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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Do Not Disturb

Do you ever have a day where it seems like every person you’ve ever known needs something from you?  I’m talking about the kind of day where you are one vibration away from chucking your phone into the garbage and moving to a cabin in the woods.  The kind of day where every effort to respond to your Inbox is mocked by another incoming e-mail.  The kind of day where one more person saying your name just might result in you checking yourself into an asylum.

Modern technology is incredible.  With it, we can perform open heart surgery.  We can travel by air and visit anywhere on our planet with ease.  We can be present on a laptop screen from thousands of miles away at family events.  Those are the big things that we take fore-granted.  I didn’t even mention the modern convenience of indoor plumbing, light bulbs, and air conditioning.  We are surrounded by incredible feats of human kind every day, and it barely gives us pause.

As a result of us forgetting modern conveniences are not natural miracles but rather manmade creations, we seem overly zealous to use them.  There was a time when coming home from work meant just that.  Now, your boss and co-workers have access to you 24/7, and for some reason, it is rude to simply ignore them.  It’s unacceptable in our society to ignore a phone call and just be with the people you’re with.  We have created this expectation to be accessible to literally every person we’ve ever encountered, and we feel guilty not responding to a text message.

There are so many great things that have come from this technology.  Being able to send grandma a picture, monitoring our heart rates, and calling 911 in any emergency are a few examples.  At the same time, we need to stop and think.

I advocate for a healthy lifestyle, and it goes so much further than your protein intake and energy output.  It goes into your emotional and social well-being, too, and I firmly believe I am negatively impacted by technology every day.  In our society, it has become acceptable for people to send text messages at literally any time of day – even one in the morning.  I can literally not spend a night in my bed asleep without someone trying to reach me to tell me something.  My generation doesn’t see anything wrong with that, and therein lies the problem.

I cannot tell you the last time I just got to be by myself or just got to spend time with someone else.  Instead of getting to relax with my cat, I face constant incoming messages from every outlet.  Instead of spending an evening with my roommates, I spend an evening with them and their best friends and boyfriends and whoever else they happen to be texting.

I’m not innocent.  I do the same thing, but I’m trying to do better.

Here I am glued to my first smartphone, circa 2009 when Blackberry was the "it" thing.
Here I am glued to my first smartphone, circa 2009 when Blackberry was the “it” thing.

I don’t think our generation has realized this is a problem, but it’s time we start.  One of my professors told me recently that the thing she misses most about her early teaching days is the chatter in classrooms.  She admitted that at the time, it was always a little irritating to get everyone to hush so she could start to lecture, but she says she misses that now.  Instead of looking around at students becoming friends and sharing their weekend stories, she steps up to the lectern and observes a sea of cell phones.  Students speaking to the friends they have outside of the classroom and ignoring the human beings beside them.

At 21 years old, I am starting to teach myself that it’s okay for me to need time to be me.  It’s okay for me to ignore a call or text message and just be present in the moment, not engaged in a virtual conversation.  It’s okay to leave an e-mail unopened until morning.  I do not have to be accessible when I get home in the evening, and people need to start being okay with that.  When I get in bed at night, I have discovered a wonderful function called “do not disturb,” and I now use it without fail the minute I get under the covers.  Whatever your funny drunk story, your emergency, your need of me, it is just going to have to wait until an appropriate time in my life.

I will no longer be a slave to virtual communication, and I challenge you to do the same.  If you don’t set parameters in your own life, nobody else will.  You can control when you are available, and people will adjust accordingly.  Health and wellness go beyond BMI.  Evaluate your lifestyle today; there is always room for improvement.

#APerfectFit