A Winning Streak

Challenges are what makes life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” –Unknown

I needed the win.

The last three weeks had brought the most heartbreak and sadness I’d ever known, and tonight, I just needed something positive: a victory in my favorite game of the year. Carolina-Duke. My Tar Heels were having a tough season, but surely the universe could come up with a miracle tonight; after all, everyone knows any Carolina or Duke team can beat any Carolina or Duke team on any given day – that’s what makes the rivalry so special. I was due for a win. But instead… I got another loss.

North Carolina v Duke

Indeed, rather than be a bright spot in a horrible month, the night just one year ago took on the title of my lowest point yet, fueled not only by the crushing defeat, but also by a friend’s remarks upon meeting my mom and sisters while out watching the game. “I think you must be adopted,” he’d said, noting the difference between how bubbly my mom and sisters are compared to my more introvert personality. That’s not it, I thought….I’m just like my dad.

I spent an hour that night kneeling on my stairs and sobbing, my dog desperately trying to comfort me. The night set off a couple weeks where I cried at least an hour a day. Friends who had lost a parent had warned me that the lowest point came about a month after, and they’d been spot on. At times I couldn’t foresee how things could ever get better again.

A month later, March 9th, I finally was feeling a little better. I made the short trip to Chicago to catch up with Carolina friends — always a positive — and watch the Carolina-Duke rematch. With a good run that morning, a great day of catching up, a victory now seemed fitting — the team was even playing in Chapel Hill. This had to be the start of an upswing.

Another loss. A fun weekend, to be sure, and plenty of small victories. But still a loss.

If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you know that 2013 took a fairly similar course from there. A WI winter that extended far into May, making me feel trapped and dreary; finally coming out of that gloominess with the start of a summer racing season, only to be sidelined by the worst injury I’ve ever suffered. August – November brought some bright spots, and some positive signs for the future — a few great job prospects and ideas for places to move; but it also brought the worst of that injury, including nerve pain, all while trying to maintain my 4.0 GPA. In December: my master’s graduation, a huge high point; yet as everyone suggested, the holidays brought up more bittersweet reminders of my dad. My injury grew much more tolerable with treatment, but continued to nag me a bit. I wondered what the next few weeks had in store.

Would a 9-hour plane ride aggravate my injury? Would it nag me through my long-anticipated trip to Europe?

No, it didn’t at all.

Would I be able to do all the walking that makes it so much fun to explore European cities?

Yes, while I was a little more sore than I’d liked, I could do everything I’d planned.

Would the trip be everything I’d wanted it to be?

Without a doubt, better than I’d hoped, from the cities and sights, to the friends I got to spend time with.

There was a great job prospect that had been on the horizon since leaving the country, but would things work out with that?

Yes, they worked out exactly as I wanted — the position, the company, along with a chance to escape the WI winter and live in a new city, something I’d been longing to do for over a year.

Would the city feel like home, somewhere I could be comfortable for at least 6 months?

Absolutely. Tucson, Arizona has already been so much better than I’d even imagined, from the mountain views, to IMG_1104the college town, to the size and corresponding scope of restaurants and businesses. It’s truly a perfect fit.

Would I like being back in the world of Healthcare IT?

Yes, I love it. In fact, I have a newfound passion for the field stemming from my time spent on the patient side last year.

Driving to the grocery store the other day — sun shining, warm breeze blowing in through my sunroof, beautiful mountain views all around me — a song came on the radio that I hadn’t heard in a year. I’d put just about every other once-banned “happy song” back on my iPod…except this one. This one isn’t about a mood, or a day, or a moment in time, as so many of the high points of 2013 were. This song is about a series of events going my way, which is why I hadn’t been able to listen to it for so long. With a smile, I turned it up and sang along to One Republic. “Oh, this has got to be the Good Life.

A couple days later, I nervously watched the first Carolina-Duke match up of the year. Like last year, Carolina was the major underdog, having lost a lot of tough games this season, but they’d won seven in a row. Could they do it again? With 4 minutes to go, they took the lead for the first time in the game. With two minutes to go, they took a commanding lead, and instinctually, I looked up. Not because the ceiling in my new, cute little apartment just looks that good, but because all of a sudden I could feel the meaning of what was happening. We — me and my alma mater — were finally on a real winning streak.

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2013 was an extraordinary year, the negative events especially giving me a valuable perspective that I will carry with me the rest of my life. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m any less glad to be moving on from it; to be realizing that no matter how many heartbreaks you encounter or how impossibly long the emotional roller coaster after a life-altering event may seem, the tides really will eventually turn.

Carolina could very well lose when they play Duke again in a month, and while I’d love to be optimistic, I don’t think this team is cut out to hang another national championship banner in the Dean Dome. There are likely a few losses coming, but what matters to me right now is that we’ve been able to ride this streak…

And be reminded of how good it feels when the victories pile up.

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