Note: the following post comes from our lovely program assistant – Kim Whitney! Since we have been blogging this summer, I asked Kim to write something about her experiences so far.
I am not one that cares to write. Read, yes! Write, not a chance! But when your boss gives you an assignment with a deadline, you do it. :) So here I go…
McNair has been a journey for me. I’m talking about the journey to explore living outside of my norm and my comfort level. I have done things with McNair that I never considered doing. I have explored yoga, meditation, better eating, high ropes course adventures, zip lining, horseback riding, running, exercising, long haul bike riding and I’m sure some other things that I can’t think of at this moment.
When I interviewed for the position, Lynn asked me if I did yoga. I thought she was a little bit “off her rocker” with that question. What kind of question is that at a job interview? :) I told her I hadn’t, but I wasn’t opposed to trying. After my first practice, my arms were Jello, I was sweating and I did not think it was fun or relaxing in any way shape or form. Did I want to go back again? No, not really. Did I? Yes, because I didn’t want to judge the book by the cover. I give a book 90 pages before I give up on it. Yes, I had given yoga 90 minutes, but I had to try again. Here we are almost a year later and I enjoy it. It’s not something I’m going to pursue trying to master and I’m happy with just enjoying level one. I enjoy it as a way to give back to myself.
Yoga was the door for exploring the other activities I would have never felt comfortable doing. I enjoy closing my eyes and meditating when I start feeling stressed, even if it is just for a minute to concentrate on my breathing so I can bring back into focus what is important at that moment. The ability to focus on my breathing has allowed me to adventure out onto the high ropes course and finish off on the zip line. But it wasn’t just breathing that gave me the courage to face my fears. It was McNair that gave me the courage. It was the people who make up McNair that gave me the courage. Even though I was afraid, I was not being judged. I was being encouraged and cheered on, just as I encouraged and cheered on others who had to face their own fears.
McNair is not only about academics, research or obtaining your Ph.D. That’s what the Department of Education may think, but they aren’t entirely accurate. It is about you…the whole you. It is about teamwork. It is about acceptance and being part of a family. I know it may sound hokey (is that even a word?), but it is true. Before McNair, I would get up, go to work, go home and plop my butt on the couch day in and day out. Yes, I had a husband and kids and a household to run, but I never did anything to push myself. I was far from adventurous. I didn’t eat well and I sure as heck didn’t exercise.
The first hardcore workout we did as group was humiliating. I felt old and totally out of shape. But my struggle was encouragement for someone else to push through…so I continued. We encouraged and cheered each other on as we fought through the workouts. When I sat on horseback crying because I was petrified, remembering being bucked onto a barbed wire fence as a kid, I heard words of encouragement. Not words meant to dismiss my fears, but to help me overcome them.
It is like that in every aspect of McNair…for both staff and scholars. Whether you are wrestling with a class, a mentor, your research, your running, your diet, your fears, your personal stuff, whatever…we are a family and we support each other. Maybe not everyone agrees with me there, but I seriously think the more you put into McNair, above and beyond the required stuff, the more you get in return.