The Next 1000 mile journey

In August 2011, I wrote about my 1000 Mile journey and how I was beginning a long trip transitioning to becoming a college student  In 2012, I wrote Thoughts about my 1000 mile journey  about things I did and learned during my 1000 miles.   The later ended, “I can’t wait to see where my next 1000 miles will take me.” What I have realized is that it not about the exact 1000 miles as it is about the journey.  So, 1000 miles represents the different phases of my life…. (but I did ride the 1000 miles too…just to keep my sanity)

I feel the need to offer a little update on the 2nd 1000 mile journey.  After completing the 1000 miles and my Bachelor’s degree, I began graduate school in Fall 2012.  That’s right…at age 40, I realized I wanted to finally “be  smart.”  I needed a job, but had no experience in my new field.  I took a job selling time share. I should say I tried to sell time share because after 3 months I had sold a whopping NOTHING!!! I worked 50-60 hours per week, attended training sessions on sales…and rode 20 miles out there on my bike to attend a training session (on my day off) when Mary had the car.  I was dedicated and WANTED to make lots of money. I was also a full-time graduate student, too.  So, I had to balance work, study, and research. That first semester was quite fun.  One day, the boss called me into  the office for “a talk.”  I knew what he was going to say.  I had expected it for some time.  I didn’t know when it was going to happen.  I was not offended because I learned a lot about communication and motivation “selling” time share.  I didn’t get to ride my bike much that first semester.

TJC-LOGOIn January 2013, I was blessed to find not one, but two academic positions.  I worked about 20 hours per week at TJC as a Professional Writing Consultant helping students write papers.  I saw over 600 students over the next three semesters.  I also rode my bike 3 days a week between my house and TJC.  It was only a 4 mile ride each way.  The only weather that mattered to me was whether I wanted a paycheck twice a month.  So, I rode when it was 105 degrees; I rode when it was 19 degrees with snow and sleet; I rode in a monsoon (It was only a 4 inch downpour, but 4 miles in that rain sucked!!!); I rode in 45 mile per wind winds, too.  I simply rode…and rode…and rode.  Both for work and on weekends for pleasure (40-60 miles per week). I met some fabulous folks…and maybe I helped a few along the way.

During this same time (Jan 2013- May 2014), I was blessed with a second academic position.  I was a Graduate uttyler logoTeaching Assistant at UTTyler.  The first semester I was in the basic speech class for 2 sections.  In the 2nd and 3rd semesters, I was assigned to Dr Kidd and Dr Velten respectively.  I think I helped them some, but what they gave  me was more important.  These two fine people taught me HOW to teach and learn.  They also mentored me through the PhD process once I decided I wanted to “be smart.”  I graded a lot of papers, taught a few classes… and maybe I helped a few folks along the way.

In Fall 2013, I decided I wanted to play Doctor.  As mentioned above, I had great mentors in the department.  They said attend conferences and apply for schools.  Applying for schools is not as easy as one would think.  There are over 200 communication programs in the US.  I had to figure out what area of communication I wanted to study.  Too dang many choices Interpersonal, Organizational, Intercultural, Rhetoric…the list is legion!  Great googly… Once I realized most of my research had something to do with my years playing Paramedic, I changed my focus to health communication.  That narrowed the list to around 10.  I looked at who was in each program, what and how they researched, and what the program produced.  I read hundreds of articles to find the people I wanted to study under…and prayed a lot to find the right program.

Applying for schools was the easy part.  Attending conferences was another challenge.  I didn’t think my stuff was that good.  But I warily applied for 3 conferences….and waited hoping to add at least 1 to my CV.  I waited…and waited….and waited….  Then, something strange and horrible happened.  I was accepted to present my research in not 1 but ALL 3 conferences.  HOLY COW!!!  In Spring 2014, I travelled to San Angelo, New Orleans, and Rhode Island for different conferences.  Mary and I travelled more in 6 weeks than we had in 16 years of marriage.  Good times and great memories.

Welp, I did not realize how hard it would be to  balance working 30-50 hours per week with conferences and studying for classes as well as research and writing.  This past semester was a doozy… but I managed to maintain a 3.41 GPA, complete a Masters in Communication, get accepted into a funded position in a PhD program…and rode my 2nd 1000 miles.

So, where has the next 1000 miles taken me? In July 2014, we crammed 3 people and the dog into a UHaul and drove my 3rd 1000 miles to Indianapolis. This was the biggest and hardest journey ever.  I left behind my momma, my friends…my entire world.  I also left behind the dead bodies.  WHAT???

You must remember, I worked as a Paramedic for 14 years (1997-2011).  I saw a few bad things.  In East Texas, I drove  by those places everyday.  It was a constant reminder of death and destruction.  I drove past the place where a good friend died in a car wreck (which I worked).  I drove past the house where I worked my first cardiac arrest.  I drove past hundreds of other gun shots, stabbings, and other really bad stuff…EVERY DAY.   Each mile was a mile farther away from so many painful memories…and into a new life.

I began my 4th 1000 miles yesterday with a bike ride to and around my new home.  I get to play with some of the leading researchers in Health Communication at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.  I am now Jaguar.   I know I will ride more than 1000 miles in the next years, but like I said in the beginning, the 1000 miles is just a phase. Can’t wait to see what this 1000 miles looks like…

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