Do all stories begin with the beginning and work their way to the end? The beginning and the end in this case are similar (sort of). The story begins and ends with a stoic smile; a conscious effort to remain steady, to walk into the unknown with courage and confidence. Eyes forward, keep moving. Walking into college; walking out. They feel very similar.
Tomorrow I will realize my dream of becoming a college graduate. I will walk across the stage, I will move my tassel from one side to the other, and thus join the ranks of the University of Rochester Alumni. The Dean has told us yesterday that "You will leave here as a better person," or something like that. I am not even going to call him out on the terrible cliché because sometimes an over-simplistic approach to truth-telling is the best idea. Maybe this exit shares some emotions with the last exit and subsequent entrance (i.e. high school), but emotions are where it ends. I am not the same person I was then. I am better.
This was not always easy. In fact, I came close to rock bottom. And it is with these statements that I had better return to the beginning. When I arrived at my first school, I had plenty of confidence. And why not? I had visited the school three times, stayed overnight, met lots of people, met the XC/Track coach multiple times, etc. It felt like the right place. But the lesson to take away from this is that you can never truly be sure about something like that. The fact of the matter is that it was not the right place. For the first time in my life I had trouble relating to the people. I developed little or no love for the school, for the area, and was quickly reduced to a machine, going through the motions of my life. Running, which had been my rock and my anchor, was removed from me by injuries, asthma attacks, and race performances that can be described as subpar at best. A stress fracture at the end of freshman year crushed me mentally and physically. I was not sad at all to leave for the summer after that year, and I should have paid more attention.
The endurance sports metaphor for life is one that I like to use. So much of endurance sport racing is simply dealing with and tuning out pain. It sucks to go bang out a set of repeat 800s on the track. FTP tests on the bike only work if you literally give it everything. Repeat 100s in the pool involve working as hard as you can, without being able to breathe. I can take pain, I can suck it up. And that is precisely what I tried to do at the beginning of sophomore year. But the first few weeks worked out similarly: asthma, injury, disappointment, homesickness, numbness. I was not happy. I needed out. The rest of the semester involved the same mindset: head down, eyes forward, get through it. However, this time there was light at the end of the tunnel: I would not be returning. I had gotten accepted to the University of Rochester as a transfer for spring semester '08. I was going home. I was not a broken man, but I was down. I had gone into college with a vision of the greatness that I would achieve. Sometimes things do not work out.
Although the administration made the transfer process an incredible headache, the issues were worked out. I arrived on campus at U of R, and I felt at home. My roommate was the most antisocial person I have ever met, but my best friend in the world was living in the building right next door. I cannot stress enough how easy it was to become integrated into his group of friends. This group of people has since evolved from being "Trevor's friends," to "my family." Within a matter of weeks, I was more comfortable, at ease, and happy than I was in a year and a half at school number one.
Although I decided to retire from NCAA running, I knew that I needed to be a part of a team. I met a nice kid named Drew Scoles, and another goofball named Owen Laurion, and soon after I was racing bikes with them. I would take this new-found bike fitness into the summer, and use it to throw down monster bike splits which carried me to the podium in every triathlon I raced that year. Sometimes surprises come along that remind you that persistence, creativity, and flexibility pay off.
The past two years (junior/senior years) I have been lucky to build upon the foundation I laid that first semester here. I moved into a 6-person suite with my buddies, and have continued riding bikes with those goofy bastards that we call the "YJs." When I was at my first school, I would talk to many of my peers from high school, and would be confused when they said "I love my school." Well, after spending five semesters at UR, I can truly say "I love my school." The vision I had of what would come to pass in college was drastically different from what actually transpired. But maybe that is okay. It worked out this way. We roll on, like we always do.
So now we have reached the end. They told me it would be the "best four years of my life." Was it? I have no idea. It started off pretty tough. But would I change it? Probably not. That is not an option anyway, so I have banished the thought from my mind. I never gave up. I went to a very low place, and I never once allowed myself to believe that I would not be able to keep going, to keep fighting, to see myself rally, and end up on top. I could have lost myself. But I did not. College is supposed to teach you things. Well, it sure as hell did that. It taught me the most important thing ever. Now it's over. I am truly sad to go.
The next phase of my life begins now. What does that entail. Well, I'm not 100% sure. But I will talk into it with my head high. I'm ready. I CAN.
Thank yous are in order here:
Thank you Mom and Dad. You were here every single step of the way. You are the best parents anybody could ever ask for. I would not have made it without you. I'm going to keep plugging away, guys. All I want to do is make you proud. I love you.
Thank you Terv, Brendy, Mikey-balls, Shervy, and Steph: The one thing I was looking for when I came to UR was some stability, because that was absolutely rocked when I was at the old school. You guys provided just that. Thank you for putting up with my antics and for all the indoor rides that stunk up the suite. Thank you for the clownery, the love, and the memories. You are my family. I love you all so much. You are the reason that this all worked out so wonderfully for me.
Thank you Drew, Owen, and Ronan: I needed to be part of a team, and you provided me with just that. I have had so much fun with you guys. Thank you for believing in me. I believe in you. Sting sting, attack attack! YJs forever. Also, thanks for the nickname. Always remember that the big ring is not just more teeth, it is a state of mind! Push that 11!
Everyone else: Obviously I can't name the names of everybody who has been there for me over the past few years. Don't be offended if you did not make it in. All of my Webster friends, my rocks, thank you for being here always. Thank you for everyone else who touched my life here at U of R. It has been beautiful.
NEVER. GIVE. UP. If you are not chasing your dreams, then what the hell is the point of being here?
I love you all.
-Jeffrey Dolan. May 15, 2010.