MY GRADUATE SCHOOL JOURNEY HAS FINALLY COME TO AN END!!!!!
I started this blog ~1 month before I began my graduate program in sport psychology, in October of 2014. If you’ve been following along this entire time you are probably familiar with my story, and if not here is a brief synopsis:
When I was 16 years old I was injured in a car accident. It was the summer before my junior year of high school. I had some pretty severe injuries and I wasn’t able to run. I went to running camp anyway. A woman named Kate Fonshell, a 1996 Olympian in the 10k, spoke at that camp. She had a degree in sport psychology. Everything she spoke about resonated with me so deeply. Though I wasn’t able to train that summer, I had the best cross-country season of my high school career, and what I still consider to be the very best running season I’ve ever had. This was absolutely the power of my mind, solely influenced by Kate’s lecture, because I was in no physical condition to run as well as I ran that year. Listening to Kate’s lecture was the most powerful experience in my life. I became obsessed with sport psychology and it quickly became my dream to work in that field one day. After college my life went a different direction. It didn’t seem practical at that time in my life to go to graduate school for sport psychology. Sadly, I just settled for what I had rather than chasing what I desired and it created a huge void in my life. Not one day passed where I wasn’t regretful and longing for this dream. When I started coaching it reminded me that something was missing. Coaching led me straight to graduate school where I’ve been diligently working on my masters degree. Each day since applying to graduate school that huge void I had been feeling got smaller and smaller, until now when it is nonexistent.
It’s difficult to follow your dreams, it is down right terrifying because failure is possible, and following a dream can sometimes seem overwhelming if you look at all that it entails and all of the sacrifices you’ll be making to fulfill it.
Throughout the time I’ve been in graduate school I’ve had 3 different academic advisors, 2 thesis advisors, 2 student ID numbers (neither of which I remember), I’ve done 4 internships in 3 different states, run 3 marathons, I’ve moved across the country, lived in a different state than Phil 2 times, I’ve started a business, and I thought I was going to graduate so many times that I lost count. It’s been a long exhausting journey and for those of you who are close to me you know that I have been tirelessly working on this degree for 1,357 days (yes, I kept track). I’ve had setbacks and failures but I overcame all of them. Looking back at everything I am just so overwhelmed. This was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, the most stress I’ve ever endured, the thing that has scared me the most in life, and the longest, most important dream I’ve ever dreamt. I had to become more resilient than I’ve ever been. I’ve been wanting and dreaming this for 15 years and now that it’s here it feels so surreal. I’ve been blessed with the gift of courage. The courage to endure, the courage to find a way, and the courage to realize it is never too late to follow your dreams, whatever they may be. After this experience I no longer believe in missed opportunities, I only believe in creating a plan B when plan A fails. Going to graduate school in my late 20s was definitely plan B.
A professor I had once told me that the struggle is what makes the story interesting. I could write forever about the details of my struggle, and I am sure it would be interesting, but instead I am just going to tell the story of my graduation because getting there was a true testament to my entire graduate school experience.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go to my graduation but a few days before the graduation we finally bought plane tickets and booked a hotel. Friday morning Phil and I drove to Denver (a 3+) hour drive. After we boarded the plane we sat on the plane for an hour and a half. The flight was delayed “due to weather”. It was sunny outside, there were no visible weather issues. As the flight crew made an announcement about the delay tears immediately starting running down my face. We were flying into San Francisco due to arrive at 1:30pm and then we’d have to get the rental car and drive to my school in Pleasant Hill, a 40 mile drive. The sport psychology graduation would begin at 6pm. If you are familiar with San Francisco traffic you’ll immediately understand why I would cry over the flight delay. It was nearing 4pm when we finally got the rental car and began driving. The GPS kept estimating we’d arrive at 6:15pm and I was loosing my mind. I was extremely frustrated. The traffic was horrendous and I was on the verge of missing a very important life event because a flight got delayed and we were stuck in endless traffic. As I’d eventually say to one of my professors later on, “physically getting to the graduation was the most stressful part of graduate school because I had no control over the flight or the traffic”. Yeah, graduate school was stressful and difficult but I always had some control over the outcome; the outcome was determined by the choices I made throughout the process. As we were sitting in traffic on the bay bridge I was devising a plan B. Plan A was to arrive early, check into the hotel, shower, and make my hair look presentable. Since that was no longer a reality I devised plan B: hop into the back seat, change my clothes, and sprint out of the car as soon as we arrived. As we got closer to my school traffic let up and we were able to arrive at 5:45pm. Not enough time to check into the hotel and shower and still needing to change in the back seat of the car, but I would’t be late. So, I changed in the back seat of the rental car, combed my hair with my fingers, took an excited finish line style photo, washed my face, and walked in the door at 5:59pm.
I wasn’t late. When I said the graduation was a true testament to my graduate school experience, the travel issues exemplify why. There were many things along my graduate school journey that I thought I had control over, and then environmental factors would erupt making it impossible for me to adhere to my plan A. I’d always have to develop a plan B, and though it wasn’t ever ideal, it always sufficed and it never failed me. The struggle, the things that really are out of our control, the challenges, they don’t actually have control over us. We have control over them by the way we choose to respond or react.
After the sport psychology graduation we attempted to check into the hotel that Phil had booked online. It was 8:30pm and we were told we didn’t have a room. Rather than getting agitated we opted to go pick up the masters hood I was borrowing from a friend while the hotel sorted out the issue. Because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go to graduation, I missed the deadline to order my cap and gown. I was told I could order everything on Amazon but quickly realized that Phil had a black masters gown so I chose to save myself some money and wear that. I was a bit big but it was my plan B along with borrowing the hood from a friend and ordering a 2018 tassel on Amazon. Plan B allowed me to catch up with friends I made during the summer of 2016 when I was in California for school, so in the end Plan B brought me joy!
We headed back to the hotel around 10pm to learn that we STILL did not have a room. The man working offered to let us sleep in a conference room for the night and then became argumentative with us when we said no. Sadly, this was the 3rd time I cried that day. 1st on the plane, 2nd at the sport psychology graduation for good reasons of course, and finally when I thought I’d have nowhere to sleep. Spoiler alert: We got a real room.
The next day was the university graduation and everything went much smoother than the day before.
I attended my graduation representing GOALden Peak Performance and New Castle Running Club, two things I am extremely proud of and both of which were plan Bs, and wearing borrowed regalia, a reminder that I never could have done this alone.
As this journey comes to an end I can’t stop thinking about how many times my plan Bs turned out to be greater than the plan As. Dream chasing is about making your own way, and thriving with the plan B.