When I was younger, my parents used to make me a special Vietnamese warm drink any time in the winter. They would spoon sweetened condensed milk into a big mug, then pour hot water into it, stirring all the while. And after adding enough condensed milk as necessary to my preferred taste, they would finish it off by giving me bread to dip as I sipped my drink. While this was definitely before my university years, I still find myself unknowingly craving the drink then ultimately making it any time life (at U of T, especially) gets crazy, gets chaotic, gets stormy, gets sad.
And, well, I also crave the drink when I miss my family.
For context, I’m living away from home down in the city this school year. I’ll admit, I hate living back at home in Vaughan. I love the autonomy and freedom I have going back to my own (rented) apartment, of being able to walk everywhere in Toronto or get to places anywhere with the TTC, or even being able to invite friends over without having to ask for permission. The city is my home.
But sometimes, I’m afflicted by a wave of not homesickness, but in need of my mom’s fantastic Bun Rieu or my dad being the first one to laugh at his jokes, or my sister’s raving on and on about politics, or my brother holed up in his room playing League of Legends. I’m the kind of person who values connections and friendships and U of T is great for that (even when I had no friends in elementary school, I went online to Habbo Hotel to remedy that while at home, don’t judge me), but nostalgia is a yearning hand at the back of your mind. You can spend the entire day doing tasks and writing essays and meeting friends, but at the end of the day you’ll find yourself thinking of your family.
It’s kind of odd to see U of T take up most of my time where seeing my parents doesn’t feel like a priority for me. Even when I commuted for a few months last year, I would be away at school for most of the day, trudge home exhausted around 8-9PM, do some homework, pass out, then wake up at 9AM to repeat the cycle. I barely saw my parents then even while coming back to Vaughan all the time.
So this year, I’ve told myself that I need to make more plans and take more initiative in connecting with my parents. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m turning twenty one next year or that I’m more aware that family comes first. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized my career aspirations will take me far away from my kin. Maybe it’s because of warm drinks and baguettes.
I’m going to start balancing my U of T time with family time. Today, I’m headed back to Vaughan to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and while I have to miss a class (email your professors about it beforehand – they’re very understanding!), better a class than some quality moments with your family.
Do you have any tips for maintaining a good balance between family life and school? Let me know with a comment! -AH