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It’s me again.

During grad school, my friend Leslie and I would frequently growl to each, “I didn’t come here to make friends. I CAME HERE TO WIN!” Of course, we were making fun of reality television bravado while making fun of ourselves and our competitive Ivy League environment, but there was truth in our humor. I did want to to win at grad school because I want to win at life. Winning means something different to everyone, and I don’t always have a clear picture of how winning looks to me. I think most of the time, it just means that I’m doing things that I care about, that I’m impacting the greater good, and I’m committing fully to my endeavors. Even if I’m not the best or a natural, I will be someone who stands out.

About six months ago, I was offered the chance to “win” at work. In addition to my role as a clinical social worker, I was asked to perform some internal quality assurance auditing for the agency. I was excited for the work because a big piece of myself loves spreadsheet and percentages and making graphs. Also, I wanted the varied work experience so that I can keep carving out future career opportunities. When the auditor role was proposed to me, the only negative aspect of the position was that I would have to perform my auditing duties as overtime since I still would carry my full social work caseload. So I started working before work and after work, which turned into 10 and 11 hour days. Monday through Friday. I was killing it in my new role, but I had nothing left inside for anything else.

A major force in my life that keeps me driven, keeps me confident, humble, and curious is training judo and jiu jitsu. I need to have something in my life that pushes me  mentally and physically and provides continual learning. Training fulfills this need. With my new work position, I had to cut out practice. I worked too late to make it to class, and then I soon lost the motivation to get up early to maintain my conditioning. Then I started on the self-pity diet, choosing burritos and pizza over lean protein and roasted vegetables. By October, I could not fit into my pants comfortably. In turn, I stress-online shopped several new dresses with my overtime pay. I looked adorable, but I felt like I was in a tornado getting attacked by bees. My life seemed out of control and I was operating in survival mode.

Thankfully, my agency does value me and starting January 1st, I was relieved of all the overtime. My duties shifted so I could perform my auditing role and some other clinical work withing the reasonable confines of an eight and a half hour day. Finally, I could train again. I needed to get back to class. During the months that I was working all that overtime, I realized I have no other positive coping skills for stress and anxiety besides training. If I’m not training, I’m stress eating. And while my stress eating led to a nice wardrobe expansion, I did not feel happy, confident, or motivated. Mainly, I just felt a mix of defiance, guilt, and defeat. After ringing in 2016 hugging a bottle of NyQuil as my only weapon to murder a cold, I got back on a mat on January 9th. Although I’ve learned that my recovery time is not as bouncy as it used to be five years ago, I didn’t feel as terrible as I thought I would. I was ready to feel miserable and humiliated by how much I lost. And sure, breathing was hard and I could feel how stiff I’d become, but I could get through classes. I felt encouraged. I felt relieved. I felt motivated.


Happy me in the middle, surrounded by two of my awesome teammates after my first judo class in five months.

This week, I was me again. I felt strong. I could see myself walking with my head up and shoulders back instead of head down, shoulders dropped, feeling punched in the gut by responsibility and sacrifice. I’m sure as heck not losing any weight, but my body is different. It wants to be pushed. It craves getting on the mat. I’m sprinting now instead of trudging.

It’s perfect timing, really–getting my strength and drive back. In the last two and half weeks, I learned that my agency wants to give me another great opportunity for my career. It will be more responsibility than I’ve ever had to manage. I’m equal parts honored and terrified. But I’m me again. I can do it. I came here to win.


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