On Life Changes And Going After What You Want

Guys. This is long. Like, 2000 words long. But, I needed to write this all out for me. I understand if your eyes glaze over and you’d rather skip this and come back another time. Thanks for being patient while my blog went MIA and I worked on this novel.

I did the whole college thing by the book: I graduated high school, got accepted to several colleges, accepted a scholarship from my school of choice, and moved to a new state to start a new chapter of my life. I chose a major that I enjoyed–history–without giving much thought to what I would actually DO with that degree. I was originally going to go into teaching and then dropped that in favor of doing an extended History degree, complete with an honors thesis.

I graduated after four years, right on schedule, with honors from the History Department, as well as the University. I had broken up with my long-term boyfriend early in the school year, and suddenly faced with singledom and entering the “real world” –with a pretty useless degree (let’s be honest)– I took the next logical step: Grad school.

I accepted a spot and Teaching Assistant-ship at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and moved even FURTHER away from my family and friends. I had started another new chapter of my life, yet again, all alone. I had picked a school far away, not because it held a degree I wanted, or I was interested in moving to Charlotte, but because I needed to get as far away from things as possible. I had to assert my independence. I couldn’t move back home and just find a job. I needed a career. And in order to have a career doing something with history, I had to go to grad school.

Moving to Charlotte was the catalyst that really kickstarted my love affair with running. I had run consistently since my sophmore year in college, but while in grad school at UNCC, my running picked up steam, but not in a good way (at least at first). I started running at least 5 miles a day and lifting weights on my non-running days. I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole of really unhealthy habits. I limited what I ate (even though I was burning through those calories), and almost completely isolated myself by locking myself in either my office, the library, or my bedroom. If I wasn’t in class, I was either running, studying, or laying in bed watching TV.

I found myself having trouble getting out of bed in the mornings, and distinctly remember calling my mom and telling her I couldn’t do it. She gave me what I needed to hear at the time–That it was OKAY to not continue the path I was on. After I had made the decision to leave Charlotte and the graduate program, I felt a little bit of relief. I found health living and running blogs and realized what I was doing to myself. I stopped running obsessively, but ran to free myself from the other constraints and expectations I had placed on myself. I started eating well. I was grocery shopping with purpose–buying good food and good fuel for myself.

After finals in December, I packed up my room, picked my Dad up from the airport, and we started the lengthy drive back to California. I moved back in with my parents, found a full time job, and started thinking about my next step.

I kept up my running, but in a much healthier way. I ran in the mornings before work and enjoyed the moments of peace and silence before the beginning of yet another busy day. Running became a way for me to heal myself. I was still having trouble with the foods I was allowing myself to eat, but I was spending time with old friends, planning a European backpacking trip with my best friend, and was on my way to becoming happy again. I had abandoned a plan I didn’t feel was right for me and was slowly becoming me again.

I chose to come back to Flagstaff and NAU for another shot at my master’s. I had settled on the idea of pursuing a degree in Public History and working in a library, archive, or museum. During my first semester back in grad school, I started training for my first marathon. Running became my escape from the stress and frustration of grad school. It turns out, this second master’s wasn’t much better than the first. I was back in a place I was familiar with and had friends around to hang with, but I wasn’t enjoying what I was studying. It felt like a necessary step I had to take to pursue in order to do what I wanted to do. The kicker with that, however, was that I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. I figured that a career path in museums was something I could do.

I trained for my first marathon while I was in grad school. It felt like a real goal I could achieve and one that would make me proud. Which caused me then to wonder, Why didn’t I feel that way about grad school? I never saw obtaining my Master’s as a real accomplishment–it was just something I had to do.

My second to last semester at NAU, I began an internship with the library in it’s Special Collections and Archives. I enjoyed what I was doing, and thought “yeah. I can make a life of this.” I had decided that when I graduated in December of 2012, I’d move away from Flagstaff and start pursuing this career. Well… that went to the pits when I met Jeff in June. Just a few months after we started dating, I knew I’d be staying in Flag in order to see where this relationship could go.

Meanwhile, I continued onward with my graduate degree, all the while becoming more and more disillusioned and disgruntled. I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. The classes I was TAing for, as well as the classes I took, were uninteresting to me. I looked at my classmates and felt like I was missing something. Why wasn’t I as excited as they were? I figured it was because I wanted to be in the public domain, and they were largely pursuing academic careers.

I, again, turned to running. During the three semesters I was at NAU for my graduate degree, I trained for and ran 2 marathons. Those weeks of training, the long runs, and the success of crossing the finish line were the real accomplishments to me. To me, 2012 isn’t the year I graduated with my Master’s. It’s the I met Jeff, ran 2 marathons, climbed to the top of Mt. Whitney–all while finishing up school.

My accomplishments began to shift focus–I didn’t find it in my grades or how my teachers thought about me and my work. I began to see it on the pavement, the way my body changed and got stronger, and the way my paces faster than I imagined they ever would.

After graduating, and deciding to stay in Flagstaff, I found myself a job. It had nothing to do with the degrees I had worked to earn. It had no future. But, it paid the bills and allowed me to continue running, while learning about health, nutrition and how to fuel myself to improve my running.

For a while now, I’ve questioned whether I belonged in the history field. The jobs I wanted all required yet another master’s degree, and I wondered if that was really what I wanted to do. I talked to Jeff about getting a degree in nutrition, or maybe becoming a personal trainer. I rarely talked about finding a job in “my field”. I chalked a lot of that up to the fact that we live in a small town with limited options. But really, I think I had checked out. If I had really wanted it, I would have made it happen.

I’m not somebody that sits on their hands and waits for things to come to them. I worked hard at school and earned myself a full ride for grad school. I ran a marathon, and then another, and then another until I achieved a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. If I had wanted to be in the archival field, I’d have made that happen. I had opportunities, connections I could have utilized, but instead I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted–and that was run.

In January, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to take the next logical step in order to begin this elusive career…a second Master’s in Library Science. I applied, and was accepted, to the University of Arizona’s SIRLS program and was due to begin yesterday, August 24th.

Two weeks before the first day of school, I deferred my admission.

I can sit here and spew some more about the multitude of other reasons I came up with not to follow through with this degree, but the bottom line is this: I didn’t want to do it and that was good enough for me.

In May, I left my job at an art gallery and started working in a doctor’s office and it’s solidified it for me: I want to be in the medical field. When I deferred from my classes my first thought was going into nutrition to become an RD. I researched, picked my brother’s girlfriend’s mind (she’s an RD) and started looking at programs, schools, etc. Then I thought about nursing. I’ve had many people tell me many times I’d make a great nurse, but I always wrote it off because I was “squeamish”. Well, let’s  just say I’m putting that to the test.

I’m not sure of my path just yet. But, I am registered for a biology class this semester. I’m going to start taking prereq’s I’ll need for both career paths and figure it out as I go.

What does all that mean for my training and this little blogspace? I honestly have no idea. I love the community that I’ve found here–and would like to continue to be a part of it, but whether that’s through my own blog, I’m not entirely sure. I guess I’ll see what I have time for.

As for training….running will always be a part of my life. Always. I’m just not sure how training is going to translate into a new world of school + working full time. I’m planning on continuing forward with marathon training this fall and get that 3:30 in February, but if it proves to be too overwhelming and too much, I’ll reconsider.

I’m really excited about making this leap and pursuing something I’m really excited about. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking through that! Yikes. Four gold stars for you.

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19 thoughts on “On Life Changes And Going After What You Want

  1. Working full time and going to school full time is no joke. Then add marathon training and spending time with your boyfriend/family and it gets really complicated. I’m sure all your running will work out though! It seems to be the one great constant throughout your life. And sometimes you just need that familiar thing in your life when everything else becomes uncharted territory. I love that about running. Good luck!

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    • Thank you! You’re so right! That’s exactly how I feel about running. No matter what else is happening and how lost I feel, I know I can always put on my shoes and go for a run.

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  2. I made it to the end! Woo! Seriously though, thanks for sharing your journey. As a twentysomething who’s going through a bit of a career crisis at the moment, this is something I needed to hear. I’m also considering retraining in my field whilst training for my first marathon, and sitting a ton of exams. I’m a bit scared! Did you ever feel you made a ‘leap’ during this process?

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    • Ha! THANK YOU! I think the moment I realized I didn’t want to continue with a second master’s degree and jump into a completely new field–starting at the very bottom–was a huge leap. I’m leaning more towards the nursing side, and if that all goes well, I’m looking at graduating with my BSN two months before my thirtieth birthday. That really scares me! It’s been a really hard and emotional decision to make, but it ultimately came down to do I want to just keep working jobs forever, or do I want to find a career in something I love? It’s especially hard going against that ingrained idea that you’re x old and x is expected from you. I’m really thankful Jeff is 100% behind me making this decision. If I didn’t have his support and encouragement, I’d be a whole lot less likely to completely abandon six years of school for something completely different.

      Good luck to you! I wish I had more advice, but since I literally made this decision three weeks ago, I’m still wading through a lot of unknowns. Just follow your heart! It may be a little bit more work, but if it’ll pay off and make you happier in the end, I think it’s worth it!

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      • Thank you! I’ll be following your journey 🙂 I’m struggling with the fact that my parents don’t approve of my “leap” and I’ve just gotta get my head around the fact that they’re not going to come round! It’s scary but I’m young and why the hell not?!

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      • I can only imagine how difficult that is! You are young and you have your whole life ahead of you! Go for what you want now! You spend more of your life at work than you do with your family, so I figure, I have to find something I enjoy or I’ll just be miserable and what good is that? You’re the one who will have to live with your decision, and if you’re doing something you love that makes you happy, I’m sure your parents will come around! I’m excited for you 🙂

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  3. I have my BA in History of Art, so I completely understand the feeling of having to enter the real world with a “useless” degree. Although I don’t have a graduate degree, I’ve actually ended up in a similar situation to where you were a few months ago. I work in a research library and I’d like to take the next steps in furthering my career, but all of my so called next steps would require a Masters in Library Science. I’ve been putting off applying for grad school because I want to make sure it is something I really want to do it, not because it is something I feel like I should be doing.

    Wishing you the best of luck as you begin to navigate RD and nurse pre-reqs.

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    • Thank you Heather! It’s such a tough place to be in. All the jobs I was looking at required an MLS, which was SO infuriating because I already had a master’s! The great news about MLS’ are there are a LOT of programs online, which made the whole second-master’s a little more appealing to me.

      I wish I could pass along some more advice, but as I’m still wading through this I don’t have much. But, absolutely make sure that grad school/that career choice is what you want to do. As a TA I told my students that over and over. Take some time in between your bachelor’s and make sure it’s really want you want. Because it’s no joke. It was a LOT of work. Also, really look into financial aid and what scholarships they have available. If you CAN go back full time and be a TA, I’d highly recommend that. I’m SO grateful I came out of my master’s with zero student loans, or I think this decision would have been a lot, lot harder. I would have felt like I was throwing that money away!

      Good luck to you!

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      • Thanks Nona! I’m considering just going back part time (my husband and I are both on my work provided insurance plan and the benefits are crazy good here!). Plus since the library I work at is a university library, I actually get some tuition reimbursement. It is definitely tempting to go back full time so I can be done in just two years, but I think part time is probably the best option for me.

        I still have a bit more thinking to do on the matter, but my husband and I were talking about it last night, and it seems like now is a pretty good time in our lives for me to go back to school. I’ve had almost 7 years to think about it since finishing my BA, so hopefully in another few months I’ll have it sorted out, lol.

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      • Ah, so lucky! Jeff works for the university as well as has that awesome benefit for tuition! It’s such a nice option! Part-time, especially if it’s an online program, will be a lot easier. It’s a longer endgame, but I think it’s better then trying to cram it all in. Good luck to you Heather! 🙂

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  4. Congratulations on following your own path. It is so hard to differentiate between what we “should” do in life, and what is truly best for us. I left medical school after two years and completed a few online courses to achieve a Masters instead – so I didn’t totally just waste a ton of time and money haha. But what I thought I should do or needed to do was for other people and not myself. I really respect and admire your ability to make those hard decisions. It’s not easy, and you have a lot to be proud of. I’m very excited for you and your journey, I do hope you keep blogging, but understand the demands of science courses and prereqs. If you ever need any biology help let me know! Haha. Hope you have a fabulous Wednesday 🙂

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  5. Aww, thanks for sharing your story Nona! First of all let me say I hope you still have some time to blog because I will really miss you if you leave us!! 😦 But I know that you gotta do what you gotta do, and I’m happy for you that you’re starting on a new chapter.

    I relate to this a lot. I have a BA in Political Science and I am not working in that field really at all, nor do I want to. I bounced around a lot after college because I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I really relate to the struggle. I never went to grad school although I’ve considered it MULTIPLE times, simply because I have no idea what I’d even want to go to grad school for. Looking back, I realize I was looking at grad school as an “easy way out”, not because I actually wanted it. And even if I had, I have been too scared to take that leap. I have a good job and, after so many years of college and AmeriCorps and moving, I can’t bear the thought of uprooting my life all over again, especially not now that I’ve finally got a good thing going. Although my job is great and I’m thankful, it doesn’t make me totally happy and I know I don’t want to stay here forever.

    I think what helped for me was realizing and accepting that I am a person who will probably never find her fulfillment through work. Our culture tells us we’re supposed to, but not everyone is going to love their job or love working. So, even though it’s harder, I’ve learned to find my happiness outside of the office.

    Best of luck to you on your new journey. I truly hope this is “the one”! I hope you keep us updated. Remember, all the fighting you’ve had to do has made you better. Some people get things easier, but those rewards will never be as sweet. Keep going, it will be worth it in the end!

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    • Thank you Hanna! I think the biggest catalyst for me, was the jobs I fell into, I didn’t enjoy. So the experience I was getting was for things I hated! Not a good cycle to be in. I’m really lucky that I fell into my current job, that it’s something I really enjoy and that it’s opening these new doors for me! I think it’s GREAT you found something you like, and that gives you the freedom and opportunity to pursue the things you love, too. That’s a very awesome position to be in!

      My only advice for grad school, is make sure you want it. It’s waaaaay too much time and energy (and $$$) to do something you don’t enjoy!

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  6. It’s only appropriate to leave my first comment on this post 🙂 My patients ask me all the time how long it took me to become a nurse. I say, “That’s a complicated question. In short, I could have graduated from medical school by the time I earned my BSN.” The next three years of your life will pass you by no matter what you’re doing – libraries, another masters, a BSN or RD program, or becoming a full time paid blogger a.k.a. the dream – what matters is if you’re happy with where you’re at when you get there. When retirement is 43 years away – a LONG freaking time – a few years is nothing, and you’ll want to make sure you’re doing something that keeps you excited, happy, and fulfilled for those 43 years. Breathe, take your time, and enjoy the journey. Follow the things that spike your interest – they may seem small at the time, but one day you’ll look back and see it as a defining moment. You have such a grand heart – using it (and your brains) to help others, in whichever capacity suits you, is not a decision you’ll regret. Ok done. So happy for you!

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  7. So awesome that you’re taking the leap into a new career field! I too, went to school 4 years, in and out, graduating with a degree in English (I’m an English teacher). I knew that that was pretty much all I could do with that degree and at the time, I was okay with that. Now, 8 years later and still getting the paid THE EXACT SAME as when I was a first year teacher, I’m starting to re-think this career. But, like you, what am I going to do with this degree unless I go back to school? It just doesn’t make sense for me and I’ve come to terms with that.

    And I think that’s what the most important. Coming to terms with your situation and for you, you decided to take the next step and not settle. SO admirable. I really hope you squeeze in mini blog posts because I’ll sure miss you. Totally understand how crazy life is and how our blogs can (and should) take a backseat to other more important things though–and you’ve got *a lot* of important things in your life 🙂

    ❤ ya girl!

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