Life Lessons from Up the Hill

Photo courtesy of Maya Abramson

To the average McGill student, Upper Rez is the object of legend. Though they may occasionally glance up Mount Royal and ponder the existence of the almost 1000 students secluded at the top of the hill, the walk is too treacherous and the destination too underwhelming to justify hiking up to witness this mysterious community first hand. However, to those of us who were assigned to McConnell, Molson, or Gardner Hall (sorry, Douglas, you don’t count), Upper Rez is all too real.

Whether you enjoy the normality of weekday clubbing and the healthy distance from the library, or wake up in tears at the thought of once again tumbling down the hill to your 8:30 class, I’m here to tell you that Upper Rez is more than a collection of carbon-copy dormitories; it is a goldmine of valuable life lessons. As a McConnell Hall alumnus now living in the McGill Ghetto, I am happy to say that my year of geographical isolation in a soulless dorm room prepared me well for what awaits us all at the bottom of the hill — the real world. My time in Upper Rez taught me how to survive my impending adulthood.

I am happy to say that my year of geographical isolation in a soulless dorm room prepared me well for what awaits us all at the bottom of the hill — the real world.

Embracing a Little Crazy

Despite what the ridiculously high rent may imply, Upper Rez is in no way prime real estate. Last year, some of my friends were enjoying flat land and flat screens in La Cit or pretending they were at Hogwarts in Douglas. Meanwhile, I and many others were inhabiting the perpetually beer-scented and vomit-stained halls of Upper Rez – a beige, overly-carpeted canvas upon which we painted our messy first year experience. Cramped pre-drinks in tiny dorm rooms that lasted the whole night because it wasn’t worth the effort of sliding down the hill to actually go to a club could have never happened in the same way anywhere else. Upper Rez unselfconsciously embraces its reputation of trashiness, and discourages it’s residents from assuming we are above that lifestyle, because Upper Rez is as much of a mess as we are.

Standing Up for Yourself

In some ways, Upper Rez is a big, happy family, bonded for life by the shared experience of BMH shawarma, dysfunctional pool tables, and being woken at 6am by yells from the lacrosse team on Forbes Field. However, despite all these things that pull us together, a secluded community of students can create a vicious environment where only the ruthless survive. When there are only four sets of washers and dryers (at least one of which is broken at any given time) to serve 250 people’s clothes washing needs, taking other people’s clothes out and dumping them on top of the machine is a necessary evil.

Upper Rez certainly toughened me up, lessened my doormat-ish tendencies, and prepared me for some long, repetitive conversations with my landlord in the hopes of finally getting my toilet fixed.

There are also times when you have to embrace your inner grumpy old lady and tell the people singing in the washroom at 3am to be quiet if you want a modicum of sleep that night. Upper Rez certainly toughened me up, lessened my doormat-ish tendencies, and prepared me for some long, repetitive conversations with my landlord in the hopes of finally getting my toilet fixed.

Being Social Even When You Don’t Want to Be

Without a roommate, it would be easy to wake up 10 minutes before class, trudge to campus half asleep, pretend to take notes in the back row, and return to your soft, warm bed without subjecting yourself to a single human interaction. However, the McConnell porter, Mike, never let me succumb to those anti-social urges.

No matter the darkness of the bags under my eyes or the loudness of the music pumping through my headphones, Mike’s usual “Shouldn’t you be in class?” was almost always my first interaction of the day. I learned how to pull myself out of my morning funk in preparation for our chats in the foyer. Now that I’ve improved my irritability in the morning, I’m afar more pleasant roommate than I would have been had Mike not conditioned me to both expect and welcome early morning conversations.

Don’t be Snobby

Upper Rez isn’t upper crust, and it doesn’t pretend to be. You quickly learn that there is no point in being snobby when you regularly recognize yesterday’s hot meal in the salad bar at BMH. Learning not to fixate on the little unpleasantries of rez life is important practice for surviving the many undesirable aspects of adult life.

I am no longer squeamish about public washrooms, because for eight months I shared toilet stalls with my 18 floormates and showered in flip flops. Now, to my jaded eyes, my run-down Ghetto apartment is a luxury suite where the stove top actually turns on every time and I am always the only person within a one meter radius taking a shower.

Some Closing Thoughts

To those of you currently residing in Upper Rez: stay strong. Though there may be days when you long for the artsy Solin lifestyle or the convenience of RVC, remember that the unique experiences you face in Upper Rez are setting you up for success in the  adulthood looming ahead of you. And even if none of these lessons rub off on you like they did for me, I can at the very least guarantee you that after eight months of climbing up and down the hill you are totally going to leave residence with calves of steel!

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