Thanksgiving could be my favourite holiday of the year. Unfortunately, it has been a long time since I have been able to enjoy this wonderful event without an academic burden on my mind.  This time of thanks is usually associated with exams, grants, and upcoming conference deadlines.  In a Pavlovian manner, I now associate turkey and cranberry sauce with the stress of studying. Turnips, stuffing, and smashed potatoes all remind me of the cornucopia of work that waits for me on my desk.

In my own poor planning, I have added my wedding anniversary and my son’s first birthday in this week of thanks. My husband and I recently shared a romantic couple’s massage last week in celebration of our 6th wedding anniversary. We soon realized it was a mistake putting us in the same room, because instead of relaxing, we used our rare time together to outline an excellent plan for submitting a paper to an Emergency Medicine journal. Not exactly romance at its best, but in attaining this plan, we achieved a level of relaxation only to be understood by academics.  

In regards to my son’s first birthday, I had a high bar to reach since the planning of four previous birthdays for my daughter. Her birthday falls on June 30th, perhaps the greatest day ever for a birthday. It is the day before a holiday, so her party always falls on Canada Day. There is no other holiday to deter away from the attention of her event, and there is usually NOTHING related to academia on the burner.  The anticipation building up to the event is interrupted by very little other than color scheme and party theme changes. For example, this year the theme was cowboys/cowgirls. However, at the last minute, she changed it to Princesses. So, your choice was to arrive as a cowboy, cowgirl, or princess. The only challenge greater than being a parent in grad school is: being a grad student who has a friend with kids. All of my friends have been victimized to these parties, and all have left without injury. They have dressed up, coordinated kids’ games, and have participated in full contact games of “kids soccer” and “potato sack races” (without the kids of course). This year was no exception, and most of my closest grad friends showed up in tiaras and cowboy boots to this party in the 40 degree heat. It made me realize that this journey of grad studies was about much more than getting an A. The friends I have met here will likely be the friends who will show up in tiaras and boots to my 75th birthday party.

So, back to my son. He will likely have a great little party, but it will take a little bit more creativity and planning at 3am after papers are submitted and conference presentations are prepped. Our wedding anniversary “relaxation” will be postponed until late November, when we find time to scoot away on a rainy cold weekend.  Until then, there will be late nights that will be driven by the excitement of going to some very exciting places in the world to present at conferences. The difficult work is outweighed by the rewards of travelling and presenting in exciting places such as Mexico, Denver, and Australia in the next few months.  To make a comparison to baseball, October is the lead up month to the “big Dance”. The hours are long, but the rewards are incredible.  As per usual, my family always comes first, and this months’ Pirate party will go on. My friends will come with their chocolate gold medallions, and will hopefully leave with a map of how to balanced life. Their friendship fuels me in this Grad Life, and my family grounds me in my life in general. To that I give thanks and have absolutely nothing to worry about. Happy thanksgiving to my friends, family and to all of McGill staff and students.

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