Then, I got an email from my honors college adviser and one of the professors I learned a lot from in college. (A long aside about this particular professor: while she and I did not always see eye-to-eye, I really enjoyed all of her classes as it taught me, the computer science problem solver, some of the more complex sides of social justice and made me really examine the things I believe in. Her classes made me more articulate, more nuanced, and more careful when considering the other side of an argument, both politically and personally. She made me think, and isn't that one of the things you're supposed to get from college?)
That tough day, I got an email from her after a VERY brief update I had just sent her about my post-graduation life. I won't share all of it as some is personal, but here are some of the little encouragements from that note that really shined for me that day, and almost made me cry on my tough day.
Regarding my challenges at work while still enjoying my job:
"I'm so proud that you have found a niche that continues to challenge you and that you are also finding a way to make your mark and a difference for gender dynamics in STEM. You always make me smile but that made me smile HUGE!"
Regarding my relatively new marriage:
"Be patient and kind with each other and remember that your love is why you're together and facing life's challenges together."
And her final line:
"Emily, I'm so proud of the woman you've become and are becoming. Go you!!!"
And that note is PRECISELY why I chose to go to UMBC. Because I knew, after much dragging of my heels, that at UMBC, through my beloved CWIT and the amazing Honors College, that I would get that personal touch, that connection to my teachers, that would make their encouragement something I valued post-graduation, and that staying in touch with me would be important to them.
And THAT is my UMBC story. That is why, despite what experience others may have, despite the fact that UMBC is not without it's flaws, that is why I love my UMBC. Because I care about the people there, and they care about me.