Friday, July 1, 2011

Do What You Are

Do you ever look back and wish you knew things long ago that you know now?  It may sound cliche, but I do all the time.  In some cases, I'm glad I didn't know what I know now because it kept me out of trouble.  But in most cases, I wish I did.  I feel sure that if I had my 31-year-old knowledge in my 18-year-old self...things would be a lot different now.

And really, I don't want much to be different.  I love my life, and the journey to where I am now has been pretty great..  I think the most unsatisfying thing about my life up to this point falls into the category of what I do. Work.  While I know no job out there is perfect, all are a pain in the butt from time to time, and I have many other things in my life to fulfill and satisfy...I'd still like to find something I loved to do for 8 hours a day.  One of the many things I wish I'd known in my younger years is that an English degree at Auburn University wouldn't get me where I'd eventually want to go.  I thought I knew where I wanted to go...but I had no idea what it would take to get there and that eventually, I wouldn't think it was worth it.

At the wise old age of 18 I thought I wanted to be an English professor at a university. There was a brief stint where I wanted to be a librarian too, but mostly I wanted to get a PhD in English Literature and teach my favorite works to enthusiastic young minds.  I wanted to be a scholar, but when it came down to becoming one, what I really wanted to do was go for a run on a lovely fall day.  I'd rather listen to my favorite song and day dream about adventures than slave over a paper that would only earn me a B at the end of the day.  And I loved to read, but I wanted to pick and not to be told what my next book should be.

All the same, I held on to my scholarly pursuits for a while.  After completing my B.A., I spent almost a year in China experiencing another culture and then came back to continue my studies.  I applied to MTSU, but didn't get in because I didn't have a letter of recommendation from Auburn.  I never even tried to get that recommendation.  Why would professors remember a regular, run-of-the-mill B student (I did make A's but not in my major)?  I thought it was the end of the world at the time, but it turned out okay as most things do.  I did get accepted to their school of Library Science, but by then I had decided to move to Huntsville.

I applied to UAH and got into the Liberal Arts Master's program.  I majored in English with a certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  I completed the certificate but bailed on the Master's degree.  It was no different from my B.A. and I'd rather be out running, training for marathons, traveling to run marathons and day dreaming about one day meeting a man to go with me. 

I started working at NASA as a secretary and felt pretty blessed by such a great job.  I learned a lot during that part of my life.  I learned about people and didn't always like what I learned.  I learned about men and realized I'd been wrong about most everything concerning them (some may and did call it naive).  I climbed what ladders I could while not being an engineer, made more money, met more people, and I considered this to be some measure of success.  I never really liked what I did, but I did like what it allowed me to do.  I eventually returned to UAH to major in Public Affairs and excelled at my classes while begrudgingly spending time on them that I'd rather spend running, writing, day dreaming and experiencing.

When the Constellation program was cancelled, I lost my job, ending my 7-year employment at Marshall Space Flight Center.  It felt odd getting laid off, but I can't say I didn't drive off that arsenal with some measure of excitement and a promise to myself to never go back.  A month later I started work at UAH as a Distance Education Coordinator for the Professional and Continuing Studies Department, and this job (it is the one I hold currently) is the closest I have found to actually liking what I do.  Ironically, I run the online Engineering courses.  I still have to work with engineers, but in a much different and more pleasant capacity.  (And let me note here, I have nothing against engineers - I am married to one.  I just don't want to work with them.)

Through all of this, running was my constant.  I traveled all over the US with my mom, running marathons in beautiful places.  I started focusing more on health and nutrition. I joined a gym, cross trained and gradually began to get a little faster.  I began setting goals and chasing after them.  I ran through tendonitis.  I ran through the rain.  I ran through heartache and disappointment.  I ran through triumphs and excitement.  I ran through fear and confusion.  I ran through my mistakes.  I ran up hills.  I ran off some weight.  I ran against the wind.  I ran into the man who would become my husband.

He ran more than I did and he ran twice as fast (he finished his marathons 2 hours before I did, although I have now narrowed that gap to one).  I watched him and imagined more for myself.  I read tips and stories about my beloved sport and my own improvement continued.  Minutes fell off my times for distances from a 5k to the marathon.  I researched training strategies and began writing a bit more about it.  I mixed my love for running and writing, and eventually added another love which was helping others do what I had done.  I began coaching new and returning runners through the No Boundaries program started by our local Fleet Feet store.  I took my own story of the average Jane doing so much more than she ever thought and translated it into showing others their own potential as a runner and as anything else they wanted to be for that matter.

Upon reaching this place, I now know what I wish I'd known at the tender, just-starting-out age of 18.  Sure,  I love to read and write, but I have finally found my passion.  Or maybe I didn't really find it so much as realize that the thing I loved to do should be the thing that I was doing (if that makes sense).  I thought reading and writing and teaching reading and writing were my passion and that I ran for fun.  But I had it backwards.  My passion was running, being strong and healthy, pushing myself passed where I believed I could go and helping others get there too.  I'd seen how it affected every aspect of my life - my faith, my relationships, the view I had of myself - and I wanted to share that with others who didn't know they could have it too.

So now I know what I want to do, but I'm equipped with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, bits and pieces of various Master's degrees, a certificate to teach English as a second language... and I want to work in the fitness industry.  And you might be saying (if you made it through my lengthy missive) THEN GO FORTH!  But it is not that simple.  I believe I need some educational backing, something that proves I have studied and learned and might really know things.  I can't just walk out there and say, "I love running and fitness and health and I've experienced a lot, so let me help you!"  I think people want and need more than that.  Businesses also require more.  I'm the same way.  If you are going to teach me something, I want to know how you know what you know, and if you are qualified to teach me about it. 

That said, I have been working towards this.  I don't want another 4-year degree, and in my current location, there isn't one in this field.  I don't want to spend more time sitting at a desk somewhere - I do enough of that as it is.  But I am working on obtaining the knowledge and proof of this knowledge to match my experience.  I believe it takes both to be truly credible.

I feel like I've wasted a lot of time pursuing nonsense.  Four years of college and seven years of working.  That is a lot of time.  I'm 31 now.  Shouldn't I be well into my chosen profession at this point?  Wracking up retirement and expertise?  Maybe.  But looking back and wishing only wastes more time.  So I'm working on a few things.  I'm working on turning my passions into employment.  It will take some time, some learning, some sitting and listening, and probably a test or two.  And in the end, I won't be the head of a major health industry or the lead dietician in a hospital.  But I might be helping people set some goals, reach those goals, improve their health and improve their life.

And I think that would be pretty great.  More to come on that in another post.


  1. I think you would be perfect for the type of job you are wanting. Sometimes I feel as if I owe you for teaching me so much :) I'll pray that the right opportunities arise and that you can do what you love.

  2. Ha ha, girl you have taught me just as much!!! All I require is your friendship. And Florence. ;)

  3. this is exciting! you will be such an encouragement to all that you encounter in this field. and if anyone ever asks me, you did NOT ever pig out on m&m chips ahoy cookies at my house... nope. never. love you!! btw- my friend and i have been back to doing c25k a few times a week in my new neighborhood. it's fun even though it's hot! and there's even HILLS here. yikes. :)

  4. As long as no one knows I cleaned out your mom's cookie jar on a regular basis, we are good! :) And good for you on the c25k!!! If you stick with it now, it will feel GREAT when things cool off! Wish I was there to do it with you.

  5. GREAT post--I'm right there with you, except you're way faster and I would look at your racing history and already think you know exactly what you're talking about. Accreditation doesn't MAKE you better but it will help with insurance!!! :D ((Just sent you a FB message about this...))

  6. Good for you for realizing you want onto a different path. Go for it!