A day in the life of ….

It is 10.43pm. And I have time for only a short one…
7am today. Woke up and dragged myself out of bed to go and do some cardio at the gym. I haven’t been at the gym for the last 5 days. I thought it was time to break the terrible pattern. Brought my iPad and watched the first episode of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’. I’ve promised myself I only get to watch my shows when I’m on the treadmill or elliptical (thanks Alyssa for the idea, it’s a real horrible idea you know, such torture)
Came home. Showered and had breakfast.
9am. The day was so gloomy but we had already planned to head to the Shedd aquarium today. Ihsan had been repeating on loop how he missed the aquarium. He also said he wants to live right next to it (sighs). So we went. But, I spent most of my time at a cafe, going over readings for a class I had tonight (I was feeling guilty for the half-assed blogpost I put up last night, 1 day late mind you. And nothing in comparison to the quality of writing of some of my classmates). I did take the boys to the aquatic show, letting hubs sit at the cafe with a cup of hot chocolate to be away from the boys for a little (Nothing to feel guilty about, very important for parental sanity).
The view from the cafe. Dark dark skies terribly chilly winds. Welcome to the Windy City, huh?
I napped in the car on the way home. We had lunch and then we went for the boys first swimming lessons at a nearby swimming school. You guessed it, I had my readings along with me.
Will blog more about this experience another time!
We headed home. I had an early dinner (4.30pm). Had a hot shower. Popped some pills and lay down for a rest. I’ve been having tension headaches almost every day. 
I then walked over to school for a 6pm team meeting. We’re working on a problem-based assignment for a class I’m taking. 
Before the meeting, I spent about 15 minutes complaining about how the readings are so dense. How all the activity on our hive (our online learning platform) is making me feel very unintelligent compared to my colleagues.
Virtual meetings are huge in this prog!
At 7pm, we log onto our virtual class. I’m blown away by the technology and how I’m in a small actual classroom on campus with my team-mates, but also online with 44 other students, some as far away as Australia! It’s my first ever online virtual class. 
It’s daunting, at the same time hilarious! The comments on the chat bar blow me away1
At one point, there was a poll and I was in the minority that answered positively to the question. My team, the one I was with non-virtually in the classroom, urged me to ‘raise my hand’ in the class and share my views. I felt a little pressured, even though one of my classmates, sensing my discomfort assured me that I didn’t have to. But I did. I spoke up and I don’t know whether what I said was even logical, but I was glad I had team mates willing to put me out of my comfort zone.
Our virtual class ended at 8.30pm. Our team stuck around to finish up our meeting, picking up on juicy bits our professors had doled out during the class. We worked out what needed to be done before our next meeting.
I walk home. It’s 9.15pm. The boys are fast asleep. I let out a grunt of acknowledgement to my hubs, changed into jammies, opened up my laptop and tackled my blog reflection post for Thursday’s class. Tomorrow, I have to read the 4 chapters plus 1 compulsory reading for that same class (never mind the 3 other optional readings assigned) and complete 1 assignment that we’re discussing in THAT SAME CLASS. 
I also have to find time to do some interviews for a discovery assignment for another class (why aren’t the contacts replying me?) and then start tackling assignments for next week.
It’s 11.07pm now. I’m feeling good that I’m spending this little time blogging. I do want to share my academic experience (with those who are keen to learn about it). Also, it would really help address any concerns that my colleagues or former/current/potential bosses may have about how I spend my time here. It’s not all about fishing, sunny days with the kids touring around. It’s pure hard work la!!! *cries*
I find it even more difficult to balance between my priorities now. Especially since I’ve stated how time with my kids is important and a priority over these 2 years. It would be easier to just chuck them in school all day, the way I do in Singapore. Sighs……(yes, still carrying around years of mommy guilt).
I’m going to have some left over tiramisu now and watch a little bit of tv. Brainless stuff like fixing homes. And then tomorrow wake up to go to the gym so I can finish that episode of ‘How to get away with murder’ and maybe start on the new episode of Jane the Virgin. Sigh, who am I kidding? I should dump all this entertainment and just watch Ted Talks and podcasts like all my other brilliant classmates!

Change is Good!

Oh dear…i’m so behind on my posts it is not funny. It is even less funny that I am behind on my readings and assignments for next week. This program is so seriously packed with work that I am in all kinds of stress!

But anyhow… Change is good! I read this line in one of my assigned readings and had to stop and reflect about it.

This entire move to the US to pursue my postgrad is an entire learning and change experience in itself. And it’s given me so much food for thought. Given the I am in a Learning and Organizational Change program, i’m constantly stopping at concepts and relating it to my experience moving to Evanston.

One of the first books we are reading for my Foundations course is William Bridges’s Managing Transitions.

I’ve only read 2 chapters (cos I have like a ton of other readings to do, not because it’s not a good book) and find so much that echoes my own experiences.

He writes about the importance of managing transitions in the change process. These transition phase can begin long before the actual change and end long after the change takes place. Managing transitions is about helping people through 3 phases:

1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time you need to help people to deal with their losses.

2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the ‘neutral zone’: its when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning takes place.

3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop a new identity, experience the new energy, and discovery the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work

(Bridges, 2009)

It’s quite amazing, reflecting back on my own change journey, how I had also gone through these phases.

The Letting Go phase for me started long before all the plans for the move were even confirmed. Conversations with my bosses and my colleagues about my plans to move here, questions on how they would find a replacement, how we could keep the team stable started me on my transition of letting go.

The people who worked with me would tell you that letting go was not easy for me. I wanted to cling on for dear life. Partly because I love the work, but also because I was afraid of who I was or would be without the work. Work has defined my identity and existence for so long, it’s who I am. So much so that letting go of the work, was downright frightening for me! It wasn’t relief I felt the last day of work. It was anguish, even with all the support and help I had received during that phase.

Saying goodbye to work was one phase of letting go, another phase of letting go was then the saying goodbye to my home and my family. That was a phase in the transition that I had not thought much about. I definitely felt the emotional impact of that even more, tearing and crying while I packed up my house. That’s why my packing took so long. My emotions would bubble up and get in the way of me doing anything. Support from friends, always a watsapp message away, helped me, heaps!

The Neutral Phase was this crazy jet-lagged phase which I had only survived because of 2 fellow Singaporean friends, who basically held our hands through this phase. It was literally the “psychological no man’s land between the old-reality and the new one. It is the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new.”

Hubs and I spent one or two nights, during this phase, just talking about how difficult the experience was. I even wondered whether I had made the right decision by moving out here, and feeling so far removed from anything I was familiar with (aside from Fern and Stanley). It was always being in a limbo between being so excited about being here and at the same time wishing we were home.

We are definitely at the The New Beginning Phase now. But only just, maybe in the last few days or so. We’ve settled down, feeling more comfortable now that we are mobile, know where we can get things we need and comfortably assuming our new identities now. Me as a Northwestern grad student and my family as F2 visa holders in a foreign land. =)

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself over this period is that I am not as confident, independent and fearless as I thought I was. The only reason anyone might think those things about me is because I have this amazing network of support, that is working 24/7, 7 days a week to help me, in ways that were truly invisible to me until recently, so that I can do what I do on a daily basis.

On a personal level, moving to Chicago was worth it. Because just the process of moving here, helped me realize all the things I need, and am truly grateful for:

1. The family back home who support, love and care for my family and I.

2. The wonderful people I work with, and work for, who make everyday meaningful. Who challenge me, provide me the space to learn and grow, and forgive me for being less than perfect, in every sense of the world.

3. For being able to do meaningful and purposeful work.

4. The friends and family who encourage and support me, and remind me to keep my eyes on the ball. Who repeat again and again how confident they are in me, that they may be the only reasons why I believe in myself.

5. The friends who hold my hands, watch our boys and feed us, so that we don’t lose our way in our transition (you know who you are!)

So if nothing else, this experience would have helped me realize how much love, care and support I have around me, which I have definitely taken for granted! And I think, that’s already a big win for me.

So change is good, at least in my case! Keep your mind and heart open to the possibilities of learning and discovery!