How My Dog Taught Me to Balance My Student-Work-Family Life

 Student Samantha Lindsay’s dog, Maggie, playing in the snow in Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI

It’s a cold December morning in Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s only 23 degrees at 6am and Maggie, my dog, my copilot, my sidekick, is up ahead sniffing a pile of leaves. Her tail is erect and proudly wagging back and forth as she digs her giant snout deeper into that leaf pile. I wonder what story it’s telling her. I call her name — “Maggie!” — only to be ignored. Whatever she smells is much more important than me. “Let’s go!” Finally she lifts her head, looks in my direction, and begins galloping back to me in a fit of joy and excitement. Her mouth is agape, tongue lolling to the side and bouncing up and down as she runs. I have to bend my knees slightly and not move because her staggering 146 pounds will knock my feet out from under me if I get in her way. She comes to a complete and quick stop in front of me, and looks up at me inquisitively (“What do you want?”) and I say, “Come on, girl, let’s go.”

I have what feels like a thousand meetings today. I need to finish reading chapter 4 on tariffs for my Global Economics class, finish the rest of my homework for the week, I have tickets purchased weeks ago for “A Christmas Carol” for this evening, I’d like to get in a workout, and what the hell am I going to make for dinner? These are all the thoughts racing through my head on this cold, crisp, clear December morning. I tell myself to slow down my thoughts, and that winter isn’t coming — winter is here. I look up and serendipitously see a shooting star in the dark, clear, morning sky. I make a wish for my husband, Cory, to do well on his biochemistry final today.

Samantha and her husband Cory

"JWU has been a huge part of getting me where I need to be for the future."

This is my life over the past few years. I live it now for my family, which brings me tremendous joy. I wake up early at 5am on most weekdays so I can spend time with Maggie. Regardless of the cold, the snow and the wind, she and I will be on our 3-mile walks. I work full-time to provide for myself, Cory and Maggie. I support and encourage Cory who is a full-time student. He tells me that one day he’ll pay off monetarily, but I think he’s paid off already. He made me a better person. I go to the gym so I can be healthy and look and feel the way I want. I’m in school getting an MBA degree at Johnson & Wales University so that I can provide even more for my family. I volunteer at an organization whose mission I fully support and love. I find time to spend with my friends. And I even still find time to binge watch “Stranger Things,” “Roseanne,” “Frasier” or whatever other show I’ve got on my docket.

How do I do this? I simply do. About a year ago I started morning walks with Maggie. Unbeknownst to me, because this wasn’t my original goal, it allowed me to plan my days so that I can use my time wisely and effectively. The stillness of the morning stilled my mind, allowing me to evaluate my day and ultimately my life. These walks give me the time to figure out my priorities and even practice public speaking. I walk speaking out loud to no one but Maggie, and get my words and cadence down. I’ve never been more successful, happier and prouder of myself. Truth be told, Maggie and Cory really have made me a better person. Through spending time with both, and ultimately quiet time with myself, I am able to reflect upon my life. We all have a choice and the choices I make each day to get up early and take care of myself and my family have led to the best decisions I could ever make over the past year. 

 Maggie romping through the snow having a ball

I look forward to seeing what 2018 brings. This year I discovered that our happiness and success are a result of the energy we put in. If Maggie can get joy out of the little things like sniffing a leaf pile or chasing a squirrel, certainly I can find joy in the small things too: morning walks with Maggie, lunch dates with my husband and occasional outings to Trinity Rep to see the latest play.

So, until next time, cheers!