Carving a New Path

The following is more of a journal entry than a health-related blog post.  Conveniently, this is my site, and I can deviate from intended content without consequence.  Perhaps you’ll find my post-graduate journey resonates with your own experiences; I’m definitely not the first of my friends to feel empty-handed even with a diploma.  My intention is to share that even when the surface seems radiant, we all carry doubts.

Without further ado, my post-graduate journey:

Last December, I graduated for the first time.  The celebration of my 4 and a half years felt somewhat hollow.  Though proud of what I’d accomplished, my education journey was far from over, with MBA classes starting only a few weeks later.

Months before graduation, I’d made the decision to abandon my previous plans of attending OT school and started looking for a job.  With no opportunities jumping out at me, I enrolled in the MBA program.  I’d always known I wanted an MBA, but rushing into it was more out of desperation than desire.  I needed to feel like I was moving forward, even though I didn’t know what direction I was meant to head.

Occupational therapy was a calling I thought I had until an internship showed me how wrong I was.  I come from a family with established careers.  Doctors, therapists, lawyers, bankers… people who know what type of role they’re meant to be in, committed to obtaining proper credentials, and stayed the course.

I thought I wanted something similar.  The job security of a medical degree was enticing on paper, but in reality, it wasn’t for me.  Therapy follows a script, tailored to individuals and their needs, but nonetheless a script.  I felt my creativity was limited in this role, but I told myself it would be “okay” if I could obtain a pediatric role in OT.  As I did my research, I realized how unlikely it would be for me to start in pediatrics, and I pictured long days with post-op patients stretching out forever in front of me.  The security sounded great on paper, but the reality of being in one role for the rest of my life was terrifying.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “Well, you could move into a supervisory role.”  You’re right, and if I’d stayed that course, I would have done so with haste.  Luckily, I have an amazing support system who made sure I skipped the step where I was miserable.

My boyfriend was the first to speak up.  He made me realize that while I’d been creating a path in my head, that was the only place it existed.  In reality, my horizons were wide open.

When I first struck out in a new direction, it felt like hacking through undergrowth with a machete.  Gone was the comfortably worn path I’d prepared for myself.  There was a certain thrill associated with the terror.  The freedom to choose any direction was exhilarating, but the lack of certainty was nauseating.  As I told the people close to me about my complete lack of direction, I was shocked by the outpouring of support and love that met me.  It was this that kept me from turning back to my beaten trail and catapulted me ahead.

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Their excitement for my journey was contagious.  So I held my hands up and asked, “God what’s the plan?”  I quit deciding for myself, and I sought His leadership instead.  What a difference that made.

I have one more semester left in the MBA program, but my graduation in May of 2018 will be a much different affair than December of 2016.  I don’t have it all planned out – in fact I don’t intend to ever live that way again, but I do have a direction.  I’ve accepted a position with Cisco Systems in their Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP).  It’s a highly competitive program that will immerse me in all things Cisco, and I’m absolutely thrilled to have received this offer.

Sometimes, it’s letting go that lets us get everything together.  Staying the course would have been a safer decision.  For the rest of my life, I’d have woken up every day knowing the career that awaited me.  This is wide open.  There are ladders to climb, new departments to explore, and further on down the road, who know, there might even be new companies.  My psych degree tells me that human beings hate uncertainty, but I seem to be thriving on it.  I think that’s largely due to the huge safety net created by the loving people in my life.

So thank you daddy, because knowing you’d kick ass if I needed backup has made me bold.  Thank you mama, because having you as my #1 fan has made me confident.  Thank you Henry, because you’re the best built in best friend, and I always glow with pride when asked about my little brother.  Thank you Lawrence, because without you, I wouldn’t have seen my own potential.  Thank you to my girls (you know who you are), because I know on the hard days one of you will always be waiting with a bottle of wine.

I’m carving a new path.  It’s scary at times, but I’m living for the thrill of seeing where I end up.  I have two takeaway from this experience:

(One)     Never assume someone else’s path has been easy.  Nothing in my life has come as easily to me as I’ve made it look.  I blame my tendency to make difficult things look simple on my years of dancing – placing your body in varying states of pain all while making it look like art.  Be aware that you’re never alone in your struggles, even if the social media twist on reality makes it feel that way.  We all struggle.

(Two)     Embrace the unknown as a chance to find greater happiness.  Everything in our nature tells us it’s scary, but that fear makes the end result worth so much more.  Depend on your social support system and be dependable in return.  Facing the unknown is better than remaining locked in a miserable known life.

If you stuck with me to the end, I thank you, and I hope you could both relate to and learn from this post.  I’m truly so excited for my new position with Cisco, and I hope the new year brings excitement and joy for you, too!  Cheers to 2018!

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Miss Clemson University 2016

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:11

That verse has been playing in my head ever since I was crowned Miss Clemson University in January of 2016.  From the moment I hit campus freshmen year, I was in love with this institution, but I never anticipated the opportunity to represent it in such a special way.  This was a part of my life planned by someone much wiser than me, and as they put the crown on my head, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why me, God?  What is your plan for me in this role?”

I never participate in anything without putting my best foot forward.  That’s how I was raised.  At the same time, I in no way anticipated beating some of the biggest names in the pageant world in order to win this title.  I was happy to be considered, so blessed my sorority sisters trusted me to represent them.  I had no idea what was coming, though.

With my reign ending this Saturday, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and what it has meant to me.

Being Miss Clemson University is special in that she has no ties to a larger pageant organization.  While this means no director or assistance with scheduling events, it also provides a special autonomy.  For the past year, it was on me to determine what I should be doing.  I chose to primarily integrate the title into my existing life, not necessarily seeking special circumstances, but just using it as an excuse to volunteer more.

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It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy.

As usual, I did most of my volunteer work for the GHS Children’s Hospital, using the crown and being executive director of Clemson Miracle to get through the door.  I got to see a lot of smiling faces, kids who thought I was way cooler than I actually am.

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Giving our check to CCDC

Through the pageant itself, we fundraised for the Clemson Child Development Center.  I had the honor of delivering the check.  If you’ve never been, it’s often a little chaotic.  The kids have a lot of energy, and the adults have been there all day and will most likely take some work home.  However, when their director, Carol, found a moment to step out of the room and saw the check, her face said more than words could about her gratitude for Mortar Board and all they do for CCDC.

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First Friday Parade 2016

 

Then, there was the moment they let me ride in the First Friday Parade.  If you didn’t go to Clemson, this is the parade before our first home football game every fall, and to us, it’s kind of a big deal.  To have my own car in the parade was a huge honor, and I loved every minute of blowing kisses to little girls and screaming cadence count with our alumni band.

Of all the years to be crowned Miss Clemson, I got 2016 – the year we finished off our football season with a National Championship title by defeating Alabama.  The year Clemson Miracle raised over $71,000 for the children’s hospital.  The year I graduated from Clemson and was accepted into their MBA program.  The year my little brother started his freshmen year as a tiger.  It has been a year I will never forget.

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Trading the crown in for a mortar board. (Christine Scott Photography)

Five years ago, I decided to attend Clemson University.  As a Georgia native, people repeatedly asked me why, and I had little to say other than “it just felt right.”  I had no idea I had made the best decision of my life.  During my time at Clemson, I met my best friends and the love of my life.  I was challenged and changed by numerous mentors and opportunities.  I realized that above all it wasn’t the school I chose but the people I found.  The Clemson family – all the unique individuals who find common ground in a love of orange and purple – is the best to be surrounded by, and I am forever thankful I found each and every one of you.

To my parents, who agreed to send me to the only school I didn’t have a full scholarship to, thank you.  I cannot express either my love for you and your support, or my love for this place, because the words just don’t exist.  Just know, I could not have accomplished all I have without the unconditional love and support of you both.

To my little brother, Henry, I truly appreciate all of the pageants and dance recitals you have sat through.  I’m so excited to watch your love of Clemson grow and to see how you both change over the next 4 (or maybe 5 if you’re lucky!) years.

To all the people who made it possible for me to succeed in the world of pageants: thank you.  Mama K, you are truly my second mom, and I’m just so thankful for every hour I got to spend with you in the studio.  Christine (Smith), wow, you’re the most talented human, and your salon is going to be the talk of the town!  Thanks for making me the absolute best version of myself and drinking mimosas with me during makeup time.  Cathy Scott, it has been way too long since we crossed paths, but you were the first to recognize I had the potential for the stage.  Thank you for every gown you altered to perfection.  And of course, Gregory Ellenburg, thank you for the gown of my dreams.

Christine (Scott) – thank you a thousand times over again for the hundreds of shots it took to perfectly expose a white evening gown at midday on a football field.  You are such a talented photographer; I’m blessed to call you my friend.

girliesTo the women of Kappa Delta, thank you for letting me represent you on stage last year.  I’m thankful for the continual support of so many of you, especially my roommates.  Savannah, thank you for dressing me when clothes became overwhelming / taking me to wine night when life became overwhelming.  Littlest One, thank you for being the best sister I could have asked for.  My other Courtneys – all my love, I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t found you both 4.5 years ago.  And English, you were last to the roommate party, which is good because the amount of fun we have together is deadly.

 

To my amazing boyfriend, Lawrence I know you never thought you’d sit through a pageant (or 5), but you have been so great about supporting everything I pursue.  I’m thankful every day that Clemson brought me to you.  You’re also the best puppy dad, and I’m so proud of the little nugget we’re raising.

Maybe it’s the sunsets, or the ice cream, or the tailgates that make Clemson so special; everyone has their own opinion.  To me, it’s the people that make up our Clemson family that make it such a special place to call home.  I am blessed every day to be a tiger, and I want to thank every member of my Clemson family for allowing me to represent you over the past year.  To the girl we crown on Saturday, what you do is up to you, so make it the best year of your life to date!  I am truly so excited for whoever gets to experience this incredible #ClemsonMoment next.

Forever your Miss Clemson University 2016,

Tracy McGee

Cheers T(w)o More Student Football Seasons!

Just when you thought I was really going to graduate, I found another way to stay in Clemson!  I like to think the administration regretted that I had reached the end of my time as a student tiger, but whatever the reason, a spot magically opened up in Clemson’s MBA program.  One week before accepting my diploma, I accepted a spot to begin my masters studies at Clemson starting in January 2017.

The day before I received the call about the opening, I made an important decision: I chose faith instead of fear.  I decided to fully let go of the worry over my uncertain future, to trust instead that God truly does have a plan.  I recognized worrying was doing nothing to help me.

This is an uphill battle for me – I’m from a family of ruminaters.  I have to actively choose faith over fear every single day, usually many times a day.  I have to remind myself constantly not to fear the future’s many unknowns or even the present’s uncertainties.  Anxiety is the root causes of the tension in so many peoples’ lives.  Fear has never solved a problem, and it certainly isn’t good for your health.

So here I am, trying to laugh without fear of the future as they say, and I get a call about an opening in Clemson’s MBA program.  It’s an opening that would allow me to start January 9th, less than a month after my graduation.  If I can get my application and references by the end of the week, they are willing to consider me for this spot.  Luckily for me, I had incredible mentors throughout my undergraduate experience.  One had her reference letter ready before I even asked, and another hustled to get hers done in time.  I turned it in and crossed my fingers, thinking this had to be meant to be if they were willing to make so many exceptions on my behalf.

I guess it was.  I got into the program and accepted my spot a week before I crossed the stage to receive my undergraduate diploma.

I’m standing on the doorstep of a grand new adventure, and I’m thrilled that this opportunity fell on me.  I no longer feel like I picked the “wrong” major in undergraduate school.  Though psychology was ultimately not what I wanted to do, my major opened doors for me through the people I met, the challenges I overcame, and the things I learned about myself along the way.  I think a business degree is a much better fit for the gifts and talents I’ve been given, but I don’t regret the path I’ve taken to get to where I am.

In summary, I have successfully put off becoming an adult for 2 more years, and I get the added bonus of 2 more tiger football seasons!  Although, this season might be unbeatable.  Clemson has a rematch with Bama on January 9, and it seems only fitting that my boys will be playing for the Natty on my first day of graduate school.  Go tigers!

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Questions I have about becoming an adult…

As graduation fast approaches, it has left me in deep contemplation about some of the things I consider to be truths in college that just might not work in the real world.

  1.  Are Febreezed clothes still clean clothes?
    One of the Clemson orientation ambassadors told that to every incoming Clemson freshmen, and I have found it to be a universal law amongst my collegiate peers.
  2. Is “Netflix and chill” still an acceptable use of my evening?
    College students know that the only alternative to a night of frantic studying or irresponsible partying is a night of Netflix binging.
  3. Do you still pre-game parties?
    Everything is college is cause for a pre-game, but my mother did not even understand the term.  To “pre-game” is to have a pre-party to get pre-drunk for the real party.  In fact, you can pre-game the pre-game if you want to get really crazy.  Somehow, I cannot imagine pre-gaming an office party, and yet, to tolerate co-workers, I might bring this tradition with me.
  4. Speaking of alcohol, when exactly is it appropriate to have a drink?
    No matter the day of the week or even the time of the day, there is always someone drinking in a college town.  In fact, it isn’t even frowned upon to have a beer alone in the bar at 1pm in a college town.  Where do the lines of decency lie in the real world?
  5. Can I still wear XL t-shirts over my athletic bottoms?
    Obviously, I will have to stop this trend during the day when I’m at work, but I am hoping it is still acceptable attire to the grocery store.
  6. Will other adults judge me if I blow my budget and am subsisting off of rice and easy mac?
    Sometimes, you just really need the latest function t-shirt.  Or a bottle of wine.  Or tickets to the concert.  Is it okay to pick one of these things over buying groceries for the rest of the month anymore?
  7. Can I continue to sleep on my friend’s couch or will I have to start buying hotel rooms when I visit?
    In college, it is perfectly acceptable to go to visit a friend at another university and bring along your 8 best friends to sleep on all of the available space in the apartment.  In the real world, adults seem to buy hotels when they visit other adults.  This seems like an expense I want to avoid.
  8. When am I too old for my parents’ insurance?
    Really, I don’t even know how to begin figuring insurance out.
  9. Also, when am I too old to be on my parents’ cell phone plan?
    Although I have been insisting I need unlimited texting, calling, and data plans, I will have to learn to make do with the bare minimum when this bill falls into my lap.
  10. Can I continue to sorority “craft” my wall art?
    All of my friends have walls decked in homemade canvases, but these do not seem to be found on adult walls.  Their replacements look expensive.

As concerning as I find all of these questions, I have just accepted a cooperative education opportunity, which means I’ve successfully given myself another semester (and football season) here in God’s country!  Here’s to continually trying to find ways to avoid graduation.  May we stay forever young!

Behind the Makeup

What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful.
Scott Westerfeld

I have a confession to make: I don’t wear makeup every day.  In fact, I don’t wear makeup most days.  I wasn’t always like that, though.  When I was in high school up until my sophomore year of college, I didn’t think I could leave my bedroom without putting on a full face.  That included foundation, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara.

I don’t know what made me think it was necessary.  Perhaps it was because I received more positive attention when I looked my “best” or maybe it was just because this behavior was modeled to me by my mother.  Either way, I felt like I had to have on makeup to be the best version of myself, and I certainly needed to have it on if I wanted to feel confident.  Lawrence changed all of that.

My sophomore year in college, I met Lawrence, and he changed my life with a brilliantly simple statement.  He said what every boyfriend should say.  It was a particularly crazy day in college, and I didn’t put on makeup that morning.  After a long day on campus, I went by his apartment to relax and watch a movie with him and his roommates.  I’m sure the first thing I said when I walked in was, “I’m so sorry I look like this.  It’s been a crazy day, and I didn’t have time to put my makeup on this morning.”  That’s paraphrased, but what I said doesn’t really matter.  It’s what he said when he looked up at me that counts.

“You look beautiful.  I don’t know why you bother to wear makeup anyways.  You don’t need it.”  The way he said it was so casual, so matter of fact.  It was like this huge truth that the world had never told me, and here he was unveiling it in passing.  He had no idea he had just completely changed my life.  He still doesn’t know that he changed my life, and he probably never will unless he decides to read this post.  To him, it was just the truth, and that’s what made it so impactful.

After that, I quit wearing makeup every day.  I had to ease myself into it because for awhile my face just looked so naked.  I forced myself to stick with it, and day by day it got easier.  I began to love the face I saw in the mirror and realize it was beautiful in its own right, and that gave me a feeling of confidence and empowerment.

Lawrence continues to unwittingly reinforce my new behavior.  I know he doesn’t do it on purpose, but almost every time he says I am “beautiful” it’s on a day when I didn’t put on my whole face.  He seems to reserve that word for days I rolled out of bed and came over instead of days I dressed all the way up.  Sure, he’s said it a once or twice when I’ve been all done up, but he usually says “you look great” or “hot” or “nice”.  That’s why I haven’t shared all of this with him.  It would break the magic of him not knowing how much it means and just saying it because he thinks it.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to put on makeup and a cute outfit and feel super pretty.  Makeup is just an object, and (like food) it is neither innately evil nor good.  I just want to clarify to the world that I don’t always look like my pageant headshots.  In fact, I pretty much never look that way unless I’m about to go on stage.  I want to encourage every woman to try giving up makeup for a couple of weeks.  It’s not easy when it’s something you’re used to, but it’s worth it if you can learn to love your face and feel beautiful without alteration.

The media is always going to tell women how they should look, and it’s always going to create unrealistic expectations.  Audrey had it right when she said that “happy girls are the prettiest”, so learn to be happy with who you are!  Learn to love the way you look because of your imperfections.  It would be such a boring world if everyone had perfect symmetry, tiny waists, and high cheek bones.

So there you have it.  Now you know more about me than my pageant glory, and I have shared one of my most personal stories with the worldwide web.  If it can help just one person realize makeup isn’t what’s making them beautiful, then it was totally worth it.

PS. Y’all pray for me because starting on Saturday I’m going to have to put on my whole face every day for a week, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that.

Finding Time for Fitness

We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work
-Thomas A. Edison

Whenever I tell people how I strive to lead a healthy lifestyle, one of the most common questions is, “How do you have the time?”  I totally get that.  It’s a lot easier to go through a drive through after a long day instead of prepare a meal, and the drive through comes with the added benefit of disposability whereas the kitchen requires clean-up.  After a day of hard work, it’s a lot easier to flop on the couch instead of continue being productive by making the trek to the gym.  We can justify being lazy after a long day because we all deserve a break, right?

Trust me, I understand the feeling of wanting a break.  Between my employment as a college student and my “big girl” job, I often want nothing more than to curl up and watch my latest favorite TV show in binge-like fashion.  Add on the stress of competing in the Miss South Carolina system (think paper work deadlines, appearances, and people needing you often) and mentally I tend to be done toward the end of the day.

I’ve learned there are ways to combat being lazy.  If you don’t set yourself up for success, you will settle into a habit of failure.  That’s why I want to share some of the ways I handle stress and time commitments in conjuncture with my lifestyle choices.

There was a time in my life when I would wake up at 5:00am to go to the gym.  When I was in high school, that worked for me.  When I got to college, it didn’t.  I had to stay up a lot later to complete assignments and have a social life, so getting up early was no longer an option.  My workout habits suddenly shifted later in the day, but I found that the further I pushed working out back in my schedule, the less likely it was to happen.  Sure, I’d have every intention of going to the gym at 11:00pm, until a friend called or I got settled down in my apartment.

What works best for me is to keep my gym bag in my car.  If I have to go back to my apartment after work/class, there’s a good chance I’ll end up deciding to skip the day’s workout.  If I go straight from one to the other, I give my lazy half no time to convince my better half that the day’s workout is unnecessary.  Find a plan that works for you, but I highly recommend not taking a break in between the grind of your regular day and the grind of your fitness plans.  Lump them all together, then reward yourself with relaxation when all the work is done!

As far as sustainable healthy eating, it all comes down to meal prep.  I use to hate the idea of meal prep.  It’s intimidating to prepare food for a whole week all at once, but once you start, I can almost guarantee you will love it.  For me, the key has been to prepare only a few things, but to make sure those things can be used in many ways.  My favorite staple is chicken.  At the start of every week, I throw some chicken into the crock pot with a little chicken broth, salt, pepper, and maybe some of whatever seasoning is in the cabinet.  I take it out, shred it, and store it in the fridge.  I can now eat it plain, throw it in a salad, or make a sandwich.  There’s no end to what I can put something so simple in, but it eliminates a huge part of the preparation since the time-consuming cooking part is done!

Another key point when it comes to eating healthy is staying full.  I know we all try to cut down on portion size, and I think some aspects of that are great!  The serving at the average American restaurant contains enough calories for the whole day, not just one meal.  I like the idea of smaller portions, but I also encourage multiple meals each day.  I try to eat every 3 to 4 hours.  I might have eggs and toast for breakfast, then I’ll have a banana at 10, then chicken for lunch, then a protein shake around 3, etc.  If you eat all day, you boost your metabolism.  You also have the benefit of not getting hungry.

When I neglect a snack or meal, I don’t just get hungry; I get mean.  My dad is the same way, and I guess we are just really sensitive to our blood sugar.  I also reach a point of hunger where I am going to gorge myself the minute opportunity presents itself, and in that state, I’m probably not going to select the most healthy option.  In fact, I’m probably looking for something deep fried and served in massive portions.  I’m probably going to Zaxbys.  Don’t let yourself get to that point!

Another note, I eat Zaxbys almost every Sunday.  I find that it’s much easier to eat healthy most of the time if I know I’m going to treat myself some of the time.  Some people have a more “cold turkey” approach to bad food and believe in cutting it out entirely.  This approach would never work for me.  I would be miserable.  A little fried chicken each Sunday hasn’t killed me yet, and if it does, well, I had to go somehow.

I hope these little tips and tricks from my life can help you say no to your lazy half at the end of each long day.  If eating well and being more active is a new change for you, I want to say first that I applaud your efforts, and you have made a great decision.  Second, this is going to be hard at first, but it does get easier.  Your energy level will increase.  Your happiness will increase.  It doesn’t happen all at once, but it will change your life for the better.

Please send me your healthy lifestyle questions!  Tag your fitness efforts and link them to my platform with: #APerfectFit

Time Flies (Even when you aren’t having fun…)

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.
-Winnie the Pooh

I know it’s a cliche, but it really does seem like just yesterday my parents were helping me move into my freshmen dorm at Clemson.  Everyone told me to enjoy my days in college, but at the time, 4 years seemed so long.  Here we are at senior year.  With graduate school applications staring me down, the thing I’ve feared since the day I got here is starting to seem like a reality: I will actually have to leave Clemson.

I’ve considered every possible alternative.  I could change my career plans and obtain a Masters degree in something Clemson offers, thus securing my stay for 3 or more years.  I could apply for student loans and take 12 hours of leisure skills for 2 semesters, thus securing one more precious year.  I could take a year off before grad school and work in Clemson.  Or a few years off.  It’s true that there is something in these hills, and I will absolutely hate leaving.

Unfortunately, I’m set on occupational therapy, which means I have to leave my beloved Tiger Town behind.  That being said, I am determined to make the most of the one year I have left.  I don’t know how it can outshine the others, but somehow it just will.  I refuse to let life get in the way of me making memories.

The most important thing I’ve learned in college is that life is incredibly unpredictable.  It can change in an instant; it can even end in an instant.  That’s why every instant is so important, each second more precious than the one before.  That’s why you have to make sure you prioritize and put the important things first.

There’s so much pressure to perform well in college.  Your GPA is important; your job is important; your participation in clubs is important.  College students are constantly bombarded with, “This will look good on your resume,” and we start to forget that life is more than what you can list on a piece of paper and hand over at an interview.  Don’t get me wrong, you are here to learn.  Having a good GPA and resume will open doors.  Just don’t let it be at the expense of your happiness.

I recently re-prioritized in my life.  I try to put God first.  Second, I think about the people I care about.  Third, I put school and my job.  The list goes on, but just realize that what you prioritize will completely change how you live each day of your life.

Another piece of advice is to be present.  I think a curse of social media and the age of technology is how scattered it can make our thoughts.  I might be talking to a friend at lunch, but her mind might be more on the text conversation she’s having with someone else.  She might be more engaged in Facebook posts or CandyCrush or any other number of electronic distractions.  Sometimes, you just need to put your phone on “do not disturb” and really be with the people next to you.  It all goes back to how important each moment is.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was in high school from a friend’s mom.  Her daughter and I were baking cookies in the kitchen, upset about some drama or another, and as she walked by all she said was, “Every day is a good day; some days are just better than others.”  It’s stuck with me, and whenever something upsets me, that’s what I tell myself.  That’s why my last piece of advice is to persist.

Life is full of ups and downs, and, as this title reads, time will fly even when you aren’t having fun.  Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on the people you care about.  Appreciate the little things as much as the big ones.  Make choices that keep your heart full, actively participate in life instead of watching it through a screen, and never give up on the things you believe in.

Here’s to growing up and trying to love every minute of it!

Big/Little Reveal
A special shout-out to my big sister, Ashley.  I’m so proud of you for graduating, and I don’t know what these past few years would have been like without you.  Thanks for believing in me!

FTK Always, All Ways

“Even miracles take a little time.”
The Fairy Godmother

I believe in making commitments to things I feel passionately about.  That way, losing sleep and pouring out energy is worth it.  When I attended my first dance marathon my freshmen year (2013) I walked away knowing that Children’s Miracle Network was a cause I wanted to take a stand for.  I applied and was accepted to a position on Clemson Miracle’s executive board, and since then, I’ve given countless hours to the kids at Greenville Children’s Hospital.

On March 7, 2015, we raised a little over $42,000 for CMN.  After the incredible amount of time and commitment put forth by our executive board, it was overwhelming for us to see such huge success.  This was the most Clemson University has ever raised for CMN, and of that money, over $10,000 was raised during the event itself through in house fundraising activities.

I love everything about Clemson Miracle, but one of the best things is the people on the executive board.  Each of us is passionate about the children we work to help, and each of us is willing to push for what we believe in.  The committed people I’ve worked with over the past year to organize this event have never tired, refusing to give up on the kids at Greenville Children’s Hospital.  This executive board not only continues to inspire me, but we have inspired so many others.  We’ve lit a fire in the hearts of Clemson students for the kids, and we will fan those flames until it consumes the entire Clemson community.  I know for a fact that the executive board of Clemson Miracle will never settle, we will always push for more, and I thank everyone I’ve worked with over the past year.

So why do we do it?  Where does the passion come from?  We each have our own personal reasons, but I think this cause is universal.  Every child who is admitted into a Children’s Miracle Network hospital has the innocence of youth.  They should be worried about being found in hide-and-seek, not worried about the next needle or procedure.  Every child deserves a childhood, and growing up in a hospital is not the life any parents wants for their kid.  Life doesn’t work like that, though.  Life isn’t fair.  Kids will spend hours on end undergoing treatment, and the outcome isn’t always what we think it should be.  I believe God has a plan and a reason for everything, even if we don’t always understand, but I also believe we should do everything we can to make the lives of those children as innocent, happy, and fun as possible.

Although there were many emotional moments for me during the 10 hours dance marathon, one of the most upsetting occurred toward the beginning.  Every participant is given a hospital bracelet with a miracle child’s name on it to wear during the course of the day.  At the end of the day, there is a circle of hope ceremony in which all the dancers stand in a circle, while a miracle child walks around and cuts off each bracelet.  It shows support of the kids, but it is also a prayer that every child will one day get to remove their bracelet.  Mia, one of our miracle children, was checking in.  She reached for a bracelet, and I asked her if she needed help putting it on (many of the college kids had; the snap can be confusing).  She looked up at me, smiled, and said “No offense, but I’m probably better at this than you are.”  She proceeded to snap on the bracelet with her name, cut the annoying tail off, and leave the table, and for the first of 50 times that day I was reminded of why I gave up my Saturday and plenty of other hours throughout the year for CMN.

Mia
(
Mia also insisted on taking a selfie.)

I just want to say thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who put their money where the miracles are and gave to Clemson Miracle.  Your generosity to this incredible cause means the world to me and to these children.  Thank you to the best executive board around.  Each of you inspires me daily, and it was our passion that made this event a success.  Thank you to the miracle families who gave up a Saturday to share their stories.  I cannot think of anything more moving than hearing what you have been through and am so glad that your strong, brave kids are giving their time to help other hospitalized children.  I am blessed by the opportunity to serve this organization, and I promise that I will never settle.  Next year, Clemson Miracle will continue to grow, and we will astonish even ourselves with what we can do.  Through love, nothing is impossible.

For The Kids
Always, All Ways

James Mason

PS. My fundraising for CMN has not ended.  If you are willing and able, please consider making a donation to help me on my journey to Miss South Carolina this summer!  As always, it’s FTK!

http://www.missamericaforkids.org/Donate/tracyelizabethmcgee

Julia