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My stickered self[ie] after quality time spent with little ones.

My stickered self[ie] after quality time spent with little ones.

Ah, winter quarter. I think I speak for many in the cohort when I say this round the volume has been turned up, so to speak. As the MSC balloon in all our lives grew more inflated, it squeezed the other parts of our identities. Like children with faces pressed tightly up against a window eager to get to the other side, we were finding our limits.

I felt this rather acutely when a new baby in my family disrupted my normal weekend routine: MSC on Saturday, catch up and rest on Sunday. So far I have found the balance I need with this schedule, but it was about to be tested. The urgency of meeting the baby while she is new ruled out putting it off until spring break. It would have to be a day trip on Sunday.

My husband and I got in the car that Sunday morning and began this journey, 3-1/2 hours each way. Our primary objective was achieved: the baby is amazing and healthy and wonderous! I also got to see my other two nieces, both toddlers. I now have three beautiful nieces on my side of the family, and I couldn’t be prouder.

The emotional roller coaster ride, though, was just beginning. Combine the lengthy drive both ways, the thrill of meeting a new baby, and some complicated family dynamics, and the day was a whirlwind. All this was on the heels of a full previous day of MSC activities. On the drive home late Sunday night, I was too tired to keep my eyes open, but too concerned about my husband driving fatigued to fall asleep. We were very glad to get home.

The uncomfortable feeling continued on Monday, as of course time waits for no one. Exhausted, reeling, and exhilarated, I could barely recall anything that happened before Sunday. It sounds crazy but I literally had to remind myself: I live in Chicago, I am an MSC student, and this morning I have an appointment to attend.

One foot in front of the other, I slowly warmed up to my week. A good thing, since I had a group project and presentation due the coming Saturday, and we had a lot of work to do. We met three times that week alone, in addition to our own independent work on the side. Each time we vented, “I can’t wait until this is over!” Yet the presentation had no sooner been delivered when we began to realize how much we bonded and enjoyed the experience. As we left class afterward, it was with well wishes to each other that we would each be missed.

This coming Saturday will be the last class of winter quarter, and I feel similarly torn. “Thank goodness this quarter is over!” competes in my gut with, “I’m sad my academic year is half done.” If I achieve my goal of attaining full-time employment in another six months, I will be so glad and yet also bummed, living a “normal” life with grad school in the rear view mirror.

In these moments, one realizes how struggle and compromise can brew a glue that attaches identity to experience. As time marches toward the inevitable graduation, I feel glad I leaned in to everything that happened this quarter. The group projects, the courses that may be difficult to grasp initially, and the sacrifices made outside of class are the experience. No doubt, my life will be richer for it.