I just want this to be over… almost done… cannot wait to cross the finish line. Those were my thoughts as I slowly ran the 13th mile, the last stretch, of the women’s half marathon in Central Park this April.
I couldn’t help but notice that this exhaustion mixed with self-encouragement and mild doubt perfectly reflected my feelings for the past year. Since I was 15 I wanted to go to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Always hoping to attend, but never sure of the possibility.
Before today, I wasn’t sure of the possibility of successfully running a half marathon either. However, something I didn’t realize until the end of my training- the key to running is that it is more mental than anything else. The focus, determination, willpower and drive are what kept me going.
Graduate school is the same mental feat. I considered myself a journalist prior to this year. However, I applied to the program because I don’t just want to be a journalist- I want to be the best journalist I can be. I arrived last August mentally prepared to work day and night to hone my writing and reporting skills.
That is exactly what I did. I have never spent so many days tired, overworked, sleep-deprived or frustrated as I have this year at Columbia. And I am beyond thankful for each and every day, for every obstacle that has led to my faith in my ability to succeed in this profession.
If I hadn’t woken up before sunrise the times I did, and devoted endless energy to my work, I would have missed out on some priceless pieces- including dawn at Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park, an avid Titanic collector’s museum home, uncovering Fresh Direct’s environmental impact on New York City and many more stories I am proud to have produced with my peers.
Columbia’s J-School has truly felt like a race. It was full of highs and lows, defeat and triumph. I never thought I would make it to the end at times, and pulled through some struggling moments by turning to inspiration. Inspiration from everyone around me- my colleagues, professors, friends, family, my mother and father.
Something that inspired me during the half marathon, which motivated me to sprint the last quarter of a mile, was the sign a stranger held above his head on the sidelines: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”
All challenges in life, no matter the scale, are like a race. Getting to the finish line is all you want through most of it. But when you get there, you realize that it wasn’t the end of the race, it was the act of running- the experience itself- that is the best part.