Next Chapter: NCSU

This summer has been a time of adjustment and refocus. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just threw me for a loop. But now it’s time to head back to school and my focus and drive is returning.

NCSU! I always liked red and black.
NCSU! I always liked red and black.

The next chapter in my journey has started! This past weekend I traveled to the good ol’ state capital of Raleigh to attend orientation for my graduate program. The North Carolina State University Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management program is based online, but the faculty wanted to get everyone together to meet each other and faculty, become comfortable with the online platforms we’ll be using, and be exposed to all the resources available to us as NC State students (I’m so excited about the library!). I know that institutionalized education isn’t for everyone, but I love it and thrive in that environment. Perhaps it is because my education was so fluid as a child? As I walked around the NC State campus before heading back to Hendersonville, I was reveling in being surrounded by students, old and new buildings, libraries and high caliber professors. I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to leave! But I love my job and I wouldn’t trade the place I’m in now for anything. I’m really grateful that there is a program that fits my needs and is delivered in an online format that allows me to continue working in recreation.

I’m not sure when I decided that getting my master’s degree was what I wanted, the desire just grew naturally out of my work and experiences as an undergrad at Mars Hill. As I’ve jumped into the first couple of assignments, I’m impressed with how ready I am, the knowledge and instruction that I received from Mars Hill has prepared me very well to transition into higher education.

The next two years are going to be hard, this is going to require a lot of structure, balance and dedication. It means my social time will be limited, I won’t get to ride my bike as often as I want, and I’m going to learn a lot of things that I can turn around and apply directly to my job. I’ve already met some cool people and look forward to meeting more, And when all is said and done, I’ll have a graduate degree! That thought still blows my mind a bit! What’s next, a doctorate?

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Class of 2013!

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So, this happened. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Sports Management, minor in Business from Mars Hill College on May 11, 2013.

Five years of classes, commuting, balancing school, work, and life, experiencing new things, finding new passions, having old passions affirmed and stoked up, meeting people, gaining new friends…the list could go on and on! But it has all added up to a blinged out piece of paper that makes me smile every time I look at it

It’s quite surreal that I’ve finally done it and gotten my bachelor of science in recreation! It’s also surreal how attached and how ingrained being at Mars Hill became in just two years. I’m really going to miss being there, interacting with the amazing faculty, traveling with the cycling team and making friends. My experiences are more diverse and my understanding of the world has increased so much in the past two years. Not to mention the knowledge gained in my field of study and the ideas and philosophies that have been passed on to me.

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It was also a special day since my sister graduated from Mars Hill College too! It’s because of her that I even started to consider MHC, and then the rest is history!

A few thanks and shout outs:

  • To Kyle for being patient when my assignments took the place of us time, taking care of the house, encouraging me to ride and train even when I didn’t feel like it, putting up with traveling for cycling, and giving me back rubs when I’m stressed
  • To my family for being supportive and proud and never being dismissive of my choices
  • To my sister Becky who first mentioned Mars Hill College
  • To Hugh Moran for welcoming a newbie with open arms to the cycling team and hence starting something incredible in my life
  • To Dr. Andersen for understanding my Type A personality, my needs as a non-tradition traditional commuter working student, and for sharing his experiences and thoughts about recreation
  • To the cycling team kids for just being who you are and never making me feel inferior despite my lack of experience (also, for some of the funniest moments of my life!)
  • To Tim, my boss and inspiration, who has supported me while letting me find my own way to achieve my goals, as well as being so flexible with my work schedule
  • To my friends who have been understanding of my social absence due to cycling and schooling
  • To the faculty of Mars Hill College who have instructed me, praised me, and supported my as a part of the cycling team,  especially to the Registrar’s Office for keeping my records and transcripts error free!

There really aren’t enough words to express the impact Mars Hill has had on me. All I know is that I was were I was supposed to be for the last two years, and that they were amazing!

Here’s to 2013, looking back at what I’ve achieved and looking forward to the next adventure!

Just a Quickie

No, I have not ridden off the edge of some precarious singletrack in Pisgah. I have been instead navigating the immense load of school projects, trying to continue my road training (not doing too well on that. More about that later I’m sure) and booking hours for my field work experience. I sometimes feel like I’ve never been so stressed and frantic in my life before, but I’m a student, I have been and will be again. That’s okay. The most I can do is put my head down, work hard, and do my best. At the advise of my mentor, I’m trying to prioritize what really deserves my attention and energy, and base my performance on that. It’s hard, I want to do it all and do it all well. But it has been so relieving letting myself concentrate on the things that I feel are priority. Currently, it’s my major course work (accounting class and training are taking a back seat). With four out of six classes being major classes, that is taking a lot of time. Part of that is time spent on my field work (about 10 hours a week) at the YMCA. I’m really enjoying it, but I do miss having those hours available for studying or training.

But, this is just a season, and I expect to emerge smarter at some point.

Semester Wrap-Up

Well, what a fall it has been! So much to adjust to, with starting a new school, juggling work with school, a 50 minute one-way commute, new people, so many opportunities and a whole lot of new experiences!

The highlight for sure has been cycling! The team is so much fun, I think we deserve a spirit award for how enthusiastically we approach everything! There is a lot of motivation and encouragement from everyone, so thank you for that! It’s been really great, especially being the baby biker that I am. The support from the local cycling community has been incredible as well. Of course, I have to mention Spin-Tech again! They always go above and beyond and are such good people!

I enjoyed all of my classes too! Coming from community college to university, I expected harder work, but not much more than that. However, the teachers that I’ve had this semester are of such high-caliber! They are more similar to my favorite teachers at Blue Ridge, who are knowledgable, experienced, and have a genuine concern for their students. I’ve enjoyed being in the classes, taking part in discussions, as well as the higher expectations that these teachers have. It’s very refreshing after three years in community college to have that level of instruction, as well as being surrounded by students who comprehend instruction and aren’t going through a mid-life crisis. To anyone in community college, I say this: it does get better!

To top off the excellent instruction, I’m enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a 4.0 gpa for the semester! Yay!

My school experience is a little strange, I’m married, commuting and a transfer. But it hasn’t really mattered. I’m glad for that since I want to take advantage of every opportunity I’ve given at Mars Hill.

 It’s been real y’all! See you in January!

Summer Kickoff

Wow. That’s really all I have to say looking back at the last two weeks. Things can change rather quickly!

For a quick recap…

I left my job at Highland Lake to come back to the park for the summer. I miss everyone there, but I needed to have an easy, low-stress summer where I can have weekends with Kyle, nights with my friends, and the chance to start training properly. The park is my happy-place too, so it’s been amazing coming back.

I graduated with honors from Blue Ridge with my Associate’s Degree on Friday, May 13. I was expecting my diploma to have that date on it (yes, I’m weird, but it’s funny!), but it didn’t. Fail. While my AA isn’t the long-term goal, it feel great to have reached this point.

Graduation with my little sister Sarah and Daddy

I didn’t really care about the ceremony and all that jazz, but I do wish that my mom had been able to share the triumph with me. I know she knows and is proud, but there’s still so much I want to share with her in more than just showing the sky what I’ve done.

Then Kyle and I took off to the U.S. Virgin Islands for 6 days! It was bliss…beaches, bars, rum drinks, tons of wildlife, and complete relaxation! We celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary, graduation, and relaxing!

Trunk Bay, the most beautiful beach in the world according to National Geographic
Kyle and I

I got to read tons of books, snorkel my ass off, and get a terrible sunburn. We stayed at an eco resort with an excellent restaurant and a quiet beach at Coral Bay for four nights and then stayed in town at Cruz Bay for the final two nights.

So that’s about it. I’m back to a normal 8-5 schedule at the park. Got my first 5k tomorrow at the Mountain Sports Festival! I’m still super slow, but the goal is to do it, don’t stop, and get better. Next week I’ll start training for cycling at Mars Hill in the fall!

Summer feels great!

How I Got Here

Like everyone else, I was born a weird-looking thing, strangely resembling a human but not quite. As a child I was unremarkable, high-spirited and flighty, bossy and difficult at times. Probably the most defining aspect of my childhood is the fact that my mother homeschooled me, alongside my three younger siblings. When people ask the south’s most popular question “what school d’ya go to?” I’ll answer that I was homeschooled and that explains why I’m weird.

My parents never stressed the value of college, the need for a high paying job. Instead my dad worked hard and my mom managed the money as frugally as possible. I didn’t really like school while I was homeschooled. It was something that I had to do, while I would much rather be working to make enough money to buy my own car. I hadn’t found that thing that motivated me and made me excited to learn everything about it and spend 7 years in school for. When I graduated, I was left with the intention of working to make enough money to move out as soon as possible and maybe go to school to become a dental hygenist or something. But little things had been happening in my life that would lead to a purpose and love for a job.

When I was 14, my sister and I attended a FIFA soccer referee certification and entered the world of sports officiating. I was terrified the first day, but as I became more comfortable and attuned to the game, it become easier and even fun. Being a little soccer referee introduced me to a side of sports and parks that I had no idea about, the world of recreation management! It seemed like the coolest thing ever! Possessing the resources and abilities to oversee and implement things like soccer! I finally asked the assignor, Tim, what he did at the park, and even met with him to find out more about PRM (parks & recreation management).

But I got lazy, and the thought of 4+ years in school didn’t seem worth it. So when graduation came, I was left with a couple of part-time jobs, the desire to move out, and refereeing on the weekends. Enrollment for fall classes came and went. I also got a phone call from Tim asking if I would be able to watch the recreation office while everyone attended a training meeting. Sure I said. And that was it. I was hooked. A few hours for a few days turned into several hours for a lot of days. I got to meet people, learn and do things that I’d never done before. It wasn’t long until I knew that I had found that thing. A year later I was starting classes at Blue Ridge Community College, and almost three years after that, here I am, about to graduate with my Associate’s in Arts degree and set off to start learning the theories and practices of recreation.

Through school I’ve found that I love learning and mastering a subject. I’ve realized that I am smart, I can hold my own in the classroom. I have the resources to do anything I want. And I’m not going to end up like so many people, working just to make money, barely getting by. I’ve got something I love and am great at!

My educational/career journey is far from over! Once I’ve got my Bachelor’s degree, I intend to get a Master’s as well. I’ll be a director of my own park, touching lives in little and big ways. It’s exciting, and the investment is worth it!