Two Miles Are Enough: Learning To Accept Progress

As the 5-o’clock sun attacks my pale skin, I feel the sweat drip down my face and into my eyes, blurring my vision. With each strike against the unforgiving pavement, pain shoots up my leg and into my knee as I hear my breath quickening. Through my blared hard-core rap music, the voice in my head emerges: “Sorry, sister, but there is no way you’re calling it quits—you haven’t even run two miles!”

Through the haze of the Texas heat, I see the house that I have assigned as the two-mile marker for the past five years—yet it feels like it should really represent many more. How is this so hard for me? I used to run two miles as a warm up, and now I’m struggling to even make it my entire workout.

I strike harder and harder, sending shocks to my defenseless knees more aggressively, as if I think the pain will mask the negativity plaguing my brain. An all-too familiar voice returns. What are you doing with your life, Catherine? What is your four-year plan? Where is the concrete evidence you have to show for the journey of “figuring things out?”

I think about Kira, who’s having the time of her life in New York City working for a major investment banking firm. I think of my best friend from home, Lauren, who has just completed her sophomore year in Washington, D.C., working for prestigious senators and governors. I think of my brother, Tom, who is following his passion, producing movies in Los Angeles. And then I think of myself.

“Passions,” these things that Boston College professors and students talk about on a regular basis, are everything and anything. An individual can like a lot of things—writing, working with people, exercising, reading—but do they fall into the vague category of “passions?” And how do these passions, in turn, translate into a major, and eventually career? Courage to Know, a freshman year class, seeks to address these questions and set a BC student on a personal path to follow his/her passion, but for me, this class simply confused me even more. Under pressure to decide on a major (to my dismay I couldn’t be “undeclared” forever), I applied and was accepted into the International Studies program because “I liked to travel”—a good reason to explain my decision to my mom, right? I thought it was a “good” major for me because it sounded like it was pretty much what you make of it, as IS majors can decide certain tracks, and different paths within those tracks. When in reality, I chose IS because I honestly didn’t know what else to do. Little did I know that the question for the next year would be, “Now what are you actually planning to do with that?”

Well jeez, I never really thought that far about my whimsical decision. Once I started taking a few IS classes, I was so interested in the actual material that I was learning, that I never thought about what I would actually do with this information. Stupid, right? According to my mom, I’m at college to get a job. I get that, I really do, but I am so caught in between two forms of thinking that I’m driving myself insane. Do I think about what type of career I want in the future, and then figure out what major I should be pursuing, or do I focus on the classes that interest me, and then go with the career that (hopefully) comes after four years of studying this material? At this point, who the hell knows.

I’m already so far into my major that it’s too late to switch paths for the—what are we up to now, sixth time?—so I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve determined this major is “good” for me, not because I want to work for the UN necessarily or choose a path in politics, but because I honestly enjoy my classes. They are challenging beyond belief and they reveal to me information about the world that is necessary to be an informed citizen. So to all the Buzzfeed articles that plague my Facebook feed headlined, “The Worst College Majors,” I say screw you. All the people who know me know that I’m not one to curse or be confrontational, but seriously, what authority does some stupid, trashy website have on anyone’s life? Like for real, people, if you are honestly enjoying the classes you’re taking—then just go with it. Stop freaking out when your aunt asks, “Wow, so you want to work for the UN?” You’ll figure that part out later.

I don’t wipe the sweat burning into my eyes as the house draws nearer and nearer. My arms move with such violence as each fist swinging back and forth is like a punch at the nagging voice in my head. I pass the house’s mailbox and stop with such gratitude, as if I had just ran a marathon. I gulp the 100-degree wet air, like a fish out of water.

Okay, so I didn’t complete the four miles I set out to run. That’s just fine, because at least I did two. I own those two. This run, and finally choosing a major, was hard as hell, but hey—I’m in it now. Even though I pass the same houses and potholes each time, they always look and feel a bit different, as my body and mind have changed along these roads. Each time I lace up my shoes, I know I’ll make it a bit farther each time. The mistake I made before was thinking I could run this journey on autopilot.

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphics