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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Fa la la la Finals

I took my first college finals in the December of 2012, and next week will mark my second to last round of that misery.  Over the course of 5 years, I’ve made a lot of changes to my study habits.  They’re still imperfect thanks to a mind that wanders and Netflix list that constantly grows, but they’re much improved.  So here are the top 5 changes I’ve made that took me from academic probation (I blame Calculus) to the President’s list.


(1) Do sleep the night before an exam; do not pull an all night-er.

As a freshmen, my exam tactic was to spend 12+ hours in the library cramming every piece of information into mind possible, take an espresso shot, trudge across campus to my exam, pass out in my twin-sized bed for 4 hours, and repeat.  This is a terrible strategy.  Your brain is not going to be functional, and none of the data you’ve crammed in is going to stick.

I still don’t get luxurious long rests during finals week, but I do get enough hours to function properly.  Not only is sleep an important mechanism for your brain to recall information, it is also important for your immune system.  There’s nothing worse than trying to take a final in a medicated haze with used tissues encroaching on your paper.  Sleep is essential to both mental and physical health, so prioritize it.

(2) Do spend time with friends; do not pick parties over grades.

Humans are social creatures, and finals week is no excuse to sequester away.  I realize that some people absolutely cannot study unless they are alone in a quiet place, and for those people, a study group might not be an effective use of time.  That’s totally fine.  Text a friend and make your next coffee run together, though!  While social schedules belong on the back burner during finals week, friendships do not.  Stay connected to your support system and send encouragement to your classmates.  If there’s one thing being a part of the Clemson family has taught me, it’s that we’re all in this thing called life together!

(3) Do drink lots of water; do not treat coffee as a food group.

This goes hand in hand with getting sleep.  When you get sleep, you don’t need as much caffeine to keep your eyelids open.  Coffee is still an essential comfort in my study process, but it is no longer a requirement for me to function.  Plus staying hydrated by drinking water will help your immune system just like sleep, making you a much less likely target for germs.

(4) Do wear something you feel comfortable in; do not forget to shower.

This is something the MBA program forced me to learn.  In undergrad, I was leggings and a t-shirt on a good day, and finals week was a chance to rock sweat pants in public.  My MBA building requires business casual dress, which was a big adjustment.  I still think comfort is key to acing finals, but there’s a difference between dressing for comfort and dressing with a total loss of self-respect.  Even if sweat pants are your jam, take a hot shower and run a brush through your hair.  I find that looking less like a stress case externally helps me feel less like a stress case internally.

(5) Do use the resources available to you; do not trust exclusively in tribal knowledge.

For many classes, there are study guides that have been passed from one generation to the next.  Take advantage of those, but do not trust in them exclusively.  Professors can make changes, and the easier the study guide was for you to access, the more likely is is they will become aware of it.  Often if that happens, the final will change drastically.

While studying smart and focusing on the concepts most likely to appear will save time, make sure your review of the material is comprehensive.  Just because your hall mate had this exam last semester and swears it was only on that one graph does not mean your final will be only on that one graph.  Focus primarily on topics the professor indicated were important, take advantage of resources from peers, but don’t neglect entire sections of material based on word of mouth.


Finals can create stress levels that impact our mental health, and the studying time crunch limits our social schedules.  However, I hope you can realize what a blessing it is to have this stress in your life.  Some degree of stress is good for you as long as you’re coping with it appropriately.  A life without stress is a life without caring, and having something to care about is so essential to feeling your life has meaning.

If you’re in school like me, you’re preparing for a new phase in your life, and I’m so excited for you!  Keep the great things that will happen as a result of your education in the back of your mind as you tackle finals and don’t let the stress destroy your dreams.  Cling to why you’re doing what you’re doing.  At the end of the day, it’s just a number, and even if it isn’t what you hoped for, a bad grade won’t be your downfall.

Happy studying!

 

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

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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Hello Great Big World

Today, I walked out of my last class as an undergraduate student.  For a minute, I was elated, but all too quickly, I became panicked.  Then, as if out of nowhere, a soothing calm sank into my soul.  In 14 days, I will receive my diploma and graduate from Clemson University with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Communications.  Two weeks from today, I will turn the tassel and have to embrace “adulting” and its finery.  I have always been the girl with a plan.  For once in my life, I’m not.

I haven’t found a job, and I haven’t applied to a graduate program.  This is incredibly unlike the wide-eyed freshmen me that walked onto Clemson’s campus in 2012.  I came to Clemson prepared to graduate in 4 years with any major as long as my prerequisites for occupational therapy were in order.  Afterwards, I was going to receive my Doctorate in OT at Belmont University in Nashville, TN (class of 2019).  I was going to specialize in pediatrics and work at a children’s hospital, eventually running the therapy department.  It was a solid plan until I realized I hated OT.  It felt monotonous and dull, and I’d just been interning for a month.  I watched my plan spark and sputter and eventually burn out.  It wasn’t worth living the life I’d imaged if I was going to be living a life I hated.

So there I was, two and a half years into my master plan, with no idea what my next steps should be.  Thankfully, I have an amazing God, the best boyfriend, and a school with an impeccable career services center.  I became the first psychology major from Clemson to pursue a cooperative education program and landed an internship with BorgWarner, an automotive manufacturing plan in Seneca, SC.  I got to spend 9 months working in their Human Resources department, and they let me get my hands into everything.  I worked through the hiring process, coordinated wellness initiative, collaborated with our safety team, managed our KPI tracker, and so much more.  It turns out, I have a talent for people.

Armed with this knowledge, I came back to school this Fall to complete my degree.  It turns out I should have been a business major.  However, in their own way, psychology and communications have prepared me to pursue a career in this direction.  I’ve studied people for four (and a half #blessed) years.  I’m ready.

But for what?  That’s a question I can’t answer yet.  I’m still waiting on God to show me the rest of His plan for my future.  See the thing that’s changed about me during my undergraduate experience is not losing my sense of direction and purpose, but rather finding it from a much better source.  I guess in a way this is my testimony.  What I would like to share with you is something pretty simple that it seems to have taken me 22 years to learn: I am not in control, and thank God for that.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

So to those of you asking what’s next in my life, I no longer dread your question.  I have lots of thoughts and ideas about the future, but right now, I’m waiting for everything to unfold.  Your prayers and kind thoughts are appreciated as I embark on this exciting new phase!  And if you haven’t today, take a deep breath and rest easy knowing the best is yet to come.

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!