Monday, October 10, 2011

29 and Holding... On

Growing up, my brother and I called Marge Tennant “Grama.”  Marge took amazing care of us through our childhood.  She taught us to be respectful and courteous.  She watched “Price is Right” with us each afternoon.  She made sure we dutifully practiced the piano.  With the exception of a blood relation and a couple of missing letters, she really was like a grandma to us.

Marge battled arthritis her whole life- she still fights it to this day.  It often turned the most routine of activities into impossibilities for her.  And yet, Grama maintained a happy disposition and a young spirit.  She often jokingly described her age as “29 and holding…”

Grama’s funny phrase was the last thing on my mind during Darden Cup softball earlier this year as I rounded second base.  Running at this point was supposed to be academic- I’d crushed the ball over the right fielder’s head, and it was a certain home run.

Unfortunately, no one mentioned this to my left hamstring, which exploded somewhere between second and third.

I limped home, knowing this was a serious injury- I’d injured the same hamstring running indoor track in my senior year of high school and missed several months of action.

I iced the hamstring, I wore a compression sleeve.  I elevated it, I stretched it.  I thought things were getting better, so I jumped back into the thick of it. 

Bad choice.  Last week, I re-injured the hamstring practicing for Darden Cup flag football.

That’s when I realized the truth: I am 29 and holding… on.

And just barely holding on, it turns out.  I get hurt more than I used to.  It takes longer to recover.  I think I’m a step slower than my high school days.  My flexibility has gone down the toilet, and my back is always sore.

But physical deterioration is not the only thing I’m battling.  The work load at Darden, famous for being robust, is kicking into high gear.  We have three cases a night, and each often requires several hours of reading, calculations, and analysis.  I feel my once firm grasp on the concepts slipping slowly away from me as the pace quickens.

So, you do your best.  You study your butt off while taping a bag of frozen peas to your hammy (efficiency!).  You sleep a little less and drink a little more coffee.

Most importantly, you do something you love.   I was reminded of this by Amanda Mills, who works in the financial aid office at Darden.  She was one of the first people I communicated with during the application process, and I see her now and again on the grounds.

The other day, Amanda stopped me and asked how I was doing.  Then she asked a question that stopped me in my tracks: are you doing anything for yourself?

I thought for a second, smiled, and said “yes.”

It was the right answer to this cold call.  Amanda told me she’d seen too many students collapse under the workload.  Among the networking, the briefings, the cases, the classes, they’d forgotten about themselves.

I’ve taken Amanda’s words to heart over the last ten days.  I blocked off some time to play NCAA Football 2012 on the XBOX 360 with Aaron, Jeff and Liz.  The family makes sure to have family together at least once a week (Beth is an awesome cook!).  I also traveled to Nashville to see my old friends and watch my favorite band Wilco.  Sadie, Fender and I took an awesome Sunday morning hike to Humpback Rock with my friends Jesse and Taku.  The leaves are changing in Virginia, and it is breathtaking. 

Sure, we hold on to our youth, and we hold on for dear life as the course load intensifies.  But at Darden, you also have hold on to who you are.  At the ripe young age of 29, I can at least say I’m doing a pretty good job on that last part.

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