Prepare for Landing

It’s funny how these things work. A year and a half ago, I was a travel writer with not a single science course under my belt. Nine college-level courses, a whole lot of hard work, some incredible new friends, and plenty of fun-sacrificing later, I’m hitting the “Submit” button on my grad school applications, the first of which is due Monday. What happens from here is somewhat beyond my control, but getting here… Well, I (somehow) did that (and it feels pretty cool!).

A little girl enjoys dancing in her pretty dress before a thunderstorm hits. Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

The thing about being a post-bacc pre-med student is, you’re generally older than most of the other students. But, what does that really mean? You look pretty much the same (for better or worse), your science is a little rustier, you’re less competitive with everyone around you, and you’re more sure of who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. In some ways, you have much less to prove, and in other ways — much more.

I guess I just wanted to write a quick post to acknowledge this moment, because I have friends on every side of it (and some here, in their own similar moment, with me). I spent my early- to mid-twenties soul searching to get to this place where I just knew what I wanted. (If you’ve read this blog before 2011 at all, you know what I’m talking about!) The idea of “knowing ” — not just temporary “maybes” — was a lot more intimidating than I ever imagined it would be. Those first twenty-something birthdays out of college had my optimism mud-wrestling my expectations. Nothing was turning out how I expected, and every time I got close to touching what I wanted, it seemed to disappear right in front of me. The story I thought I was writing for myself had to be completely erased and re-written. For the first time ever, I had no idea what words to put on the first page. At some point, I would have to learn a whole new language to be able to write at all.

Street, man, walking uphill. Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

The fact that I am here hitting send, clicking submit, actually fulfilling all the pre-requisites required to apply to Doctor-level graduate school programs after beginning with NONE really is a reminder to me, and hopefully to you too, that anything (or, well, many things) really is (are) possible if you are willing to work your ass off for them. I know we’ve all heard this before, but look — it’s for real!

My journey certainly continues, with even more academic mountains (actually, mountain ranges) to climb. I guess at this point, I leave the sherpa behind and trek through the rest on my own. I just hope that, if nothing else, at least one person out there has been following this journey of mine and realizes that if I can do this, so can they. The scariest thing for me has never been failing; it’s always been not going for it. That said, going for it can be pretty freakin’ weird and terrifying at times, let me just be honest here. I’ve felt totally uncomfortable at many points along the way, but now… I’ve found my little spot in the big science couch, and I’m slowly sinking into it, asking grad school to pass me the remote.

Walking to an incredible brunch behind a cute little Ecuadorian woman. Tumbaco, Ecuador.

Right now, even though applications are WAY more intense than I ever imagined, I’m just so thrilled and excited about where this might take me next. It’s still scary — so much is uncertain, as it always has been. In a way, I can’t believe I’m really here. It’s like traveling, when the plane lands and a trip you’ve anticipated so long has both ended and just begun… Suddenly, you smell a new smell, you hear a new language being spoken, and no matter how exhausted you are from the flight, you know that, in a new way, it feels like anything is possible.

Paramo Hike. Papallacta, Ecuador.

Everything about this process has been intimidating — from the amount of school required to the amount of money (oh god, let’s just skip that conversation), and of course the amount of science everyone ELSE knows compared to me. I’ve never been in such a constantly competitive environment (well, besides my entire childhood… HA! Just kidding just kidding. One-of-five-kids Syndrome strike again!). But I’m telling you: nothing — NOTHING — feels better than being sure. It took my entire twenties to get here, so forgive me if I give myself a high-five.

Lying out on top of the catamaran, watching birds fly overhead as the boat cruised from one Galapagos Island to the next… One of those moments when life just feels right, and you never forget it. A picture tries to capture the feeling of freedom… Galapagos, Ecuador.

Maybe — even after so many world travels, and soul searching around the globe —  it took me way longer than I ever expected to feel sure about where I want to go, and maybe I’m the oldest kid in the classroom these days… But I’m here now, and despite everything I’ve learned, I’m still learning. The plane has finally touched-down on the runway. I’m not fully in that new place just yet — the door is still shut, but the flight is over, and the next adventure is closer than ever.

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For more information on Arms and Sleepers, visit: www.armsandsleepers.com.

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11 Comments

Filed under Healthcare, Life Stuff, School, Travel

11 responses to “Prepare for Landing

  1. I know what you mean when you say, “the scariest thing has not been failing, but not going for it” . Great post, and I also agree, the best feeling is being “for sure” about something 🙂 Really enjoyed reading

  2. Dawn

    Be really, really proud of yourself right now (and for the rest of your life. You’ve already accomplished so much on your journey to where you want to be. Keep learning along the way, and hold onto that thrill of what’s to come! I can’t wait to hear about the next phase.

    • travelswithtavel

      Awe, shucks!! Thank you so much Dawn. It means a LOT to me. I’ll keep taking notes, and I’ll always look forward to that next thrill! Thanks for being such a wonderful friend. HUG!

  3. Allison

    Yay! Keep us posted on how it goes. Exciting!!!

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you Allison! Of course I will. Fingers crossed… Lots of classes left too. Oy! But, exciting and hopeful. Hope all is well in Philly! I MISS YOU!

  4. missy

    Tavel, the world is our classroom, and everyone (hopefully) is learning a little something! When you’re done high-fiving yourself, I’ll be next in line to “give you five,” vale? And, for the record, you never erase anything in the story you thought you were writing for itself; you just start a new chapter! Taking travel guide extraordinaire to the next level, don’t you keep writing your own travel guide, but instead of a geographical location, you’re talking about the sidestreets of life? And really, what’s more important? Sometimes I tell my kids that when they’ve worked really hard and achieved a goal to give themselves a pat on the pack, so now I’m going to tell you the same thing. SO proud of you, my friend! 🙂 Keep it up!

    • travelswithtavel

      Awe man, Missy! Thank you! Pat on the back: RECEIVED. I 100% agree with all of the above. And yes, sometimes the journey is down the side streets of life — not abroad in the world, but abroad in my own world… Thanks for GETTING IT, and for being such an amazing, supportive friend (and loyal TwT reader!). HUG times ten!
      -Tavel-

  5. Yes the process of getting to the place where you are sure of what you want to do is grueling. I’m glad you’ve come through it. (I’m still working on it!)
    Well done for all your hard work and determination. I hope the application process goes well for you.

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Katie! It’s a much more grueling journey than I ever thought it would be… I’d be wrong to assume it’s ever “over.”

      -Tavel-

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