Life of a SHADuate, Day 761 | SHAD 2016 Series
Aug 31, 2018 • dazed, confused, and ashamed matt • ~ 8 minute read • 1014 words
It’s been more than two full years since I spent a summer at McMaster University and did the SHAD program. Since then, I’ve done a ton of reflection; not just on SHAD, but on me as a person. I’ve thought about the journey that’s led to the person that I am now, and I have a few thoughts. If you don’t mind, let’s get self-reflective.
being an asshole
I’ll say it, straight out of the gate. I’ve been an asshole for a good majority of my life. Mind you, I don’t think it was out of malice - but we judge other people by their actions, not their intentions, and I think it’s only fair for me to do the same to myself. Obviously, the bar for being an asshole is very different if you’re a kid and you’re adult, and I’ll clarify that I was an asshole as a kid by adult standards. I wasn’t a particularly mean-spirited kid, but I had quite a bit of arrogance and a know-it-all attitude. Both of these things are rather common, and I don’t want to lower your opinion of me by too much, but it was definitely noticeable.
I think I’m being a bit hard on myself, but that’s a part of self-improvement. When I’m about to sleep at night, I still cringe about how I made fun of kids for not reading that much, or enjoyed shitting on people’s music tastes, or making fun of someone for having an uninformed political opinion. As the years have passed, I’ve toned down that element of my personality until it’s almost become non-existent, though I’ll occasionally slip-up (and for those who’ve experienced that, I’m sorry). But, it’s always been there - a stain on my personality’s record.
tsn turning point
Recently I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on when I became an okay person, and I think a lot of that has to do with SHAD - and the idea of “breaking the bubble” that I’ve talked about before.
I’ll sum it up, because I doubt that anybody continually reads my writing (and doesn’t hate themselves because of it). Essentially, my theory is that most people operate in social bubbles - functional echo chambers that reinforce certain kinds of behaviors and aligns you to become a certain kind of person. People don’t tend to go outside of their bubbles, which means that without any active intervention your personality develops purely inside your bubble - for better or worse.
Prior to the end of Grade 10, I operated most of my life in one bubble. I went to school in the GTA (whether at William Berczy or UCC), did my fair share of extracurriculars, and played video games. That was my bubble. Quite a few people said I wasn’t cool, but I just pushed those people out of my bubble - and I kept those who enabled and reinforced my sometimes good, sometimes bad behavior.
Then, I went to SHAD, and I was forced to pop that bubble. My personality, my behavior, it all stayed the same, but the people around me where no longer in my bubble - and since they had to spend an unbearable 28 days with me, some of them started to not like me (and let me know).
That’s important. It’s hard to be the kind of person to point out character flaws in people without being a total asshat (and there were some of those at SHAD too), but in general I’m very happy with how people at SHAD gave me constructive criticism. They pointed out what my bubble couldn’t, and forced me to reinvent myself in that regard, lest I be roasted again.
Namely, people pointed out how mean I could be, how I always thought I was a know-it-all, how I had a mini superiority complex (that was bulging on becoming a gravely serious problem). I spotted these things too, and began to work on myself.
As I leave for university, I’ve been talking about my personal development with quite a few friends. One consensus that they’ve all reached is that I’m a much better person now than I was when I joined UCC in Grade 7. There’s been some disagreements on when exactly that turning point was, but it’s been approximated to somewhere around the end of my Grade 9 year to the start of my Grade 11 year, the later of which perfectly coincides with SHAD.
I mellowed out quite a bit, and not always in a good way. I’m still just as uptight as I’ve always been, but I express it differently: I (tried to) micromanage people less, I became more positive and less combative, and I definitely became more open-minded. I have to credit other things too (like high school debate), but I truly think that breaking that bubble at SHAD is what lit a fire under my ass and really made me push forward.
I’m mostly satisfied with how I’ve changed - I really do cringe at myself when I was younger, and I’m happy that I’m no longer that person. Still, I can always be better, and that’s what the next few years are for too. I still have work to do: I think I still have a bit of a superiority complex (or at least retain the condescending elements of one), and I complain a lot without doing anything - the hallmark of millennialism.
In the big picture, I don’t think that doing SHAD was as life-changing as I thought it was, though that’s no shade thrown at SHAD. Rather, I think that all of what I’ve done now should be the more boring part of my life - very few successful adults I know reminisce about how high school programs were life-changing. Yes, to me now, SHAD has been very important. But the person that I am now is not the end goal - and I have an entire new chapter of life to make myself less bad.
Let’s hope that happens.
Until next time!