“Enjoy the journey.”
I once had a manager that would say this to me almost every time we spoke.
I would think, “what friggin’ journey is he on?? This job is killing me. I just have to make this work and then…”
And so it has been for as long as I can remember.
I have always been the goal-setter.
In middle school I was worried about what was going to be on my college resume. In high school I was worried about my college internships. In college I was already looking at long-term career goals and how I was going to get to retirement!
I was never the person to live in the moment, to enjoy what was going on around me. I was the person focused on what was next. How to get to the next thing…
That focus on the “next” made me lose sight of the importance of the “now”.
I live for a challenge. I live for digging deep, pushing into an uncomfortable or unknown zone, doing what people thought could not be done.
I was that girl in High School that wanted all the superlatives. I wasn’t thin, I was athletically built, but that came from hours and hours every day of grueling dance team practice. That was on top of taking AP courses, dual enrolling in the local community college and holding a series of part time jobs to try to save up something for college.
All that hard work paid off though when I was awarded an engineering scholarship to my first school of choice.
I was ecstatic.
I was the first person in my family to attend college, and I was getting to study what I had dreamed about nearly my entire life.
I threw myself into my studies, I wanted to be the best and top of the class.
I joined a sorority, and wanted that to succeed as well.
I studied all hours, overloaded classes, worked jobs to pick up extra money because my parents didn’t have any to send to me.
I neglected my health.
I neglected my body in a relentless pursuit of finishing this one goal.
The “Freshman 15” turned into the Sophomore 30.
By the mid-point of my sophomore year, my faculty advisor had looked at my transcript so far and had offhandedly mentioned that they were running out of undergrad classes for me to take and I could possibly graduate early.
However, I needed a full course load each semester to keep my scholarship, so I asked what other classes I could take.
He said there were some graduate classes but I would need to sign up for the Master’s Degree program.
No one had finished a Master’s and a Bachelor’s in under 5 years from the University.
There it was… challenge laid out.
It became my laser focus and everything else was secondary, including my health. By the end of my Junior year I had ballooned up to nearly 195 lbs from the 130 I was when I got to College.
I was physically and emotionally miserable, but I had a goal and nothing was going to keep me from it…
except for being hospitalized.
My poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and stress had taken a toll on me.
I was embarrassed sitting there listening to doctors tell me that I needed to go to nutritional counseling, that I needed to start exercising. Things that were so inherently obvious but in my intense focus on one goal I had overwhelmingly unbalanced the rest of my life.
I cried… I slept… I missed classes… I cried some more.
Then I got off my futon couch, put on some running shoes and walked out the door of my apartment.
I stood on the sidewalk and looked toward the end of the street and told myself “Just run to the corner”.
I started to run to the corner, I was winded in seconds and started to walk. I started to cry but didn’t stop.
I walked to the corner and back. I sat on the stoop of my apartment building and promised myself I was going to do it every day until I could run to the corner.
I needed to find the balance again in my life. I needed to take back my body and use it to focus my brain.
Weeks went by, the corner became to the next block, classes were moving on and I was catching up. I started grocery shopping for healthier options.
The next block became running to downtown and back.
I got a running buddy that to this day probably has no idea how much he actually saved me.
What started off as “just make it to the corner” became the Atlanta Peachtree 10k Roadrace. I was not focused on not just finishing my degree, but becoming a well-rounded person.
Someone that was going to be able to take care of herself because no one else was going to.
To rely on the strength of my mind, my body and my will to carry me through obstacles that came my way.
I graduated with both my Master’s degree and my Bachelor’s degree in 4.5 years.
I have swung back and forth on my journey with my physical health. I have hit highs (running a
marathon) and lows (not being able to fit in a single item of clothing I owned). I have brought forth two beautiful children into this world, I have nurtured them and have strove to provide them everything they could possibly need.
What I have learned along the way is that am never going to be perfect all the time!
I am never going to be successful all the time!
But, I will enjoy the now, regardless.
I will enjoy the friendships I have made, the body that I now inhabit, and the mental and physical strength that I have that will carry me for the rest of my life.