This summer I'm participating in the CMU McNair Scholars Program Summer Research Institute (SRI) which involves conducting an independent research project with a faculty member, preparing to take the GRE in August, scoping out prospective graduate schools, and readying myself apply to graduate school. Oh, and engaging in personal growth too. I plan to chronicle my experiences as a McNair Scholar here mostly because Lynn said so...and also because I can appreciate the process of writing and sharing, especially during a time of great growth and exploration.

If there's one thing I appreciate about CMU's McNair program it's the holistic model for developing not just erudite scholars, but healthy, aware, and balanced individuals. To give you an idea of how the program achieves this, I'll share some of the cool things my fellow scholars and I have had the opportunity to explore during the first week of the SRI:

  • yoga belly dancing. (mad respect for belly dancers)
  • meditation
  • high ropes course
  • horseback riding
  • personal fitness training group
  • training for The Color Run
  • community gardening

Awesome, right? Ok, I'll admit, some of it was a little bit out of my (old) comfort zone, but I jumped in and tried each of the above-listed activities with gusto. Because why not? I'll tell you why not. Because it might be scary. It might feel uncomfortable, unusual, different. I can promise you that it hurts. My muscles feel like they went through a meat grinder, thanks to an intense group fitness session this morning and a run with one of my fellow scholars, Andy, last night.

Yes, my body hurts. But the aches and pains plaguing my muscles and bones are evidence of the intense challenges I've stepped up to this week. And when I wake up in the morning with renewed with strength and vitality, I will be reminded that the pain of the past may endure for some time, but perseverance results in new-found strength.

This summer will undoubtedly be arduous. I have a full-fledged research project to complete, the GRE is months away, and I'm preparing a manuscript for publication (ugh). I'm fully prepared to dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge in order to avoid the wrenches that life is bound to throw at me. Even if a wrench hits me square in the face and breaks my nose, I'll remind myself:

I'm breathing. I'm smiling. I'm alive.

Are you?