Direction

Complete and total relief.

It was December 13, 2013 and I’d just finished my final presentation for graduate school. I was officially done with all coursework of my college career, and I would walk the stage at graduation in 8 days. As I rode the campus shuttle back to my apartment, I was excited, but felt nearly empty. The last semester had taken its emotional and even physical toll – I was exhausted and anxious from the final push of paper writing, and I was nursing a back injury and hadn’t run for two weeks.

 I didn’t know what was next for me in life, in terms of working, running, where I’d live, or where I should try to go, but this relief was enough for now.

The next day, I turned 24, ate Vitek’s barbecue for the last time as a local Wacoan, and said goodbye to my amazing roommates.

That day’s direction was simple: move back to Austin. Done.

The day after that, I went on my first date with a guy I met on OkCupid. I’d joined the site a couple weeks before, in a fit of loneliness and procrastination on schoolwork. I poked around on there for a couple weeks and chatted with a few people, but overall wasn’t that impressed or excited about my prospects. That Sunday brunch in December was the first date I went on with a match from online dating.

I told my mom I was getting brunch with a dude from Rogue, the running store where I worked last summer. Technically I was; he was in one of the training groups based out of the store. That fact and the 12 Facebook friends we discovered we shared helped mitigate the creep factor of online dating. Still, even though I hadn’t told my mom about my recent dating site exploits, she somehow knew. She asked me as I tried to casually head out to the door, “Have you met this guy before?”

Uncertainty and anticipation were the day’s ruling emotions – where could this go? – but it was a different kind than what I’d experienced in the past year and a half. 

During those months, when I was in graduate school, I walked through the hardest, darkest days of my life. After I was sidelined by a running injury in my first semester, I basically quit taking care of myself physically (not sleeping, exercising or eating healthily — heyooo there’s consequences to that). I started feeling like crap all the time, and coupled with graduate coursework that was much more difficult and less motivating than undergrad, I was not in a good place. I wrapped myself in my own existentialist world and questioned “What’s the point of all of it?! Meaningless.” I felt like I was going through the motions of life. The old things that used to make me so happy either weren’t available to me or no longer had any effect.

During that time, I felt a lack of purpose. Uncertain of my goals and motivations, I felt stuck and unfulfilled. I didn’t know where I was going or what I wanted or what I should aim for anymore.

But now, after grad school was done, I was back in Austin for as long as I wanted. I’d planned to live with my parents and work a part-time job as a stopgap until I found something better or cooler or more legit. I had an idea about where I wanted to go. I could say the words parrot-like when anyone asked me what I wanted to do after college – “I want to work in the running industry, doing anything communication/marketing/PR/advertising. I can work for a retail store, work in media, work for an apparel company, or race management. As long as I’m in the biz around people who understand the running lifestyle, I think I’ll be happy.”

Of course, I also wanted to keep training and running, but my prospects for that weren’t the best after the months of not running during grad school.

Facing life after college, I wondered “What should I do now? Which direction should I go?”

That question had bothered me a lot in the last year. I was worried I’d miss the right direction, or had already taken the wrong direction. Things always made more sense when I had my feet pounding underneath me on a run, or when I had two wheels rolling beneath me. At least I was moving. But I wondered if that was enough to get me through to the next phase of life? What should be important to me? What should life look like?

Back in Austin at the end of 2013, after graduation, direction reentered my life.

It said, “Stay here. You’re happy, your soul is fed, you have wonderful family who loves you, and you’re about to get one more really good reason to stay.”

It was December 15. I went on that  OkCupid brunch date with Jake and was immediately smitten. I swear y’all, after coffee and an asparagus quiche, I knew.

I knew he was awesome and that we’d get along so well. I knew he was a sincere, loving, adventurous man who captured my admiration. I knew he strove for the same balance of faith, work, play, and running in his life that I did. I knew we would understand each other.  I knew he was looking for the same relationship that I was, someone to do life next to, loving and supporting and inspiring the other.

I wanted to marry him.

Direction got even more in-my-face in the next two months, the first couple of 2014.

Jake and I started a serious relationship. I knew I loved him even if it was way too early to say so.

I’d started working at Rogue again, and this time was really inspired by the Rogue vision of community. It was enough to transcend the mindset of a part-time job and make me really excited to be there and be a part of building that community.

After another month I’d gotten in good enough running shape to join Rogue AC, the post-collegiate/professional running team that’s operated out of Rogue and sponsored by adidas.

I was a runner again. I had a cool job that I enjoyed. And I had a relationship with a guy that I couldn’t wait to pursue, to grow deeper in.

I knew where I was going again, what I was reaching for again. It felt pretty damn good.

In April, Jake asked me to marry him, and without a trace of doubt, I said yes. The wedding is in October.

Work is pretty stimulating without being overly stressful, and I love the company. I’m getting to see a little bit more of the founders and managers’ visions, getting to know the quintessential Rogues (more than just customers!) and learning how everything fits together with retail and the training groups.

Running is going well, I’ve had the most consistent training I’ve done since 2012, and the momentum is building each week. I’m really enjoying the process, getting to know my coach and teammates, and feeling like I belong more and more the whole time.

I’ve got direction. I’ll be here in Austin awhile, maybe forever, doing what I’m doing.

This is reality people. It really does feel good to be true.

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