It’s midterms already and I find myself making a 9 p.m. run to McDonalds for a chocolate chip frappe because its Thursday, and while I have been taking quizzes and tests all week long, it’s not over yet. In fact, my night has just begun again. I am not one of those parents who can do homework or even really read for school while my kids are awake—crazy, I know. The only time I really struggle with this though is when I have early morning classes. In which case I am just habitually 15 minutes late, “runnin’ on ndn time,” cause cramming down a breakfast and toting coffee to class makes me a more pleasant student, mother, and partner. Coffee is really the key factor here. It’s my one addiction and without it…well, I really am a grouch and it’s tough to be motivated when you’re stewing over minutia.
It’s January in Montana, so this chocolate chip frappe has me driving the seven miles to town in a blizzard with whiteout conditions. I am stewing over the twins who expertly stall bedtime in the face of my perpetually overwhelming scholarly to-do list and the weight of extra-curricular duties. I am also yelling at the cars, which are driving more safely than I, but without as good of headlights; they are creating a backup on a rural Montana highway. I turn up my stereo and realize that I may have my priorities a bit out of whack. But I’m not about to turn around now! In fact, I call my friend and plead to let me come over to study at her place, away from home which has become a self-inflicted, hostile environment. I really need to get back to basics and manage my time proactively.
As I pull into her driveway, after guzzling half of my frappe, I park and take a second to calmly smudge. Whatever you want to call it—catharsis, cleansing, releasing myself of this negativity—I feel renewed. My night I feel has begun again. I knock out just one thing on my to-do list and then take the time to write something, creatively, for myself. Afterwards, I’m feeling more motivated to just plan out my goals for the next day and make a timeline for those goals. This process allows me to prioritize what else I can do tonight before the caffeine wears off and I crash. It’s midnight and I oddly feel this process of self-care is validated because I can get up at seven and get a head start on a shower. The trauma stress I have been feeling and the lack of sleep are toxic for my brain as a mother and a student. Literally, it probably has changed the amount of gray matter in my brain—science, look it up.
In the good company of friends, my shoulders relax, laughter becomes medicine, and eventually I feel ready to humbly return home to apologize to my loving partner for giving in to my stress and fleeing. Sometimes as students, and especially as parents, these stolen moments can make all the difference, like a deep breath after training ourselves to dive into the pursuit of our goals. If you feel like you’re drowning sometimes because of school, or like me you are stressed as a non-traditional student, take a moment for yourself, and prioritize your own catharsis.
Celina Gray (Blackfeet and Little Shell Chippewa) is a student at Salish Kootenai College and the mother of twins.