Dustin Seelinger: Father, Commuter, New Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts MFA Ambassador

Dustin Seelinger, self portrait

A self portrait of the author

I go to school in Chicago. When you’re in the city, I find that one of the first things that people ask you is, “Where do you live?”. They are expecting you to say a neighborhood, like Logan’s Square, Pilsen, or Wrigleyville. I live in Dekalb. One of two responses always follow: 1.) The statement expressing shock (e.g. “Oh my god,” or “Seriously?!”); or 2.) “Where is that?”

Dekalb. Well, you take the Metra Union Pacific–West line all the way to the end… Then you get in your car and drive another forty minutes west. Why am I doing this? Well, the easiest and most practical explanation is that my wife and kids are attending graduate school and preschool, respectively, at the university there. I usually just tell people that I like trains. Which is mostly true, most of the time. Riding trains involves a great opportunity for people watching and a ton of working time. My first semester at Columbia has been pretty reading- and writing-heavy. My ultra long commute gives me ample time to get these assignments done. In fact, I am writing this blog entry on the train right now.

But, the best thing about having such a long commute from a place so vastly different from Chicago is that every morning I get to watch the Chicago skyline emerge out of the mist as we approach Olgilvie Transportation Center. Every time I step out of Olgilvie, I get to experience the awe of this marvelous city. The response is usually breathtaking. (That can be taken literally, depending on how windy it is.)

Then, it’s another hop onto another train. This time, it’s the Green Line ‘L’. Clinton to Roosevelt. This affords me another round of people watching and a great mini tour of the Loop. You pass by the Merchandise Mart, over the river, down toward the South Loop and Columbia College Chicago. Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts MFA program was the only graduate program that I applied to. I not only find myself fortunate to be in Chicago every day, I think that I am even more fortunate to be in this program. The awe that hits me when I arrive in the city is amplified by the facilities in this program. The Center for the Book and Paper Arts is stunning, with windows and all of the equipment I could possibly hope for.

I won’t lie. There are times when the commute is really hard on me. It’s two hours each way. It’s time that I have to spend away from my family. There are days when I really don’t want to do it. But, I do. Why? Because I am going to school in Chicago. I am going to school at the only graduate program that I applied to. I am going for my family just as much as I am for myself. Everyday is a challenge, and I am better for it. That being said, living a little bit closer would be really nice.