My name is Vanessa Corcoran and in 2008, I moved to Washington DC to work on my master's degree in Medieval History and started training for my first marathon. Over 100 races, a master's, and a Ph.D. later, I defended my doctoral dissertation, "The Voice of Mary" at the Catholic University of America in 2017. With the Ph.D. in hand, it's time to embark on new adventures. Follow my new story at: VanessaRoseCorcoran.Wordpress.com
On August 28, 2004, I moved into Hanselman 340 at the College of the Holy Cross for my freshmen year of college. I was a bundle of nervous, excitement, every emotion possible. I was excited to meet my roommate and set up my room (we're sitting on my bed), I was nervous about going somewhere where I didn't know anyone or my way around, I had mixed feelings about leaving my family behind, the friends I had known and loved for years. But this was the college I had dreamed of going to and I finally arrived. I knew I wanted to study history, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and beyond that, I didn't know much.
First day of college a decade ago
Those first few days were a blur of orientation mixers, ice breakers, hall meetings, first classes, and a thousand feelings. And this place became my home for four years:
View of campus from my room
It was at Holy Cross where I became a better writer, it was where I turned into a medievalist, I became an RA and interested in student affairs, I sang in three choirs and made a lot of great friends. I took classes with professors whose books and assignments still resonate with me today. It's because of them that I dropped the idea of law school (what a relief) and decided to become a professor.
Our school gave us journals on the first day of school, with check-in prompts that we could answer a few times per semester. I always did those prompts, and wrote in-between those as well, reflecting on who I was becoming, my fears and concerns (grades and my future were the big winners - some things don't change), and it's all bound up in a purple journal at my parents house. I've looked at it from time to time, and all of the emotions come crashing right back. I wrote about wanting to find love, and meeting the great guy. That didn't happen in college, but nearly a decade later.
I had concerns and interests about staying in shape: trying to go to the gym a few times a week, but without any sense of purpose or real enjoyment.
As I was reflecting back about the past ten years, and also reading about the class of 2018 preparing for their arrival to Holy Cross, it came to my attention that I wasn't the only one reflecting on the passing of a decade.
It was also the tenth anniversary of when Meb Keflezghi earned the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon and brought home a medal for the first time in nearly three decades. He blogged about his decade as well: https://www.facebook.com/MarathonMeb and while the whole article was excellent, it was his conclusion that really stuck with me:
Some things take longer than we want to achieve or accomplish, but just because they don’t happen in your time, doesn’t mean they will never happen. Never give up on your dreams, but also never give up working to make your dream become a reality.
And if that's something I can remember for the next decade, and also advise the newly-arrived class of 2018, it's that accomplishments and progress take time: the dream doesn't become a reality overnight. Grad school has been a slow process: yes with peaks along the way, but it's been years in the making, and the end isn't quite in sight. I did not meet my husband in college, and there were years of wondering when that would happen too. I did not graduate college thinking that within a year, I would run a marathon, let alone qualify for Boston in eighteen months.
There are bumps along the way, and there are days when the dream seems out of reach, and on those days, it's hard to see whatever medal of victory, be it a marathon medal, a degree, a family, dangles ahead of us. I know I've had those days of doubt and uncertainty. But on a weekend like this, when I've just come home from my honeymoon (Bahama cruise - it was wonderful!) and begun my third year of teaching, it's also important to remember the joy of hitting those milestones as well. And hopefully in a decade, I can dig this up and smile, laughing at what's happened from 2014-2024!
A decade later, still can fit in this shirt, new roommate!
Today I ran for the first time since Friday morning. Nothing to write home about, except that the four miles ran this evening were the first four miles I've run in Virginia since June 20th. I had many great runs in Easton, PA. I ran up and down the Lehigh Valley, winding around campus, seeking escape, peace, and quiet, albeit briefly. But always tethered to me was my phone, and not just for safety reasons or to listen to something. In my job as site director, I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and was the end of the line on site in terms of the final say in a key decision. Yes, there were fantastic deans, a counselor, health staff, residential staff, instructional staff, office staff, campus safety, all involved as well. But this was my site to lead and to run, and I took that responsibility very seriously. 280 families each session trusted us to take care of their children, and while I don't have children myself, I know that they are the most precious cargo. And knowing that made me extra sensitive to the ding of a text, the ringing of the phone. So in going to sleep, the phone was always next to my ear, and in running, the headset was in so I could take a call while running and turnaround if need be.
All in all, we had a good, fun, and most importantly safe summer. There were some bumps along the way, but all in all, both the staff and students grew and developed through this process. Some may have went home with bumps and bruises, but everyone went home in one piece. When I woke up on Saturday, the day after the kids were gone, I was still on site, and my staff was too, and there was a sigh of relief. We did it, the kids are alright. And then we packed everything up, and I headed home that night. What a happy reunion I had with my husband and my dog - such a wonderful reception! And I went to bed that night with another sense of relief and weight off my shoulders -- we all made it.
Since I've been home, I've worked on catching up on sleep, as it's mainly been 6 hours (or less) per night for seven weeks. There have been some naps of sweet surrender, finally just letting my body relax again, after tense shoulders and nights sleeping lightly.
And today, I laced up for the first time since getting home. Just four miles right around eight minute pace in the light rain. While I still brought the phone with me, there wasn't that concern of the ringing or wondering, worrying what was going on while I was on the road. My head was clear, my feet felt light, and the open road lay before me. There was only relief in this run, relief to be done, relief to think about the road ahead of me.