It’s been over a year since I last wrote. The break was deliberate — a deliberate separation of my travel writer “self” and my evolving physical therapist “self.” These two “selves” have been in transition over the last 3.5 years, with the travel writer adventurer fading into the background as the diligent and determined grad school student cautiously crept out to take center stage. Now I’ve officially arrived at the midpoint of my grad school journey, so it’s time to high-five my classmates, and take a look around. For the first time, I’m more physical therapist than travel writer; I’m more in this new career than out.
Getting to halfway has been a long process. A LONG, challenging process in so many more ways than I ever could have imagined. (Did I mention it has felt long?) Somehow, it’s also been a whirlwind. Every time a semester ends, people ask me if I’m done yet. They say, “Did you just graduate?” or “This is your last year, right?” Ah, how I wish I could say yes. But the answer has been a steady and repetitive “No…” followed by a semi-desperate but optimistic “…not yet!” I’m so used to not being done (yet) that actually arriving at halfway feels like a major accomplishment. Halfway means the amount of time left can’t be more than the amount of time I’ve already put in (yay math!).
That said, I feel like I’ve been stuck in a perpetual state of having 3 years left of school. It’s never been “almost done.” And now that I’m taking a second to stop and look at how far I’ve come it’s hitting me that I’ve really learned a lot, to put it simply. It’s like a growth spurt; you can’t see the inches adding up while you steadily grow, but when you compare how tall you are to how tall you were the year before, the difference is amazing. (If you’re short, you’ll just have to trust me on that one, sorry!)
In many ways, my 30s began with many not yets. I once was a naive 21-year-old who truly believed that I just had to make it through my 20s to get to all the answers. I have since learned that the questions just change the whole time. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of life being a lot of finish lines, but what happens when you realize that you’ve signed up for one of those ultra-marathons, which consists of six back-to-back marathons over the course of a week in the hottest desert in the world? (Ok, I just watched a documentary called “Desert Runners,” and, strangely, those 250K race experiences in 119 degree weather reminded me very much of my career-changing experience.) I feel like I’m in my own academic ultra-marathon, putting all my faith in a finish line that I know is there and yet I can never quite see. But being halfway means that I can get there. It reminds me I’m truly on my way.
It seems fitting to celebrate the halfway point with a trip. On Saturday, I will be going to Trinidad for an opportunity to experience physical therapy in an international setting. You may remember me once saying that my TwT days weren’t over, and that I planned to eventually combine my excitement for the field of physical therapy with my passions for travel and writing. Well, guess what? That little dream is becoming a reality. While I often feel like my life takes a hard right turn just when I get settled thinking I’m going to go left, this opportunity reminds me that past hopes and dreams need not be forgotten. That travel writer “self” may have given up center stage, but she is just watching the show from the wings. The traveler — the adventurer — is still here, in me, and she is always welcome to come along for another ride.
For the last few years, I’ve felt like I’ve had to stand still when all I’ve wanted to do is run. Going to Trinidad reminds me that all this time I’ve been still, waiting patiently, and working so hard without feeling like I’ve moved enough, I’ve actually gotten somewhere. Eventually all the inches add up, and the slow and steady steps lead you where you’ve always wanted to go. Sometimes I need to remind myself to forget about the finish line, look around, and realize it’s pretty great where I am now.