a tale of a university parking permit and a trip to walmart

Earlier this week I picked up my prepaid parking permit for the University of Arkansas, where I begin my PhD career next week.  (I won’t get into how much the permit cost, or the economics of this lovely little side business that the University has, because that will only make both you and I mad at the beginning of what should be a light-hearted blog post.)

The day of permit pickup it was raining and I was hoping to find a close parking spot.  This didn’t happen, so I threw on my hooded rain jacket and bolted quickly to the overhang of the building where lines of students were waiting at their respective category of parking permits’ table.  When I reached the overhang, I slipped the hood of my rain jacket down (ah- peripheral vision) and was face-to-face with several young first-year undergraduate students, many of them with parents in tow.

In this rather small moment, I had a momentous realization.  Even though I have all of the excitement of a first-year student (because I am a first-year student at a new school pursuing a new degree), my life is COMPLETELY different than the last time I was a new student.  I might have the butterflies of a new school year starting, but I’m also a grown, married, home-owning, dog-owning woman, dancing in between the world of student-hood AND so many other responsibilities.

So much can change between 18 and 26.

This subtle observation was cemented when I traveled further down the road to the local superstore, where I needed to pick up approximately three things: light bulbs, paint primer, and Draino.  As I made my way through the aisles of the store, I passed college students pushing carts full to the brim of non-perishable foods and dorm decorations.  It forced a reminiscing of my own supermarket trip eight years ago to fill up a cart with dorm necessities.  (I also encountered a few young men trailing behind their parents as moms and dads placed well-meant Swiffer dusters and bags of apples in their carts.  Bless them for trying.)

The obvious in hindsight wasn’t so obvious to me a week ago: there is just a plain weirdness to this season of life.  Now that I’ve acknowledged that, I’m eager to learn what balancing aspirations and responsibilities looks like in this scenario.

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