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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A Thanksgiving Story

This week I took some old clothes to the Goodwill donation box and had a powerful reminder of how minute my “problems” really are. The weather hadn’t called for rain that afternoon, yet dark clouds formed and cold droplets were falling hard. I was grumpy, complaining to myself about how cold and damp I’d get in the 5 foot walk from my car to the dropbox. I was in a bad mood already because I’d had to stay in town for an exam and wouldn’t be able to leave for home until the day before Thanksgiving. I almost skipped my errand and went straight home, but then the rain slowed down.

I moved the first load from my trunk and shut the metal flap, still obsessing over how annoyed I was by the weather, this chore, and my to do list. I gathered the rest of my clothes and dropped them in, too. As my hand rested on the handle seconds from sending these away, I heard a man calling out, “Ma’am please, please wait! Could I look through those before you shut it?” Sadly, my first thought was for my safety, but when I turned, the man I saw was fragile and looked desperate but not unkind. He was running across the parking lot, followed by his wife who moved a little slower. She clutched a bag from the nearby fast food joint, and she wore several layers of torn clothes that were doing nothing to save her from the cold and damp.

“Thank you ma’am,” the guy was saying, bowing his head in front of me. “My wife needs clothes so bad.”

She just kept saying “thank you,” with a look of hope and happiness on her face.

“There are some old flannels,” I said, handing her the one on top, “I hope they’ll keep you warm.”

I got in my car, and now I was feeling sad. My heart felt like lead in my chest. And I did something many of us have done. I began to ask God why.

Why didn’t You call my attention to these people before I dropped the first load of clothes down the chute?

You see the second load had a few flannels, but it was mostly dresses. Completely useless for this woman. The first load had contained sweaters. And even better, it had contained an old coat – a puffy, warm coat that would have protected her from the elements this winter. All I wanted was for this woman to have that coat, but since there was nothing I could do, I gave my grief to God and tried to turn my attention elsewhere.

This isn’t a feel good story. Sure, she’s a little warmer, but she needed much more than she got. I’ve thought about her and her husband frequently since I saw them, praying for a change in their circumstances. This story is a reminder. We get grumpy when things aren’t going our way, and we forget about the bigger picture. If you’re reading this post, whether you’re on a cellphone or tablet or computer or even smartwatch, maybe this story will give you pause the next time you’re grumpy over something small. Because this couple was so far from grumpy. They were happy beyond measure to receive cast off clothes that I had whined about taking the time to give away.

I hope this post finds you recognizing what an immense blessing it is to wake up and have to decide what to wear, under the vents that keep you warm and the roof that keeps you dry. It reminded me that being thankful is easy when you realize nothing you’ve got in this life is a guarantee. Everything is a gift. I hope this post finds you gifted beyond measure, with a heart of gratitude to match.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

“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

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.

Love Thy Neighbor

Growing up, I often felt out of place in church.  I was raised in the heart of the Bible belt.  I lived in a small southern town in Georgia where there was a church on every street corner, with every denomination represented at least once – but most of them in multiples.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like the worship service itself; I have always found comfort in the Bible and a good sermon.  My issue was with the congregation.

Sitting on my pew, I saw self-righteous man after self-righteous man with head held high.  It was the kind of church where nobody admitted to sin, nobody admitted they led a less than Christian life, but everybody was ready was to point out any lapse in someone else’s lifestyle.  I took fault with that; it didn’t seem the Christian thing to do.  Kids in my youth group would belittle me because my family had missed a service and theirs had perfect attendance, but those same kids were the ones doing drugs behind the school.  Church down south was a place to act like you had your life completely together, even if yours was falling apart and you really needed people to pray for you.

When my parents gave me a choice, I stopped attending, and although I’m sure people talked badly behind my back, I did not care because I was kind to people in real life not just fake kind at the service.  In college, I gave some thought to attending a church, but I never had anyone to go with.  I’m sure that wouldn’t stop a kid who grew up going, but I was still in a place where I didn’t feel at home in front of a pastor.  Finally, Easter of my sophomore year, I attended Newspring church with a group of friends.  I fell in love with church again.

Newspring might get a bad rap for being a megachurch, but I’ve never felt like I’m just another person there.  Everyone is welcomed with open arms despite their appearance, background, race, etc.  It’s a place where sinners sit with sinners and love each other despite any differences.  When someone has a problem, be it marital issues or drug addiction, they are given council and love from their fellow man, not disdain.

He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.
John 8:7

Our church recognizes we are all sinners, and our congregation cares for each other despite that.  To me, that’s how a church should be.

I shared all of this with you to say that I feel at home in my church.  I feel safe, accepted, and loved in my church.  The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has robbed the world of this sense of safety.  My heart is so full for that congregation, and I cannot imagine the pain and disbelief those who were there are experiencing.  They did what good Christians should.  They opened their doors to others for worship, and they did not cast anyone out because of his race or his strangeness.  They shared their safe and loving place with anyone who chose to walk through their doors, and this man took advantage of their kindness.  He robbed them, and the rest of our nation, of the sense of security we feel going to worship.

From cursory glance, this crime seems racially loaded, and it very well might be.  My prayer for this nation is that we will not continue to let the hate of some create hatred for many.  I pray America’s Christian community can come together in light of this event.  Instead of letting it push races further apart like police violence has, imagine if we could let this bring us together.  This crime might have been against a traditionally “black church” like the press keeps pointing out, but I view it as an attack against the Christian community at large.

Do not let this crime do what its agitator intended.  Do not let this crime become a battle of races where black churches hate white churches.  Let this crime unite every church against those who would tear us down.  Let it inspire us to love more deeply our neighbors, to cherish our time on this earth together, and to openly pray for each other.  We are one nation under God, and I think it’s time people start remembering that.

#PrayforCharleston