The last time I wrote a blog post was in October. I think I’m definitely overdue. Since coming back to grad school, I tried to pretend like I still loved my school. I tried to pretend like I was truly happy in my grad program and that being back in the USA was the best.
But here’s the truth: I was beyond lost. When you spend 10 months living in a different country making new friends that become your family, and then you stop playing the sport that gave you a major purpose in life, you can find yourself in a tough position.
Don’t get me wrong, in my last post I was overwhelmed with happiness about being back with my friends and family in the USA, and that was 100% accurate. But once I got further along with school and my graduate assistantship position with community service, I felt more out of place than ever.
However, there were other times where I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. When you are in graduate school, you are surrounded by some of the best and brightest students in the country. That’s awesome, except for the fact that a majority of them don’t share the same love for your undergraduate university because they went to a different institution.
*Joey is my closest friend in our grad program*
When you dedicate 4 years of your life to being a D1 student-athlete, it changes you. It creates bonds with your teammates and friends from other sports at your school that can never be broken. No one prepares you for the fact that one day, your sports career will truly be over. They can try, but it won’t make it easier. I miss my Swedish teammates, and I miss the Clemson teammates and friends that leave South Carolina with each passing graduation.
I say all of this to lead up to the point I am trying to get at: as spring semester began, I knew that being the Director of Student-Athlete Community Engagement at Clemson was no longer for me. I loved participating in community service events more than anything when I was an athlete, but organizing the events and being on the opposite side of the operation truly wasn’t for me.
In March, new volleyball coaches were hired at Clemson. After meeting both Steph and Hugh, I was overwhelmed with how genuine and kind they were. When I went home after welcoming them both to Clemson, something clicked in my mind. Who was I kidding trying to stay away from the sport I loved? Why did I think that walking away would be the right decision? I was done lying to myself. I was done pretending like I didn’t miss it and that I was ready to move on.
I told my boss for the community service job how I didn’t think I was in the right position and that I was interested in working with volleyball. I’m usually too scared to do things like that, but I didn’t think I was going to make it through another year of grad school if I didn’t make a change. A helpful hint that I need to continue to remind myself: never be afraid to tell people how you are feeling. People really can’t read your mind, as much as you sometimes want them to.
To make a long story short, Kyra (my boss) helped me set up a few meetings, and before I knew it, I found out that I would be able to work with volleyball for my new GA position in the fall. God truly works in such wonderful ways. We never know the awesome plans he has for us until we are patient and willing to see what they are. His giving me strength to know that there was something better in store for me led me to this new path I am now on.
I found out that this was all going to work out a couple of weeks before the spring semester ended, which was an encouraging way to finish out the school year. Like I’ve learned in the past, when things are going extremely well, there’s usually something that will bring you to another storm. I just didn’t know how fast that storm would arrive.
The night before I was driving home to Ohio and about to go play grass volleyball with some friends, my mom called me. She told me words that a daughter never wants to hear: “I have cancer.” It’s hard to really process these words and still don’t know that I have. I felt like that 10 hour drive home to Ohio was never going to end.
In the 4 weeks I was home, I was able to be with my family for the doctor visits and the surgery. It all happened so fast. It was a miracle that I was able to be home for all of it, especially since I was supposed to be back at school for a summer class that my teacher ended up having online for the first couple of weeks. God definitely had my back on that.
Situations like surgery to remove breast cancer can be overwhelmingly hard on all parties involved, but they can also be beautiful at the same time. Having my mom come into my room to wake me up on the morning of her surgery to ask me if she could pray with me was one of the most special moments of my entire life.
*The sweetest mother around*
I didn’t think the surgery was ever going to end. When it did, I was beyond thankful. My dad and I, our friends, and the rest of our family were there every step of the way. Special shout out to Heather, Jen, and Cami for your extreme kindness and support. Being able to take care of someone who always holds everything together for everyone else is a wonderful gift. It’s an honor to have a mother who is as loving and as kind as mine.
Currently, my mom is doing really well. She says that nothing will get her out of her "happy place." The day I went back to South Carolina for my summer class we found out that she was only at stage 1 which is great news! She is already back at work and is going through the treatment process (another overwhelming scenario). When you have different doctors telling you different treatment options, it can be a lot to take in.
When you think you are going to lose the closest person to you on this Earth, you tend to see everything in a different way. You are reminded that life can be over in an instant. You are reminded that life is too short to be anything but happy. You are reminded that you can change jobs and find out where you are meant to be in life.
Since working for Clemson Volleyball with Hugh, Steph, and Nicole, I think that I have finally found the love and passion I once had as a Clemson Tiger. I am reminded of the school I fell in love with when I was on my recruiting visit in high school, when I represented this school for 4 years as a student-athlete, and now have the honor of attending as a graduate student. Life has its ups and downs, but God is always there to put everything into place to show you the way.
To Dr. Hodge, Stephanie Ellison, Natalie Honnen, and Kyra: thanks for believing in me and helping me to find a graduate position where I truly feel like I belong. You are all amazing leaders and mentors.
To my family, friends, teammates that I have all over the world, and to Clemson University for reminding me what being “All In” is all about: thanks for helping me on this crazy but wonderful journey of life.