Monday, May 25, 2015

Hard Choices

Admittedly stealing my title from Hilary Clinton's book, which I've only read the new epilogue that she linked to in a recent editorial. And it may sound a bit facetious to write about hard choices, when I know all-too-well that daily people make much more difficult choices than what I do.
That being said, I'm taking life by the reins, and making some changes:

From 2006-2014, I worked for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth Summer Program. It has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, and has brought me to some wonderful places, including Santa Cruz, CA, and given me some wonderful friendships as well. It has allowed me to work on my leadership skills and grow as someone interested in education and mentoring others. I've had the privilege of working with thousands of students, and hundreds of staff members. For seven weeks each summer, I get to go to camp, and day in and day out, and give students (and staff) a great summer experience. It is awesome.

I am making progress on my dissertation, and entering into what I hope is the final academic year of my graduate career. I moved to DC to get a Ph.D., and I'm not leaving until I get it! Also, I married a government employee - odds are I'll be in the district for quite some time. However, it is eyes on the prize now. Beyond wanting to settle down and keep up with my wonderful family and friends, there is nothing I want more than this. And barring anything that would put my health and sanity at risk, I'm stopping at nothing to walk across the stage in full regalia.

That summer job is really more than seven weeks, when you count prep, planning meetings, and wrapping everything up (and recovery!), it takes up the majority of my summer. By the time everything has come to an end, it is time for another school year to start, which for the last three fall semesters has included teaching. One job quickly slips into another, and the years keep slipping by. You can call me Mrs. now, but not yet Dr.

With a heavy, yet detached heart, I decided not to return to my summer program for this year. Writing that letter to my supervisors was not fun. Telling those who I've had the pleasure to work with that I won't be back was no picnic either. I'm not saying goodbye forever, but I know that as long as I have worked for that program, it has been something I've needed to focus on single-mindedly, and the dissertation goes on the back burner. And the dissertation is what needs to my single-minded attention.

I'm not teaching this fall either. I'm fortunate that I received funding to ensure that I do not need to do that. I love teaching - I've had wonderful students who make class so much fun to teach. But again, the prepping and grading, when done thoroughly, takes up a lot of time. I'm so grateful to have gained so much experience since I started teaching in 2012, and taking a new role in the classroom has given me so much joy. But again, the dissertation needs most of my attention.

I'm not racing either. I haven't done a race I've been proud of since April 2014. That being said, the past five weeks, I've averaged 40-45 miles per week. I've done long runs ranging from 15 to 17 miles and they've been awesome. I now live in Dupont Circle, and have access to some of the best trails in DC. So I'm running for fun, for health, for sanity, but I'm not competitive. I hope to be again some day, but I can't commit to a racing season, intense training week in, week out, when that dissertation needs my focus. There is only so much intensity I can put into life, and I can't burn the candle at both ends and expect great results.

So, I'm identifying my priorities. I have my health, a family, a dog, some wonderful friends, and a dissertation. There are things I've had to say no to, and those are the hard choices. But if I can finish sooner and then move onto the next stage in life, the hard choices will be worth it.
Me with my husband and my parents

Celebrating our first anniversary!