Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Late bloomer or perennial bloomer?

I learned that someone had said that it was a shame that my running and fitness interest didn't kick in earlier in life.

I had several immediate reactions, some more gracious than others.
  1. Guaranteed the person who said that is under the age of 25 with limited life experience.
  2. My drive has indeed manifested itself in what I characterize as success across my multifaceted life.
  3. They haven't seen ANYTHING yet.
I'm just getting started on this newest adventure. As proud as I am of the year's accomplishments, I am most humbly grateful for the circumstances of my life and I wouldn't change a thing. This year has been so much sweeter precisely because it is happening now and because of all that has led up to this point. Would I have had the same focus, drive, and discipline 15, 10, or even 5 years ago? Doubtful. It's because of the tapestry of challenges and experiences that I have had that I can do this now...and appreciate it so much. And would I even be on this path had I not met up with JRP? Doubtful. Timing is everything and somehow he is just very well tuned to what drives me.

So what else led me to this year?

Growing up, horses, riding, Pony Club, and horse shows were my life and I owe much of my discipline to that. From riding I learned two chief lessons: (1) things worth doing require a long-term investment in time and effort with a big-picture perspective that allows you ride out the daily ups and downs and that (2) relationships - with people and horses in this case - are important to nurture as the sense of community is a key ingredient to motivation and success. And I found much success in riding.

By college I was ready to explore new options and I found myself at the Weight Club and plugged in with a group that powerlifted. Despite having a long lean body that was ill-suited to the sport, I persevered and found myself ranked in the top 20 nationally for my weight class (132). This was a good reminder that one can't put limits on oneself or make assumptions about what is/isn't possible.

I returned to riding again, but in a new discipline - Dressage. I found a trainer in Lexington, VA and drove there 3x a week for two years to work with her and one of her warmblood horses. I quickly rose up through the levels and received multiple year-end championships. When I was several months pregnant with Spencer and my show clothes no longer fit, I took leave from riding. But from this experience I gleaned that when there is a will, there is a way. If you have the dream and the goal and are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, to help yourself, you can.

Now after one child, a temporary move to Atlanta, and the birth of a second child, we returned to Blacksburg where we built a house. I assumed the role of project manager which came in handy when our contractor blew through all of our money and took off before the home was done. My role was instantly elevated with tremendous time and financial pressure. We got the job done and let me tell you - that took my organizational, networking and communication skills to new levels!

Once we settled in, I returned to work after several years out. I taught as an Adjunct Instructor in the department of Engineering Education. One thing led to another and I found myself back in grad school to finish a PhD in Human Factors Engineering in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I had made one unsuccessful go of it earlier in life. This time, coupled with my own research idea and a great advisor, I had a great experience and completed my degree more quickly than most thought possible. The takeaway here is how important interest and passion are, and how dedication takes discipline, sacrifice, and single-mindedness. I laugh that at every home football game for two years, I was parked with the tailgaters in the commuter lot, only I walked to my office in Whittemore where I worked long weekends.

Fast-forward to this year and the long-strange-trip-it's-been! This year has shown me that I can juggle and manage more than I ever thought possible - family, work, gym, running, tennis, and service. I'm stronger than I knew I could be.

And the icing on the cake is that I have a beautiful family with two amazing, interesting, talented, and fun-to-be-with kids. I maintain contact with many friends from other phases of my life and I see where many put all their eggs in one basket and have been left somewhat dispirited. Sacrifices had been made and dreams not quite realized.

So maybe I didn't become an Olympic athlete, but what are the odds are that I would have anyway? Would I have been any happier? Or perhaps less so? Running, lifting, and sports are a much more personal endeavor for me than others - my version of dance, of play, of silliness. I am grateful to be having this experience exactly now and in exactly this way. I have no regrets. I hope that I can inspire others because I am doing this as a crazy-busy mom. And again, it's only because of challenges and experiences of the puzzle pieces of my life that this is working now.

For me, I find joy in a rich and diverse life, juggling many aspects of family, fun, fitness, service, and work/teaching. And the best part is watching my kids explore their own interests and find life lessons and satisfaction in their own personal struggles and successes athletically, academically, and in their own souls.

Late bloomer? Nah. No way...I'm a perennial bloomer!

There are no limits on THIS girl.

And to whoever tossed this comment out so casually, I hope you will continue to bloom and rediscover yourself in a variety of ways throughout your life and see that life needs to be examined through a wide angle lens more often than a magnifying glass. Thanks for spurring me on. When I hit my first 225+ lb deadlift and qualify for the Boston Marathon I will think of you and wish you well.