It’s for real!
I am officially a class of 2018 Doctor of Physical Therapy student at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV! I mailed off my acceptance letter, got a background check and sent in my deposit.
How far we’ve come!
What started as a hunger for an even deeper understanding of anatomy sparked by my incredible yoga teachers, Sarada & Shivaji at Om Ananda Yoga gradually evolved into a life path as I learned how to help the love of my life as he healed from a back injury. That education morphed into a yoga teaching style championing anatomical precision and preventative back care, supplemented by hours of observation, work, and learning in outpatient, inpatient, and pediatric Physical Therapy settings … all that experience and growth has contributed to me arriving here, ready to delve in to a rigorous program to grow and expand my skills and turn me into a Physical Therapist! Nathan tells me I already am a PT, but it’ll at least be nice to have some letters behind my name three years from now.
Wired for Touch
There were inklings of me becoming a PT back as far as my childhood. I was born in December, in the beginning of Dad (the Golf Pro)’s yearly 3-months off from work, and he would lay back on the couch with me on his belly, just rubbing my back with his fingertips.
When my cousins and I would play by massaging one another’s hands (we called it “needle and thread,” pretending to thread an imaginary needle through each palm by gently pinching our skin in a precise way; I was fascinated by how soothing it felt, how relaxing and nice it was to work on and with my hands), or when I was older and Dad would pay me big bucks for an hour-long shoulder massage, or friends and I would sit in a “massage circle” for hours.
Much of what I understand about the body, about energetic and physical connection, and about how bodywork and presence is related to healing comes from the horses I grew up with. My muscles strong from grooming and riding,
I not only gained endurance from working with my body but also a kind of intuitive feel that can’t necessarily be taught. Horses are masters of body language, and I learned from my four-legged teachers how to be truly embodied and the potency of true presence.
My energy trainings gave me a way to understand and articulate how the hands are an expression of the heart, and deepened my ability to feel and intuit. Yoga was a natural fit, and that incredible, vast practice has permeated everything I am, continuing to do so in ways I’d never imagined when I rode my first exhale into a deep sense of peace back at Columbia College, when Michael McColly first introduced me to the power of prana.
Becoming a Physical Therapist represents the incredible opportunity to create a life and make a living that combines all of my loves – healing, touch, yoga, energy, connection, service, even horses! It just feels meant to be.
It wasn’t easy
But just because something feels like it’s meant to be doesn’t always mean it comes easily. There were many moments (okay, more many like weeks and months … ) of doubt and anxiety, especially upon returning to school at Western Washington University from 2013-5 as I worked on obtaining my prerequisites for PT School. I realize that I am so fortunate that I can say this; returning to school and it not coming easily despite my prior college history of straight-A’s and my best efforts was one of the hardest challenges I have encountered, bringing me face-to-face with my perfectionism, fierce independence, unhealthy and unreasonable personal expectations. Nathan joked that I suck at sucking, because if I was not the best, I thought, it was not acceptable (maybe I’m still working on that …). I stumbled upon this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy at a particularly important moment: it really fueled my perseverance to get through:
Trust and Let Go
I learned some important things about myself (still learning!) and worked through some of my own darker shadow aspects (still working!). The love from my friends and family and especially from my #1 supporter, Nathan, really helped me see clearly when my own perspective was clouded by self-doubt and uncertainty. The timeless teachings so generously given by my beloved yoga teacher and the consistency of a daily meditation practice have deeply shifted how I move through challenges, tensions, & hardships, and these gifts have empowered me to simply let go of the struggle and be fully present in the moment. From the present moment, we see most clearly and we trust most deeply.
A mantra I find so useful on this journey is “Trust and let go.” And that’s kind of how I ended up in West Virginia, of all places!
West Virginia, really!?
One evening while I was working on PT School application essays, Nathan sat with me in front of the wood stove. He had his computer in his lap, and in his ever-supportive way, was looking into DPT programs in some of his favorite places. He would read me one program description, I’d say “ehh,” or “humm, that’s interesting …” then we’d move on to the next description. One particularly piqued my attention: it talked about how students are given a holistic experience of learning how to be practitioners of physical therapy who address the body, mind and spirit. It emphasized service in the community, incorporating weekly service learning requirements into the program. It talked about an education model that prepared students to be self-directed learners and problem solvers. It was my #1 favorite description. Nathan gazed at me over the top of the computer screen, chuckling. “Guess where that school is?” he asked.
It was in West Virginia. Nathan was born in West Virginia and even though his parents
have lived just across the WV border in Ohio for many years, he still considers himself a West Virginian. Ever since we met, he joked about turning me into a West Virginian. The idea was less than appealing to me, but hey, what did I know about Appalachia?
So I applied to Wheeling almost as a joke to appease Nathan’s WV pride. Their application process was simple and it was genuinely my favorite program description. I also applied to Pacific University and University of Washington. Once I had applied, it was the most magnificent opportunity to trust and let go. Folks would say, “Oh, you must be so nervous playing the waiting game, not knowing where you’ll be next year,” but I was not. It felt wonderful just surrendering the outcome to whatever was meant to be.
Turns out, I got an interview, traveled to WV, ended up loving Wheeling and now the rest is history! It came out of left field, but feels like the perfect match.
What about Nathan?
It’s undoubtedly going to be a challenge living away from my One True Love. Our life together, our enormous garden, our amazing newly-remodeled Woolley Green House, the friends we’ve made, the outdoor adventures we enjoy out of our backyard. But Nathan and I have a lot of practice at loving long-distance (we fell in love over phone conversations when he was in grad school at Eastern KY University and I was living & working as a nanny and wrangler in Colorado). He just got a promotion with the Forest Service so he’s going to hold down the fort in Washington while I’m away. My plan is to do my clinical rotations back in Washington so I can live at home if possible.
In a way this time apart will be a way to really grow in our connection, to really support one another in moving toward our highest potentials. We both see this move as an opportunity for me to really delve full-on into my studies and for him to really explore what he will be moving toward in his future. When we physically come back together again, we’ll both be established more strongly in who we truly are, poised to love even more deeply, and able support one another in a new, big chapter. This is such a beautiful time for both of us to grow.
The take home points
I really have gained so much from this challenge, and hope that some of these gems will help to support and inspire you too:
- Trust and let go.
- “Where attention goes, energy flows.” –Paul Reps
- If you happen to be a good placement test-taker and you test into Precalculus having never taken a math class since high school Prealgebra (Math for Survival at art school doesn’t count), go ahead and take the College-level Algebra class first.
- Trust and let go.
- No matter how much you plan, analyze, calculate and try to control things, you really aren’t in control. There’s something greater at work whether you like it or not. So it’s really more energy efficient to trust and let go.
- Do everything with an open heart.
- Meditate & practice yoga.
- Be honest with yourself.
- Ask for help.
- Don’t be afraid. And if you are afraid, trust and let go.
- Take time every weekend to do something fun and totally out of the realm of school (even if you think you should be studying).
- Take care of your mind and body. Eat well. Sleep 8-10 hours every night.
- Keep things in perspective. Get out of your head (and into your heart).
- Trust and let go.
I love you all and thank you with all my heart for the support on this exciting journey. The next chapter begins in mid-August when I fly out to WV, buy a car, find an apartment and start school! Until then, Nathan and I will be gardening, adventuring, and teaching as much yoga as possible.
Oh, and if you haven’t visited us out in Washington yet, now’s the time …