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  • It was my third week of college, and I hung up the phone with my dad. "Bye," he said. "Don't forget: there will be bread. There will be milk."

    That was his favorite slogan, from an old Soviet movie about Lenin. There will be bread. There will be milk. Everything will work out in the end.

    It was incredibly hard to remember. College was incredibly high stress and competitive, with everything having an application process. I had just gotten cut from Model UN and rejected from a creative nonfiction memoir-writing class that I had applied for, and called my dad in tears. He tried to reassure me that everything would work out in the head. "I want to go home," I had sobbed. But he had to go to sleep because it was night in China, and I had to go to class in an hour.

    So then I just sat there at my desk, staring out those huge glass windows overlooking an unfamiliar and yet slowly becoming familiar building, with rows of bikes and a dining hall and anonymous students trickling out from within. And I thought about how far I was from home and how far away I was from my dad, and the tears that had been trickling slowly down my face down came in rapid succession. I tried to remember what my dad had been saying, that there would be bread and there would be milk and everything would pass as long as I stayed strong and smiled. I took a deep breath and tried to suppress the sobs that threatened to rack my throat but I felt brittle and I felt small, like one of those dusty china miniatures on the shelf that one shake of the dustpan would send flying onto the floor, broken.

    And the pictures of my family that I had printed out from CVS the day before were spread out on the desk of me. In the pictures I was smiling broadly, laughing with my mom in matching dark sunglasses. There was the picture of me kissing my sister’s cheek in front of the Washington Monument—I struggled to remember that that smiling girl was me, that just a month ago that had been me in front of the Washington Monument, that I had been the grumpy girl giving my dad the silent treatment, that I had done those things, that I had once been so incredibly happy.

    And I thought about that one glorious day we had spent at the beach, and how perfectly I had navigated from home to Ocean City, and how we had driven past that long arching bridge that went on for miles, the sky a perfect light blue behind us, the sand a fine white, and how we had ordered crepes at a hole-in-the-wall creperie and how I had fetched my sister samples from different fudge stores, and how I had cried on the way home as we all burst out into song because the moment was too perfect and I knew it couldn’t last.

    It was just a day, and days have a tendency to end, and now it all seemed so far. And I was 7 hours away from home and god knows how many hours away from my dad, and all I had was this window and these pictures and a place where I felt so alone, so incredibly alone and young and small and weak and ill-equipped. My dad’s favorite slogan is that old Soviet mantra, “There will be bread. There will be milk.”

    And all I can do right now is trust that he’s right, and that everything will work out in the end. And if it doesn’t, it’s not the end yet, because there will be bread and there will be milk and I’m more than the mound of tissues piled on a math book. I tried to remember what my mother had told me just the night before: that all I had to do was look back, and I would see them, standing behind me in all that I did. Always standing behind me. My grandparents. My mother. My father. My sister.
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