Community and Isolation

With friends in Pride 2012

With friends in Pride 2012

As I get increasingly immersed into school life once again, I have been inadvertently running algorithms in my head to figure out the precise nature of my desired work-life balance. My attitude towards it has changed over the course of my post-secondary education, and it’s quite interesting to observe how and why.

While in undergrad, it was important for me to live on campus, either in university residence or in off-campus housing within 5 minutes from the university. It wanted to immerse myself in campus life, and to extend my energies in every way I could within the community and in essence, get all my social needs met through the immediately available community. This strategy did help me to become the person I am today, and I met lots of interesting people, however, towards the end of my undergrad, I felt that the pervasive influence of such a large circle can be stifling to growth beyond what the University of Toronto could offer (which is a lot of things, but there will always remain holes in experiences).

When I first moved off campus, there was an immediate sense of relief in finding some sanctuary away from my academic and extracurricular lives. I am by no means a proponent of urban sprawl through suburbanization of populations driven by a need for isolation from major centres of activity, however, I finally saw the value in establishing good physical boundaries between my school/extracurricular/work and internal lives. In order to be the best student, involved member of the university community or employee, I needed a good separation from those physical realms in order to foster my internal life.

Community is something I continue to benefit from, and one of the best things about being back in school is access to an immediate community that evolves relatively organically and doesn’t require much planning. This is something I truly missed as a working engineer, because the extent to which the work community existed did not meet my varied and complex social and intellectual needs, and as a result, my overall psychosocial health suffered.

I still think people ought to have good separation of academic/work life from their internal lives, and find their own specific ways to achieve this. I have found that for me, this is accomplished through physical separation (though not necessarily distance) and relative isolation from my academic/work circles. Although the majority of my present social life intersects with my academic life and people I know through it, some autonomy over when and where I situate each of those in my schedule has had liberating effects.

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