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As the Sun Sets Over Us

I’ve been yawning a lot in class lately. One might assume this is because I am in the throes of the infamous MSC summer session—10 weeks of material executed in 6 weeks, and as many papers due in that time. This quarter has lived up to everything I heard about it, and in many ways it is what I expected the entire program would be. Despite the compressed academics, though, I can’t really blame them for my fatigue.

Though I can’t say for certain, I suspect my Friday night insomnia might have something to do with a deep-seated anxiety about what I am facing in the coming weeks. That freshly pressed diploma will effectively strip away the identity of “graduate student” to which I have been clutching like a teenager with concert tickets. Also, my goal of finding a job still eludes me. Being a student without a job seems okay. But a graduate without a job? Not as cool.

And then there is, of course, the bittersweet anticipation of the end of program itself that is at this point a well-formed routine. Recently I enjoyed the company of some classmates as we pondered our adjustments to life after the program:

  • Will you start cooking dinner again? (Maybe. The husband is doing such a good job at it.)
  • Will your husband be glad to have you back on Saturdays? (I’m not sure. He’s actually adjusted quite nicely to having the day to himself.)
  • Do you have any plans for after graduation? (Some are planning celebratory trips.)
  • Are you excited about being done? (Sort of. Many of us think we will miss the intellectual stimulation and coming here and seeing everyone.)

It was wonderfullly spontaneous moment of group reflection, full of the weary pride that comes only from concluding a rigorous project.

The end is getting very near, and in my mind I see a flipbook of memories reflecting the varied experiences. I walk across the Loop to the train each Saturday morning, and my mental snapshots of Chicago’s public spaces mark the seasonal milestones as I progressed. From the brides and grooms waiting outside the doors at City Hall, to the green-colored water in the fountain for St. Patrick’s Day, those walks were literally part of my journey. Most recently, I encountered two bridge openings that nearly caused me to miss my train. But then, as now, I sprinted to successfully arrive at my destination.

Recently I enjoyed dinner with a classmate on a nice summer evening. As the sun set over us, she charmed me with stories of the engagement and wedding rituals in her home country, and we lingered well past dessert. As one of the last snapshots in my mental flipbook, I think this one is so fitting toward the end. Clearly the day is ending, but what’s on our minds? The joys and adventures still to come.

So I carry on and continue writing, yawning as I go. Good with the bad; anxiety with good times. The program will end, and I am assured repeatedly I will find a job. I love the work I am doing this quarter in the program, and I just hope my next professional experience is half as fulfilling as this one has been.