A tiny, magical creature.

As this exceptionally challenging week comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on all the good in my life. I’m enrolled in a program that I love, doing something I feel passionate and enthusiastic about every day. This brings me joy and energy. I have the support of a partner who puts up with all the downs and helps me celebrate the ups. This brings me a feeling of security. I am healthy, in spite of Mother Nature, who literally swept me off my feet and into a horizontal position yesterday, Father Flu, who knocked me off my game earlier this week, and the ever-stressful struggle that is navigating our healthcare system to accomplish something as simple as getting a prescription renewed. This week, everything that could go wrong went wrong, and yet, it all boils down to this: at the end of the day, it takes only this tiny, magical creature, whose name I don’t even know, to make me feel happy all over.

magicat

Ins & outs of being a “mature” student

Returning to school full-time in your forties ain’t for the faint of heart. Suddenly, after decades of routine 9-to-5ing cushioned by the comforts of a steady income, you find yourself beat, busy and broke. It’s akin to the culture shock of waking up in a foreign country without any local currency in your pockets, barely a cursory ear for the dialect, and a poor understanding of the public transportation system. And just like in that scenario, the locals are friendly, if cautious.

Relating to my younger classmates–or rather, having them relate to me–is tricky business. For the most part, they treat me like a strange, unapproachable creature, one they have to approach carefully and with deferential respect. And maybe I am an odd duck in this particular pond. But this time around, I know why I’m here, and it’s not to meet cute boys or friends-for-life. I’m here because graphic design is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, and coming back to school is how I can get busy getting there. I want to be here. I want to do the work, I enjoy going to class and learning everything there is to learn. My years of toiling in overly-lit cubicles for demanding supervisors have endowed me with an enviable work ethic. It makes what I’ve called “the 24/7 guilt” of always having homework you should be doing bearable. Although all-nighters are completely off the table, so managing my time is a critical skill.

Managing my finances is even more critical, given the financial risk involved in leaping into this new endeavour while standing so close to the precipice of retirement. It has been quite an adjustment to have to carefully consider each and every purchase–including the oh-so-precious caffeine. Let’s be honest, though, thrift is just good practice, no matter your circumstances. And let’s not forget that one of the benefits of those decades of work is having a small nest-egg to fall back on if I need to.

In fact, it’s hard to remember why taking this step felt like such a leap. Why was I so afraid to let go of the daily grind and start fresh? Maybe the first step is the only scary one, and beyond that, it’s just a gentle stroll into a new life.

A blue morning

There’s a poetry in seeing the sunrise at -36 degrees Celsius. You feel like a lonely explorer, out in the wilderness, brave and hardy. The wind swipes at your legs, conspiring with the thin, slick layer of snow to make you lose your purchase. It’s too cold even for birds. The cold makes planes flying overhead sound like they’re cutting through Styrofoam. The air itself looks blue and magical. Everything gleams vividly, and you are alone to experience it, a solitary survivor of some climatic apocalypse.

The irony is that, ensconced in two pairs of pants, double layers of socks, mittens over gloves, a mille-feuilles of undershirt/shirt/cardigan/Thinsulate lining/ankle-length coat, hat, hood, scarf and Kodiak boots, I feel cozier than I have in weeks, shivering through my house in Pashmina shawls and slippers. Except for the sliver of exposed skin around my eyes, every part of me is hugged in warmth. At least for the first 25 minutes. Then, I start to feel a hint of the wind on my skin like a whisper. It says: don’t flirt with me too long, my friendI’ll lull you into a sleep so sweet you’ll never wake up.