It seems like it’s been constant crunch time since a week or two before Thanksgiving break. There have been papers to write, applications to update, projects to complete and advising appointments and office hours to attend. The computer viruses, the real viruses, the dishes and dirty clothes and of course the inability to take proper care of myself — everything has been slowly increasing in pressure like a bad head cold.

A night not too long ago, I was banging around in my kitchen in a state of annoyance, trying to be an adult about things and pull together a meal. “Dinner” ended up being a plate of half-cooked hash browns. As I shoved the ice-covered rock of shredded potatoes back into my freezer, I almost missed the new magnet sentences. Visitors usually like to arrange our word magnets either in cutesy or imaginatively suggestive ways, since we only have pronouns, basic verbs and boring words like “friend” or “star.” But anyway, as I said, these new sentences I hadn’t seen yet, and there was a short one right by the freezer handle that said: “You have time.”

“Yeah, okay,” I said as sarcastically as I could to my stupid fridge and the stupid word magnets. I stalked away to eat my semi-raw potatoes with a liberal amount of ketchup and I didn’t think about the sentence again until later.

A year ago, as a first-semester freshman, I had so much time. I look back on those happy days with fond remembrance. I also wasn’t excited in the least about returning home for Thanksgiving break. This year, I couldn’t wait. My last class ended and I ran to my car before happily driving off to my parents’ house where I wouldn’t have to do any homework or try to cook for myself.

The day after Thanksgiving, my mom, aunt, two cousins and I headed over to my grandparents’ house to spend the day learning to make chrusciki, or angel wings, which are a traditional pastry made out of dough that’s been twisted into ribbons, deep-fried and covered in powdered sugar. My grandma has perfected the recipe over 50 years or so and decided it was time that more people in the family learned how to make them. Chrusciki are usually made for holidays or special events because the process is time-consuming and has some delicate steps. Last year, unenthusiastic as I was to be back, I probably would have been annoyed at spending any time with any family whatsoever.

But this year was different. Spending the day watching my youngest cousin make a mess with the powdered sugar, my aunt worrying about the dough burning, my grandma patiently supervising and my mom just being my mom was priceless.

Even though I probably should have been working on a project that day, I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I got to banter with my 14-year-old cousin, who’s just so smart now because she’s in high school (as soon as I said that, she shot back with “You think you’re so smart just because you’re in college!”). I got to gossip with my aunt and my mom and talk about — what else — my academic future. I got to see my grandparents without the pretense of a holiday or someone’s birthday. I learned how to make chrusciki the Rychlinski way, which makes a the final product unlike anything from any store.

It’s especially easy to get tied up right now as the semester comes to a close and there seems to be no time for anything. Deadlines creep up on us like the sunsets at five o’clock while family and friends are set to the side as a result. The University’s last day of finals is Dec. 23 — later than almost every other college in the state.

But I think back to my magnets that some random person arranged into the sentence — “You have time” — and I think that even though I feel like I barely have time to do my homework, sleep, or thaw out some potatoes, I can fit in the important stuff. So I guess it’s up to you to figure out what that stuff is. So whether you’re done on Dec. 13 or Dec. 23, hang in there for a little while longer. Warm up, chill out, but most of all just take some time.

But then again, maybe someone should buy me a dirty magnet set for Christmas so I’ll stop getting philosophical at the fridge.

Vanessa Rychlinski can be reached at vanrych@umich.edu.

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