I’m now in my final year of my Masters of Fine Arts program. In addition to writing a book, filing book reports and completing other assignments, I also have to spend two weeks in Halifax this summer for an intensive residency. It means saying goodbye to my kids, friends, and family, and living in a dorm room for two weeks. It means focussing on myself and my goals, spending time with colleagues, and learning everything I can so I can earn my degree.
Last year, my first year in the program, I was a nervous wreck. I cried in the days leading up to my flight, I cried in the airport, on my plane, and when I arrived. Leaving my boys for two weeks was one of the most difficult experiences I’d ever had to face. I missed them terribly, but I knew I had to persevere. I had no choice. I ended up making wonderful new friends, had time to think about my goals and develop my project, and I came home a new and improved woman.
Now, I’m off again, and suddenly I’m back to being nervous. Can I really do this again? How will I say good bye to my boys, my boyfriend, my friends? I survived last year, but wasn’t once enough? I’m filled with sadness and doubt. I will especially miss my boys’ faces. Their hugs. Seeing them off on the camp bus in the morning and taking them home with me at the end of the day. I’ve promised to speak to them multiple times a day on FaceTime. I will think about them always. I will buy them souvenirs. I will count down the days and the sleeps until I’m home with them again.
I didn’t realize that leaving the second time around would be so hard. I didn’t know I’d feel as sick to my stomach as last year. But maybe that’s the problem with us moms. We often have a hard time doing anything for ourselves. We feel guilty and sick as a matter of course. As sad as I am, this year, from this moment on, I’m going to try looking at things differently. I’m going to have a new attitude. I’m going to embrace every taste, sight, lecture, experience. I’m going to focus on myself—on my book, my degree, on achieving my goal. I know the lay of the land now. I have friends, a bike to get around. I will go to the gym and my favourite grocery store. I will try new restaurants. I will go fishing. I will socialize with colleagues. I will smile. I will not cry. I will still count down the days and the nights, but I know they will come. And when I get back, I have planned so many things to look forward to: A trip to PEI with my boys. It will be a special vacation just for us to make up for lost time. We are going to Muskoka. We are participating in a children’s mud race. Before I know it, my kids will be the ones nervous to start school. It’s a new year, a new grade, new class, friends, and teachers. I will have to support them as they deal with jittery stomachs, doubts, and fears about starting something new and scary.
I will be able to reassure them that everything will be okay because I will know from experience that it will. I will be able to tell them that being scared is normal, but sometimes they just have to give things a try, take things one day or one sleep at a time, just like I did. Things that were scary on day one will become less scary on day two. Slowly they will adjust. They too will learn the lay of the land. They will make friends. They will be happy. Just like I was when I went to school.