp.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the phrase “best friends”, because I think you can have more than one best friend. To me, best friends are situational: my best friend when I need to talk about a serious issue is different from my best friend when I need to just chill out and have fun. A best friend is somebody that can impact your life in a measurably positive way. Similar to good friends, I don’t think there’s a measure of time you need to find a best friend: I’d even consider some of my fellow SHADs to be my best friend - I made my first bestie in just 3 days.
The friendships I’ve made at SHAD are ones that I hopefully don’t forget for a long time. They’ve impacted my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined a month ago, and hopefully I returned the favor.
What is perfection? Is “perfect” reasonable? Can something or someone every be “perfect”?
I wasn’t the only one that came into SHAD with this question, and it’s a huge focus on a lot of people in my generation: you need to be perfect to truly succeed. Our program director told us a different story. He said:
Perfection is only a function of resources and time.
And, I’ve got to say, he’s got a pretty good point. We did an exercise to illustrate this, called the Time Machine. Basically, we had to make a contraption that stopped a marble for as close to ten seconds as possible. A pretty easy task, right? Here’s the catch: we were only given a cardboard box, a few spoons, popsicle sticks, straight pins, elastic bands, tape, and coiling wire. We also only had one and a half hours.
Not a single team did it. The longest time they were able to consistently slow the ball was a total of 7 seconds. It seemed like a failure.
But, it wasn’t. With those resources, and with that small amount of time, it’d be nearly impossible for anybody, except maybe structural engineers, to make something do exactly that. Perfection is only within the realm of what’s attainable, and if your goal of perfection is unattainable, then it’s not truly perfection. That 7 seconds was perfection; if we were given more time, and better resources, maybe 7 seconds isn’t perfect. This message holds true for almost anything in life: whether it’s a school assignment, work project, or a piece of art. You need to finish it. You need to bring it as close as possible to the literal perfection, and you need to be real.
I don’t think that someone or somebody can ever be literally perfect. If you go by this definition of perfect, with more time and resources, you can always improve yourself; but at the same time, you can’t judge yourself by an impossible comparison. I think that being imperfect has to be the drive for you to go further in life; but at the same time, you need to have a positive attitude. “I’m not perfect” should only be followed by “but I’ll keep trying”.
I’m going to talk more about SHAD in the upcoming week, and answer a few more introspective questions. Until next time.