Re-learning the dream – My journey to a graduate school decision

There is a bit of madness that is a part of planning. No matter what you do, you can’t avoid it. For other type A folks like myself, your inner instinct is telling you to rebel against this notion, but you know I am telling the truth.

Applying to grad school felt like a big race. Race to what? I have no idea, but a race nonetheless. It felt like I was running three lives actually, one in the present, one for the future, and one just because I’m human and well life is a race (excuse me, I mean a marathon) let’s be real. Having to balance school – which I did not take my loved ones advice when it came to taking it easy- balance planning for the future and having 10 different plans, while trying to balance the avalanche of emotions that would come in waves about leaving a place that has become my home and the fountain of a huge portion of my own personal growth.

Application process

I set out with the intent to apply to 8 schools and 4 fellowships.

What actually happened was three fellowships, and 3 schools.

I was contacted for two interviews, for a fellowship, and one for a graduate program.

Went to both, loved both, and then had to go back to doing one of the things I’m honestly pretty bad at doing – WAITING.

LAWD when I say that on God’s perfect plan for Stephanie year 2015 agenda, “teach her how to wait and if she does’t learn keep making her wait some more” had to be in the top three because I feel like I’ve spent 85% of my Aug 2014- April 2015 waiting.

Finally word came back, and 1 fellowship and 3 schools. 1 – come to another interview, and 3 yes.

Then I had to WAIT some more.

It came down to this week, 1 fellowship, 2 schools.

Re-Learning my dream

On top of learning how to wait. I’ve learned how to really think and process through what I claim to be my dream. I’ve sorted through it a hundred thousand bajillion times. I’ve had all sorts of plans in my head for each possible way it could work out, but what I didn’t notice before was that I chose to assign the backdrop of my dream to be New York City, when at the core my dream didn’t need a city to become a reality.

My decision for my next steps boiled down to two schools. Once I heard from the fellowship (another no sadly) there was no way I could put of the decision any further.

And so there was a point in time where I felt frantic. I prayed. I stressed. I dreamed. I googled. I didn’t everything, I made a dozen pro and con lists, and all of it pointed me the same thought “follow what feels right”.

Claiming this decision as my own.

I’ve tried so hard to not include my loved ones in this decision. And as bad as that sounds, there is a very particular reason why I did that. It’s because, my loved ones are already at my core. I will take them no matter where I go. I tried to keep their words out of my mind because I knew that if I let them all the way in, that they would control my decision completely, rather than the realistic portion.

The question then was, should I stay in NC and not be in debt, or should I follow my lifelong dreams of going to NYC and be in a good deal of debt, good enough to make a growing public servant get pretty nervous about the actual possibilities of paying them off.

So the school I chose, I chose not because my family wanted me to. Not because my boyfriend wanted me to. Not because of the money (completely). But because throughout this race of a process, and all the craziness, there was one school that made me feel the best. There was one school that allowed me the opportunity to vouch for myself, to think about my decision, but most importantly, cooperated with me as I relearned my dream.

You see dreams are constructed. We rest in the little tiny details, without stopping to remind ourselves what the main goal is. So I began to think, is my goal to be in New York City, or is it to further develop as a leader? Is my goal to be around bustling buildings and live the city life again, or is it to use my leadership skills and experience to help make a difference in the word. And finally, did I want to be in New York city… or have I been saying it for so long that I was afraid to let go and consider anything or anywhere else?

I chose to let go.

Momentarily of course – I’m stubborn I know- but I chose to let go and pursue the real goal. The real reason I want to go to graduate school in the first place.

And so I’m very excited, for a number of things.

1) I get to stay in my beloved yet in need of some fixing state of North Carolina

2) I feel great about the school that I decided on going to.

3) This program felt right from the moment I stepped onto the campus.

4) I get to join the ranks of one of the world’s largest networks – the UNC Chapel Hill Family.

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And so forgive me that I kept some of you -who don’t live near me -in the dark. This process had me all in my feelings for weeks at a time. I truly grappled with this for a very long time, and didn’t feel prepared or like it was necessary to chart each step out to you as it happened…

I won’t ever stop dreaming. NYC will never lose it’s spot as my dream city. I know i’ll fulfill that urge to live there one day, but for now…

 

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I am over the moon excited, slightly terrified, and hella (totally appropriate word) determined about my next step; beginning this August 2015, I will pursue a Masters of Public Administration in the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.

 
Much love,

SWC

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Dreaming up dreams is hard, and so is following them

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you reach the peak of a roller coaster and it’s about to go zooming down this steep decline and its way too late to even stop or get off? That’s how I feel. That is how I’ve been feeling for the past two weeks.

When I was little, I day dreamed a lot. I mean I had the whole day dreaming – imaginary friend thing down pat. My dreams were so plentiful sometimes I had no idea what reality was really like. And that saved me throughout the years, from heartache and from a hard heart even after life slung some foul pitches at me.

I always knew Dreams came at a cost.

Dreaming was always lined with that little bit of doubt, they’re scary, and the uncertainty you get when you dream and dream and dream, and invest all your time and effort and hard work into these dreams for years and years…. that’s supposed to be the hard part… or so I thought.

Recently I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to continue my education at the graduate level. I’m also up for the opportunity to learn and grow in the field I want to study in a program worth dreaming about. And although I am thrilled and grateful beyond belief, the same feeling I felt when dreaming about all of this is encroaching on me now… that doubt and that fear… and the realization that pursuing my dreams now that they’re semi realized is going to be a challenge too. The decision-making (oh lord this pro and con list will be epic), the financial commitments, the re-location costs, saying goodbye to friends and family, saying goodbye to comfort and security….

And so…

The tips I’ve gotten are plenty.

“Go with your heart Stephanie”

“Go where the money is!”

“Make a pro & con list”

“Do what YOU want to do”

“Go to the best program for YOU”

And the list goes on and on and on. Through it all I remain grateful and thankful to even have the issue of deciding… but I can’t ignore the facts.

Turns out following your dreams is just as hard as dreaming them. And so when in doubt, I find these quotes slapping me in the face with their realness.

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And so all I ask are prayers and good vibes… that I may have the courage to pursue, to begin, and to work through the difficult parts… and find peace with the decisions I have to make this month.

In light of this vent-post, I must also share that i’ve started a gofund me campaign in hopes that anyone who is able and willing can contribute to this wonderful (But costly) undertaking. Any and everything is appreciated. This dreamer thanks you for it.

Much Love,

SWC

Running to & away from the Future

FEELTHEFEARThe feeling in the pit of my stomach...

Monday night, I submitted my first graduate school application. Hours before then, at noon, I submitted my first fellowship application. Earlier this evening, I submitted my second fellowship application. Monday night, there was nausea and tears. Tonight, jitters. And I have a feeling all three are not going anywhere anytime soon. And the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach, is beyond fear of rejection, it is rather the combination of recognition and terror. Recognition that I am graduating from college in 4 months. Terror at the fact that no amount of planning mixed with dreaming can truly measure up and prepare me fully for whatever the future has in store.

Excuse my melodramatic tone, but I think today I just realized that this phase of my life…the college phase… is coming to an end. The phase that seemed oh so scary four years ago, is on this weird conveyor belt-like stage until the next phase begins…

Plans can only do so much.

You can plan and plan and plan for everything. You can work hard and be patient. It pays off, it does, but there will always be phases in which you realize you cannot run away. Ironically, we praise the future. We talk about how great it’s going to be. If I had a dollar for all the confidence people have in the future, for themselves, for myself… well I’d have enough money to cover some of these application fees coming up…

We run to the future, thinking that being grown means something easier, fancier, shiny, and bright. We want to make a difference, and yet when those graduate school applications ask us, we tend to draw a blank… Pouting, we fill out how we want to save the world and begin to try to give our hopes and dreams justice in just 500 words, or for the real stressful occasions 1 minute, 250 words, or an elevator ride. And so we find ourselves stuck, applying, studying, waiting, pursuing, stressing, applying, and rinse and repeat… we are strung up in this weird limbo, running away and towards the future at the same time.

Run me back through time.

Writing a dozen essays about your plans for the future will make you reflect a lot about the past. And for the past few weeks of my restful/not so restful winter break, I keep thinking of 10 year old me, and 15 year old me, and 17 year old me. I think of 10 year old me, awkward and growing out of a tomboy phase and into the early stages of womanhood, with no idea of what was going on, and I wish I could appear as myself to my younger self and talk her down from feeling so low and awkward and out of sync with her own spirit. To 15 year old me, I would to her to protect her heart with ferocity. I would tell her to love herself sooner, because the 21 year old would be grateful for it later on…I would tell her to keep her head up… and to rethink the whole bangs idea. To the 17 year old me, I would tell her to talk to her dad more… it would’ve saved her a lot of awkward talks in college.

Running back through time almost feels surreal. You’re running back through the movie that is your life, and then all the sudden you feel like you’re at the credits because you can’t see into the future you don’t know what’s next so it feels so so so so much like the end… and it’s just the beginning… but we don’t get that until after we’ve crossed that line.

But I’m rambling now…sorry….

My point is, whenever a huge transition in our lives is upon us, we get stuck in this limbo.

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And I wish that here I could type to solution to solving that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to run away and towards the future at the same time…but alas I’ve got nothing.. Only the thought that I think it happens a lot more than people would care to admit.

And maybe if we were more honest with how terrified we all are, it’d be more bearable to get through.

Or maybe if we stopped running for a second, and took a moment to reflect, no word or time limit, on everything that has happened to get us to this very moment and place in time… we would come to have a little more faith in the idea that we’ll make it through.

So to all my readers, whether you’re in my boat applying for future jobs, schools, or new opportunities… hold steady, as steady as you can be. The struggle is real, but we all ultimately have to, and will get through it.

Much love,

SWC

P.S : For my college seniors out there, here’s a really cool bucket list from Thought Catalog “13 things to do your last semester of college…”

When disappointed in the present, look to the future

I’ve always been a dreamer. Not because dreaming has necessarily been my main form of entertainment, but because day dreaming, and dreaming in general has been an escape for me for as long as I can remember.

When I was little I used to have an imaginary dance partner, his name was John and he could lift me in the air. I dreamed this partially because I was an only child in love with dance, but also because I wasn’t that great at it at first so I dreamed up a situation in which I was awesome, and even had awesome dance friends to join me.

Enough about 3-year old me, let’s fast forward…

Right now, some of the buzz words that come to mind to describe my present are along the lines of hectic, pained, and challenging.

I don’t like complaining about how hard life is, I don’t like complaining about how sad or angry or irritated I may be at something, but when it gets to this point, the point it is now, I tend to dream. And the older I’ve become since the imaginary-dance partner days, my dreams have turned into plans, passionate plans that aim to help me cope with the present no matter how wonderful or painful it may be.

The past week has been both awful and wonderful at the same time. From a hit to the heart out of nowhere, a verdict that has shaken me, my friends, a community, and I argue the country to it’s core about some of the dark issues it still has to battle with today, to an amazing 4 days with family that was much needed, and back to an environment that is stressful again, it has been one of the most perfect times to dream, and by dream I mean plan, because I refuse to let my present keep me down and ruin everything.

Thus the concept of:

-When disappointed in the present, look and plan for the future-

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The fundamental word here isn’t really dream. It’s hope. In the darkest depths of your present. You have to find the tiniest light. Find it, grab it, care for it, grow it, and let yourself hope.

I think the world would be an awfully darker place without hope. Not having hope is an indication of giving up I think…and I believe there’s that part of everyone that hates giving up.

And I’m not saying that by planning out your future it will in any way shape or form make the present better, or will it secure a particular order of things for your life, but it could be your light. Hoping and dreaming have been two of the things that have gotten through some moments I had no idea if what I was dreaming-hoping and planning for was even realistic and accurate, but so what. I did it anyways.

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The ultimate goal here is to remind you if you feel lost. If you feel insecure. Unloved. Unimportant. Tired. Drained. Stressed out. Any negative thing. Or have anything making your present not so bright? Dream anyways. Hope anyways, and plan. Go to bed with that mind that’s probably racing 500000000 miles per hour, and wake up as refreshed as you can with a purpose.

I do not intend to make this post seem like I have this down to a science, OR that I have my own mess together, because I don’t. And trust me, it is and feels like a true true mess… And if your present is as challenging as mine is right now, you’ll understand that even in this awfulness right now, it’s better to live-love-forgive-forget-try and hope for better, plan for better… it’ll be another piece of your artillery to get you through this long fight of life.

Much love,

SWC