Sunday, September 16, 2012

two roads diverged

I got in!

I got in to Northwestern's graduate school of journalism.

Me. At the the same Northwestern of Rachel Nichols. And Gregg Easterbook. And Michael Wilbon. And Rich Eisen. And one of the Mike's of Mike and Mike.

Two roads divered in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.

I thought deciding to bite the bullet was the hard part. I thought getting my butt to Starbucks for 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday through-out the spring was the hard part. I thought memorizing that massive stack of vocab flash cards was the hard part. I thought remembering the Pythagorean theorem! How to find the slope and incline of a plane! Solving for the square root of x! Irrational numbers! was the hard part. I thought taking and passing (98 percentile in Analytical Writing, thank you very much) the GRE was the hard part.  I thought getting in was the hard part.

I never thought deciding whether or not to go once I got in was going to be so darn hard. And yet, when faced with the opportunity to chase down my dream of reporting live from the sidelines of the NFL and continuing on this path, I was stuck.

They say to trust your heart. They say to follow your gut. But what about when your heart wants one thing and your gut, despite how much you wish it weren't, is telling you another? Deciding which one to side with is the hardest part.

And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

When you're growing up and learning how to make decisions you're taught that there's a right, and therefore a wrong, choice. But as you grow up you learn that, often times, it's not as black and white. Instead there are just two options. Neither one is right. Neither one is wrong. There are just two roads, diverging in a yellow wood. Equally laying in leaves no step had trodden black. No right choice. Just your choice.

And so you make one. The best decision you can make for yourself. The one that gives you peace of mind, even if it brings you a few tears. The one that leads to what you hope is the brightest future. The path of least regret. I'm not sure if you're ever 100% sure. You just choose a path and take the first step. Then the next one. And step-by-step (ooooh baby. gonna get to you girrllll ... who doesn't think of NKOTB every time they hear that saying!?) you travel down the path. Because the worst choice is no choice.

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

And that has made all the difference.


Monday, September 10, 2012

a little racey

I'm in the thick of training for my second marathon. Why? I can no longer remember. I think it has something to do with the feeling of accomplishment as you cross that finish line at 26.2. But right now? Now I only seem to remember the physical and mental strain of realizing I still had 6.2 to go at mile 20. Of literally just willing my legs to keep running at 24.5. Of being ready to stop, right then and there, at 25.5. And yet somehow, I'm here again. Weeks away from 26.2 yet again and on the steady journey of weekend training runs to get there.

There's something about being out running along the lake on an early Saturday morning during marathon training season. It's exhilirating. It's inspiring. It's, at least for someone like me, a little competitive. You're passing people left and right. And at the same time, you're being passed left and right. And while I do a pretty good job of convincing myself that that person who just passed me as I approach mile 15 must be just starting out their run with a fresh set of legs, the reality is we're not competing against each other.

That young guy I just felt pretty good about passing? What if this is his first run back from early hip surgery induced by the two Iron Man compeitions he's completed? That older woman who's making me feel like a slug while she speeds by my right? What if she's training for her 25 marathon? That girl that looks just like me who's plugging along at a slow and steady pace? Maybe she's just happy to be tackling 3 miles. You never know what everyone else is going through. What they're struggling with. What they're overcoming. What's driving them. Where they're trying to go.

You've got to run your own race.

I spent last weekend down in Indianapolis, drenched. Baby shower for the TBD baby Shields on Saturday and Bridal Shower for the wedding planner herself on Sunday. Two of my very best friends from high-school. Girls who I spent countless hours up at night with... talking about boys, planning out our lives, dreaming big dreams. Girls who I prepped dances and parties with. Girls who did my hair for homecoming. Girls who I traded notes with in the halls between classes. Girls who I ventured off to college with. Girls who I grew up with. Girls who used to be on the same track as me: graduate. go to college. graduate. move out. get a job. become a success. meet someone. fall in love. get married. have babies. live happily ever after.

And yet this weekend made it pretty clear that we're not on the same track anymore. Or, if we are, I'm being lapped. Big time.  

But then I came back into work this morning, looked out over Lake Michigan from my 29th floor office and realized. Hey, wait. This is everything I dreamed of back on those high-school sleep-over nights. I'm doing it. I made it. I was just promoted to Account Director far earlier than I expected or imagined office politics would allow for. I'm rocking and rolling at work. So much for the track, I'm climbing up that corporate ladder with leaps and bounds.

Sometimes you just have to tell the competitive, comparative voice inside your head to shut up.

You're running your own race.

You can drive yourself crazy comparing yourself to others. But you know what? There's likely someone doing the same to you. And at the end of the day, we're not competing against each other. There's no prize for who finishes first. Heck, we're not even running the same race. The only person you've got to worry about is yourself. And the only track you've got to worry about is the one you're on. The one you've laid out for yourself. It's your personal best that's at stake. And when you can get a PB? Well, that's a pretty good run in my book.