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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Heartaches vs. Heartbreaks : Your Dreams & Plans vs. Life

I know at some point you all are probably tired of hearing me rant and ramble about New York. This time is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to try and explain to you why my dreams pull me in that direction in the first place, and how life and my plans have changed alongside my dreams.

I stepped foot in New York City almost 8 years ago. The only way I can describe that initial feeling? It took my breath away.

The pivotal feeling NYC gave me was similar to the feeling I used to feel when being on stage dancing-Alive.

The city lights, bustling people of all shapes, sizes, personalities and complexions, made me smile. The aromas from garbage and sewers to italian food and McDonalds intrigued me so much.

And then I saw the purple flags….discovered NYU. Thus my dream of moving to NYC as soon as possible was born

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When you first get an idea or first become passionate about something, the possibilities are endless. It seems as if nothing can stand in your way. And oh, what I would give to have that optimism every single waking day of my life. When I first decided NYC was the place for me, I chose the route that seemed most realistic. School. I would go to NYU live in the big city, learn new things, meet worldly people and BOOM. Dream come true. Right? Wrong.

I didn’t think of the OBSTACLES.

The first wall that presented itself was in fact the very same method I thought I’d gain entry to NYC by. School. I didn’t get into NYU. I was utterly devastated. Felt as if I’d done something horribly wrong, and that all my hard work had been for nothing. All hope was lost.

(insert dramatic pause here…)

Then I came to UNC Asheville. And because the memories, experience, and feelings I have about this school could be its own blog post i’ll save it for another time…but basically, I found my place. The place that I was supposed to be next… and now almost 4 years later, 8 months or 243 days away from undergraduate graduation I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

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You see, we have this idea of what our lives are supposed to be like. To some degree, we assume that by planning things no matter how specifically or generally we do it, that this plan ensures that what we want to happen will be what happens.

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will

 

I would never give up the people I have met, interacted with , and learned from these past few years. I’ve learned new things, done big things, and met some worldly people. Just like I wanted right? 

So not getting in the first time around? Necessary. Didn’t kill my dream. In fact, the time spent away from NYC resulted in a few things for my dreams and I:

  • Helped me realize that I didn’t have to choose a career right away but that it was okay to choose a direction.
  • Why I actually wanted to go to NYC, and NYU in the first place
  • I had a lot of growing to do before I could take on this big dream the right way.
  • Allowed me to discover a new passion, which is fatefully stationed right in the big Apple and has allowed me to see NYC in a new professional light.
  • Taught me to appreciate home more than ever.

So obstacles? Are not all that bad. There are a lot of things that would have gone much much differently if I’d have gone to NYC right away.  It’s hard to imagine life that way now, because of all the wonderful things that have happened since.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

If you ask me what I want to do now I’d tell you graduate school. For what? Public Administration. Where? NYC. Why?

Pause.

Why? Is the question that trips everyone up. It is the question you can’t really contest, because the answer is yours. Why do YOU want to do this? Why is this the route YOU want to take?  I highlight the YOU part because when you really sit and think about this why question you realize how many other people have placed a stake in YOUR dream…. versus the stake you have in it. If the stakes other people have in your dream are bigger than your own? Technically it isn’t your dream anymore.

When I first wanted to take on NYC. I wanted to be a lawyer. I was going to go to NYU, learn everything I could. Go to Law School, do it again, and then work for a big firm in which I could find some way to impact housing laws and policies. Looking at that now almost makes me cringe a bit. Why? Because it was far from what I truly wanted.

Now? I would like to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration or Public Policy. Why? I want to better understand the way policies and organizations interact with one another, how they can work together better, and how I can use the skills and knowledge taught in these types of programs to begin my own organization one day that is able to provide a substantial public service and collaborate with not only other non-profit organizations but local, state, and federal organizations as well.

Now, look at that, versus being a lawyer? The difference is huge to me when I see it laid out before me.

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan

 

The difference ultimately lies in my path. Either way I’ve always known that I want to make a difference, and that I wanted to contribute something to the world. It took the past few years for me to realize that whatever I do, I need to be rooted in it, I need to be intrinsically motivated. I can’t let the big flashy lights and beautiful scenery of NYC be the defining factor of why I want to go there. And to be honest, that’s what it was at first. It’s hard to admit it, but I didn’t know anything about the city, all I had to go off of was the pretty sights and scenery.

I’m grateful that i’ve been able to go to NYC three times in the last 3 years. That I found an organization that taught me to see NYC in a new light. It’s still bright and shiny, but I am not ignorant to its challenges and flaws. 

Is it still my dream to go there for school? Yes. I honestly, want to go to NYC period. It would be the ultimate blessing, and challenge for me. And I am okay with that.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.

Sometimes, life says no. Since I believe in God, I see it as God, saying no. It doesn’t happen to us to push us down, and that I think is the hardest thing to accept.

When I first applied to NYU, I was terrified, second guessing myself, worried, a bit unprepared to be honest…and I would not have admitted ANY of that to you or anyone. Now, knowing what I want and being able to see it more clearly, recognizing the benefits in the obstacles that have been presented to me, knowing how to answer the question WHY? and realizing that plans aren’t always going to work out the way I hope they will… have prepared me more than ever before to take on the next big step towards my dream.

When your dream gets placed on hold it hurts. It is a definite heartache. When it doesn’t happen when you think it will, it can even feel like a heartbreak. What heals that pain though, are the four lessons that being away from NYC have taught me:

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.

 

I hope that whatever your dream is, you continue to fight for it. I also hope that if you recognize that it isn’t your dream anymore you can let go of it as peacefully.

As for my dream? NYC i’m coming for you. NYU?

 

Round 2, let’s go.

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Much love,

 

SWC