Post-Grad Living

 

While mad cleaning the apartment tonight (thanks to a 5pm cup of coffee and destroying the kitchen in an attempt to make chili), I found an old journal from my sophomore and junior years of college.I’ve kept some form of a journal since I was ten, and while I haven’t written much since Vietnam I always enjoy going back and reading through my old thoughts and emotional roller coasters. That’s the thing with writing a journal (that’s different than writing on a public platform)- you only really write about the highs and the lows. There is no in between. I spent a good 45 minutes tonight reading through the moments that, at the time, were the world’s biggest heartbreak or the best I’ve ever felt.

It’s funny how you think nothing changes day in and day out, but when I look back at four years ago I’m shocked by some of the things that passed through my mind and onto paper. “Nothing was ever accomplished through negative self talk” I wrote in March of 2012 (I probably definitely didn’t come up with that). I felt like every missed dive was a failure, and the only way to succeed was to repeatedly run into the same brick wall over and over.

Despite reading some things that made me feel sorry for what I let myself believe, I was able to read the transformation. I was able to read through learning all of those “big girl” dives, every motivating thing my coach told me when I couldn’t see the positives. It’s been an incredibly reminder, and somehow exactly what I needed to see. This weekend, I’m competing exhibition at a college meet. And I’m SO nervous. Like more competition anxiety than I’ve had in years. I’m not even sure of what I am afraid of, but reading through how I got through it before has been a lifesaver.

I have been diving since I was 15 years old, and I have fallen in and out of love with this sport before. There have been countless moments over the past several years that, at the time, I’m convinced would be the definition of me. Results that, in my mind, outlined a career, determined my worth, and dictated how I felt about the sport. I must be one of the only people in history to come ninth on EVERY single event at the Big Ten Championships. They took 22 people to the 2012 Olympic Team Trials when I came 23rd at Nationals. And yeah, I broke my foot 10 days before my final Big Tens, when I was in the best diving shape of my life. I have missed more dives than I care to admit, and yet I choose to keep diving after college when most people take the opportunity to pursue new endeavors. But I am stubborn, and I am not done. I may not have had a “real” competition since January, but doesn’t mean I am out. When I missed Trials in 2012, I committed with my coach to train for the 2016 Trials. I have no illusions of cracking the top eight divers nationally, as I’m just trying stay healthy and improve, not make another 5 years of corrections in a few months. It’s about finishing what I started.

It’s hard to train after college- I feel old. I get sore more often, random pain in my shoulders and wrists that weren’t there when I was 19. While I still train with the team, I don’t compete alongside them (this exhibition event an exception). I’m focused on my job, grad school applications, and paying bills on time. Diving is not my whole world anymore, and that took some adjustments. I trained twice a day for seven years of my life, and now I only train in the afternoons. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, which turned into me thinking I was delusional for wanting to keep training. I didn’t feel like I was enough, like I wasn’t “good enough” to keep training, that I didn’t have the “right”. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency, any passion. Things took a turn when I acknowledged that I was in a horrible place, and I started talking about it. Instead of taking a leadership role as a college senior, I turned to the college team to remind me what I loved about the sport. I turned to my best friends and told them of my perceived inadequacies. I turned to my coach and said “I don’t know what I’m doing”, and like he has always done, he brought me back to life. I turned to what I have done in the past, and looked for what I always loved about this sport.

In February of 2013, before my junior year Big Tens, I wrote “No matter what happens over the next week, you’ll be fine. You will still love this sport and this sport will love you back”.

Today, nearly three years later, I am giving myself a gentle reminder. I do not need to be nailing every single dive to love this sport. I do not need to be the “best” or “peaked” to love this sport. There is no score or quantifiable measure of success that gives me the “right” to keep training as a post-grad. I don’t need to justify training once a day, or make up excuses. I don’t have to score a personal best every time to recognize that I am still living the dream. I have acquired more joy from being a Hawkeye then I ever did being the “best” on a given day. I can’t think of a single dual meet that I remember my rank or score, but I remember tearing up my senior year thinking about how much I would miss it. I remember the opportunities I’ve had through this sport, and the friends I’ve made from other teams. I remember cheering till I gave myself a headache. I remember crying when we all took our last dives as collegiate athletes. That’s what falling in love with this sport again means to me. It’s time to remind myself that flipping through the air is a blast, that even on days I don’t love my body I’m thankful it does the ridiculous things I ask it to, and that the relationships formed on the pool deck will last a life time.

This fall, I forgot what it felt like to love the daily grind. And with six months left in a nine year career, I don’t intend to lose my favorite part of being an athlete. There is no requirement for being “good enough” to train as a post grad. I am enough. I do enough. And even if giving it my all is less than why it’s been in years past, does not make this year any less successful than previous years. I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone else. This year isn’t about making a final, or learning new tricks, but about persevering towards a goal a made years ago. The only one I owe this year is myself. Seems appropriate that it’s during the holiday season I find myself seeking joy without justification.

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Sinking In

I’ve officially been a college graduate for two weeks now, and the whirlwind that was May is coming to a close. After all the flights, catching up with family, and one quick walk across the stage, it’s starting to sink in. I completed my undergraduate degrees! It’s a cause for celebration. It’s an accomplishment, yes, and an accomplishment I’m proud of- I was never the best student but always hovered around average or slightly above average.

I get that this is a happy time in my life…but does anyone else feel a small loss of identity? I’ve been a student since I was 5 years old. I’ve been pursuing (modest) educational pursuits for as long as I can remember, and now I’m a real person and I’m not quite sure what that means. I had to put “occupation” on a form the day after graduation, and I was completely at a loss.

I’m not a different person than who I was before I walked the stage, but it almost feels like I am. I’m unsure of how to fill my time without homework or studying, which admittedly I would experience every summer, but this is a forever kinda summer in my mind, pending potential graduate schools! I feel like my life is way more up to me. How I want to spend my time, how to fill my hours with things that I find fulfilling or productive. I’m feeling like I need to find a new “thing” now that school is out, like finally taking the leap and signing up for a mud run/obstacle course race or attempting a yoga challenge. I could take a cooking class or try CrossFit or run a marathon (lol) (can you tell I like to work out and eat). I feel like I have to DO something or create something or be something more than what I’ve been. It’s like a post-accomplishment lull, shrugging my shoulders and looking around, asking everyone who walks by “what now?”

This is getting depressing- that was not my intention! It’s more like a positive mindset: what can I tackle next? What is my life going to look like a year from now or three years or ten years from now? As sad as graduating college was, isn’t the prospect of doing anything you really want to exciting?!

Maybe I’m the idealistic graduate who is about to get punched in the face by the “real world” or maybe I’m the pessimist who feels identity loss, or maybe I’m both: the graduate that recognizes that graduating and joining the working world doesn’t make the past five years any less “real” than the world I’m entering now.

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Senior Nationals Recap!

So about two three weeks ago I had the opportunity to finish out my season in Victoria, BC, at the Canadian Summer Senior National Championships! I was competing in both the 1m and 3m springboard events, having retired from Platform diving with the end of my collegiate career, but not ready to be done with the sport completely.

This meet was a new experience for me. My training cycle in the weeks leading up the meet, quite honestly, sucked. We weren’t having Saturday practices, I was working a lot (i.e. missing practice times) and we had quite a few cancelled practices for a variety of reasons! After Spring Break I had my final set of x-rays and while I had permission to jump and run, and wasn’t even diving with any more tape on my foot, I felt out of shape, and sluggish, and slow. I didn’t feel like I could jump high or spin fast or be prepared for a Senior National meet. I was borderline panicking- in a constant state of anxiety about this impending competition. Frankly, I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

And while we’re being honest here: I wasn’t wrong. I was NOT prepared for a Senior National meet, and things finally came to head about a week before I left. I sat down with my coach and we talked it through- every cold hard fact and every bit of pressure I had been beating myself up about. We ended up clarifying three goals to focus on in order to end my season on a positive note:

  1. Celebrate the fact that I am healthy- that I am no longer injured, that I can dive on two feet, and that I’m not in pain anymore.
  2. Celebrate my family being there, and the city of Victoria. Victoria is so pretty, and my mother and sister being able to come out for the weekend was so great for Mother’s Day.
  3. Enjoy the atmosphere. Take it all in. Say hi to your friends and enjoy the facility and have FUN during the competition.

My final practices in Iowa were MUCH more enjoyable and I jumped on over to Victoria (where I was 13 HOURS late- rants about my horrible flight karma in the works). After the disastrous travel day however, two days of competitions came and went and I ended up having a great time. Nerves got to me a little during the 3m event and I ended 18th, missing my marks a little more than I had hoped. Despite being somewhat “off” during the event I actually ENJOYED the competitive experience, which is always a bonus! The 1m event the next day was just as fun, where I finished 14th with only one miss compared to the day before.

This meet itself was a testament not to my preparedness or my ability as an athlete, but showed a shift in my outcome expectations. I’m a competitive person- I always want to do well regardless of the circumstances! What I’ve learned over the past year though, is sometimes the circumstances win. Sometimes all you can do is make the best of it, and I surprised even myself getting through the whole week with a smile on my face.

Now my summer plans include taking some much needed time off, getting into work and my internship, and getting to build up my fitness levels again! I can’t wait to be lifting weights and going for runs and finally getting to be SORE!

Weekend Whirlwind

Hot damn I haven’t blogged since May 3rd (my bad). This month is over halfway finished and it has been a whirlwind, both literally and emotionally. This month alone I:

  • Have 15 different flights for four different trips
  • Finished my season on TWO feet at Canadian Senior Nationals (recap to come)
  • Submitted my final paper and wrote my FINAL final exam
  • Graduated college with two degrees (recap to come)
  • Said goodbye/see you later to my two best friends (I probably won’t write about that)

After a disastrous travel day out to West Coast to compete, the rest of the month is passing by in chunks- four days in Victoria, two days in Calgary, five days in Iowa, four days in Calgary, and four days in Denver, before spending the last weekend in May preparing for my internship starting June 1! I’ve been a whole number of things these past few weeks, including proud of my season and my graduation, thankful beyond measure my family could be there for those moments, and heartbroken saying goodbye to my best friends. It’s been the strangest and strongest combination of good and bad emotions, all echoing change and times of transition.

I’ll be playing catch up over the next two weeks or so, not only to recap the travel and the milestones but to work my way through the emotions of being a recent college graduate! I am no longer a Senior, or a Super Senior, of my college. I am an University of Iowa Alum, which is a title I will always carry with pride.

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Wishing everyone a happy Spring and I can’t wait to update you all!

Do It for the I-Ring

Sunday during the day we had our Annual Swimming and Diving Awards Banquet, and Monday evening I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Athletic and Academic Awards Banquet, along with the Senior I-Ring Presentation. These two events involved dresses and heels, plenty of photos, and the recognition of the many achievements Iowa student-athletes have accumulated. I was asked to stand a few times along with many others, for making the All-Big Ten Team for Academics and for qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships. The Seniors got recognized with a procession to be seated, and then individually Monday evening to receive our I-Rings and induction into the National Varsity Club.

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Sunday, at the annual team awards, my coach stood at the front of the room and talked about how the team has grown, how this was the first time he had seniors graduating in the three years he’s been at Iowa, and told the story of my broken foot. I didn’t know he had planned to say anything about it. He admitted to many behind the scenes conversations that I wasn’t aware of, where the coaches and staff didn’t know if competing was going to be possible, and shared what struck him from my Big Ten meet; telling him I needed to finish what I started and finish with the girls I started with. He shared with the group that was the kind of individuals we had on this team- those who compete for the team knowing winning was out of the question.

My coach, in the past, has said that we need to be striving to leave the program better than we found it. We even had a specific conversation at the beginning on the season about what being a senior on this team would mean- mentoring the underclassmen through the difficulties of being an NCAA D1 athlete. Not just surviving, but thriving. I know my fellow seniors and I took that to heart, aiming to be the positive role models we thought the team needed. I thought by performing well and competing with heart I was demonstrating what our coach wanted us to do, but what I missed was the bigger picture. Our coach didn’t need us to be athlete role models, but role models for the ideals and values he taught us every day in the pool. He wanted us to demonstrate the life lessons he had taught us over the years. What I didn’t realize was that he was just as proud if not more so, of the example I set when injured, than when I was not. I didn’t know anyone was paying attention when I spent hours doing therapy and icing. I do know that I could not have made it through that time without the life lessons we had been taught through the past three years:

You need to fall in love with the daily grind. 

If you don’t love what you’re doing, every second of it, it’s not worth doing. You have to fall in love with every miserable minute. Every practice you feel like crap. Every day you’re stressed and tired and hate everyone. You need to fall in love with the bad days because if anything is guaranteed it’s you WILL have bad days. Embrace them.

Good is the enemy of great.

Do not settle. Do not give in to satisfactory, do not be “okay” with decent. Strive for more. Strive for better. Hold yourself accountable to be great. Belief that you CAN be great. Good is good but good is JUST good- don’t ever be satisfied with only good when there is the potential for greatness.

Do not despair. Do not give in.

Never, ever, ever, give up. Never give in. Like the daily grind, train through the bad days. Train through the negative self-talk. Don’t let the bad day win. Don’t let the bad day mask the bigger picture or alter your perspective on the ultimate goal.

Have the heart of a champion.

Having the heart of the champion is more than training and competing for the win. It’s about competing for the team, and training with a purpose. It’s about keeping a positive attitude above all, and rising up when we smack or fall (or break bones). Having the heart of a champion is never giving in to adversity, and fighting for your greatest potential.

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I didn’t think about my I-Ring much over the past five years. The significance of it just didn’t register with me while going through the practices and the travel and the competitions. And for someone who didn’t give it much thought, I can’t describe the feeling of pride in my chest when I slipped it on.

“Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye,” has never meant so much to me. No matter where I go in life, I will always be a Hawkeye, an Iowa alum, and a member of the Iowa National Varsity Club.

The First Time I Said…

I’ve been emotional, and reminiscent, and very much on the fence when it comes to my looming college graduation. Several times A hundred times I’ve mentioned how these last five years have been the greatest of my entire life, and that remains true. That will never NOT be true.

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With that being said, a sentence I never expected slipped out of my brain and off the tip of my tongue yesterday. The sentiment I never truly felt until now snuck it’s way in there and I stumbled over the words, but out it came:

“I’m actually excited for graduating college.”

WHO KNEW?!? I didn’t. I half expected to be reminiscent and emotional for the rest of my life.

I’m actually looking forward to the end of academic career (for now- no one ever really rules out grad school). Why? What compelled me to believe that I’m actually ready for that whole real world thing?? Well, I’m bored. I’m annoyed with writing papers that require three different types of citations because it’s whatever the professor preferences. I’m bored of notecards, even if the content in interesting. I have my systems of note taking and studying and procrastinating, and nothing is going to change in the last six weeks of school after 17 years of education. I might actually be READY to take on the real world, not just dream about it (whether those dreams were ambitious, romanticized viewpoints or nightmares). I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m starting to feel proud of earning two undergraduate degrees. I can quite literally make a list of the papers and tests I have left! Graduation might be looming, but I’m shying away from it anymore.

I’m excited to get a big girl job. I’m excited to have hobbies (and expand on current ones- like this blog, and cooking!). I’m excited to not have to plan my year around semesters and I’m excited for everything I don’t know yet. I can physically feel my anxiety lessening as the reality sinks in that we actually made it- we’re graduating and getting on with our lives.

And I’m not going to lie, this post was inspired by a strange weekend. My Easter weekend involved a game night with friends, work, studying, and a long walk Easter Sunday to take advantage of the beautiful day. Meanwhile, my three best friends: 1. Got nominated to teach abroad, 2. Got a major scholarship offer to grad school, and 3. Got engaged. Their successes made me unbelievable happy, and proud, and gave me hope that even though these five years have been amazing there is still so much to look forward to. There is still so much to do and so much to see and so many goals to set still.

I said it last night and I’ll say it again: I’m actually looking forward to graduating. I am as ready as I’m going to be for whatever comes next, and I am allowing myself to feel excitement over that.

What was the best, scariest, most unexpected thing that happened to you post grad?