Mastering a Goal

Good morning and Happy Monday! I’ve been a little more quiet on the blog lately, because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a very long-term goal… my THESIS!

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I started graduate school in 2010, twoweeks after I got married, and two months after I had scored a big promotion. I remember nervously sitting around a table of unfamiliar faces, still glowing from my honeymoon, starting to freak out a little bit as my eyes scanned the lengthy syllabus of research methods. At work, I went from a copywriter to a content manager, managing a team of three people, writing Facebook updates and blogs for nine different brands. I worked at least 45 hours a week and went to class at night, exhausted, bleary-eyed and hungry, but I made it through with my laptop, diet coke and the support of my husband and family.

I had intended for grad school to take two years, but as the reality of school set in, I knew it would take longer. I ended up staying for three years, and in those three years, I met wonderful friends, some of whom read this blog. (Hi Julie, Emily, Lauren, Virginia and Luis!) I also worked my way through stress-eating (Something I’m still fighting), cried when my 36 page literature review came back for the 10th time needing more revisions (I’m not exaggerating. That %&$#! lit review came back ten times!), traveled to Thailand, lost my sweet kitty Leo, and did a million other things. Life always went on, but it went on with a giant weight on my shoulders – my thesis. I turned down fun party invitations, missed family vacations and spent hours glued to my computer. I wrote and re-wrote huge chunks of the same text, over and over again. I made a lot of sacrifices for the past three years to work on this thesis, but I was always grateful I had the opportunity to be learning and to be in grad school. It was hard. But I did it.

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The first photo of me as Alyssa Curran, MA. Taken minutes after my thesis was approved – with happy tears still shiny in my eyes!

Last Thursday, at 2 pm, I paced the hallways of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication while my thesis committee deliberated my final project. I had come prepared with 106 pages of my own work, two PDFs of the social media handbook you can read at SocialSyllabi.com, and a cheat sheet of notes. I defended my project in front of two women I greatly respect, both who are doctorates, one in education, one in journalism, women who have worked at the Los Angeles Times and have been embedded in war zones. At the end of an hour and a half of changes, they signed a paper and shook my hand – I had just earned my master’s degree!

When they signed the paper, I wanted to leap across the table and hug them. Tears flooded my eyes and I had to do that embarrassing fan-your-face thing to prevent myself from bursting into happy, joyous tears. I have worked SO HARD for this degree, and I am so proud of myself. I’m not usually a braggart (ok, fine, sometimes I can be), but I’ve been basking in my accomplishment the past week. I have a MASTER’S DEGREE before I’m even 28 years old. THAT is awesome. THAT is accomplishment. THAT is hard work, and opportunity, and commitment – and THAT reminds me that this whole weight loss thing? It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on in my life, but I can do this, too. My Master’s Degree taught me a lot. Not just about dedication and time, but about perseverance. About not throwing in the towel when all you want to do is quit. About keeping going, when your eyes are heavy and your heart is tired. About not comparing yourself to others, about realizing this journey is your own – no one elses, and if your heart is in it, you will get there, regardless of your pace. I need to remember these thoughts, these feelings, when the number on the scale is up, when my jeans feel snug, when I compare myself to a thin girl and think that I am not enough. I can do this. I will do this.

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My sweet friend Ruby and I in 2008. We are still friends to this day!

My master’s degree is so much more to me than just a paper saying I’m well educated in the field of mass communication and media. It’s a reminder for me that when I work hard, I can do anything. I just need to remember to take it one step at a time, believe in myself, and try my best. On May 21 I’ll once again walk across the Oviatt Library steps, exactly five years after I earned my BA in Journalism in the same spot. In a lot of ways, I’m a different person than who I was in 2008, but one thing remains the same – my ambition to make my life worth living to the fullest, every minute of every day. I am proud of the person I am, and you should be proud of who you are, too.

So tell me – what is one thing in your life, big or small, that makes you proud of the person you are today?