As an undergraduate, as a mechanism for managing emotional instability, I developed a doctrine in which I would try to maintain five independent streams of activity in life: each important to me, and capable of going well or badly.
A typical undergraduate set might include academic coursework; the debate society; photography; perhaps a romantic relationship; and work with the International Relations Student Association. In Oxford, it might have been coursework, cycling, the Strategic Studies Group, Wadham College, and research for my M.Phil thesis. In Ottawa, perhaps my government job, climate writing, cycling, photography, and career development programs / applying for other jobs. In Toronto, PhD coursework and research, Toronto350.org, photography, Massey College, and teaching.
The motivation behind the doctrine is to try to better maintain perspective and reduce the odds that things will be going badly in all areas of life simultaneously. There have been times â€” including recently â€” when five streams have not been enough to yield one that is going well, but that’s not really a flaw in the concept. It’s merely a reflection of the statistical reality that sometimes you will roll five ‘ones’ in a row (to say nothing of how disappointment or frustration in one stream cannot be entirely prevented from affecting others).
Generally speaking, splitting things up and dealing with them individually has been a theme in my life. It has considerable advantages in terms of general resilience and being able to carry on in one sense or another even when there are severe problems in one place or another. One downside is that this fragmented approach comes across accurately to other people, who correctly intuit that they aren’t part of your whole life and that your relationship is being mediated through a context which can be rather narrow.