Career Change

IMG_4422It might be time to edit my website…

I’m no longer coaching college lacrosse. For the last 10 years it has been my life, my everything, my first true love. But about 2 weeks ago I met with my athletic director and it was decided that this might not be the route I should take.

I’m not upset about this. I’m excited, I’m seizing opportunities left and right, I’m ENJOYING this stress-free time. I no longer need to censor and edit myself, I can finally go out in public to places where if someone sees me acting carelessly it doesn’t reflect on some other greater entity. There’s no more perpetual worry about what my players are doing or acting, did I respond to the recruit, what events am I signed up for. I feel a tremendous amount of relief.

I’ve been applying for jobs in new career fields. I had a phone interview today with an insurance company. I’ve never really worked in finance, but I didn’t hide it and they seemed more interested in my personality than my experience. They told me to call them back if it’s a job I’m interested in pursuing. I interviewed yesterday with a non-profit. I want to learn how to grant-write and help create a better place for people to co-exist in. I have an in-person interview on Thursday. I’ve been offered a handful of writing freelance jobs. Finally using my master’s degree the way it was intended to. Finally, I am working as a group fitness instructor and really taking the time to expand my knowledge and skills by reading more and more about fitness trends, techniques, and concepts.

I am happy. I am relaxed. I am excited for this new adventure.

My cortisol levels has decreased tremendously too. I can tell because my belly is flattening out, and my skin is clearing up. Yeah, I’ve managed to lose inches since departing Huntingdon. All this sudden change has been interesting to say the least. In addition, my boyfriend is deployed so I’m by myself here in Alabama. But my support system has been coming through. I’ve been running with a running group. Going out with my kickball teammates and friends. I feel like I’m living a life that I was supposed to be doing and it made me think about the first season without George.

I believe the luster began to wear off the moment he died. That 2014 team is forever my favorite because they saved my life. They gave me a purpose. But most importantly, they inspired me to find new passions, to find meaning in all of the madness going on around me. And college coaching, for right now, is not my purpose. Maybe I’ll move back towards it at another time, but it’s time for me to figure out how to build my own nest.

Summer recruiting

“The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.”

College summer recruiting is a necessary evil of my job. I shouldn’t call it an evil, but a necessary means to success. Watch, evaluate, contact potential student athletes and draw them to be interested in your school and grasp the vision you’re trying to establish and create with the program. I’ve spent thousands of hours doing this with sometimes great results and other years flipping over every rock possible. The summers I spent going to tournaments, camps, writing emails until 2 in the morning, the moment George passed away it filled me with so much regret. Hours spent chasing players and not spending with him. Unfocused while we’re together because I’m texting and writing recruits. It filled me with regret for so long, but this summer recruiting has been reinvented. It’s been fun for me!

Almost every weekend I’m traveling to attend showcases and I’m really enjoying the process. It’s been a great distraction for me and I’ve been enjoying meeting new people and interacting with the players. I’m helping growing the sport in Alabama and it’s very fulfilling. I’m happy. I feel like myself again. Rain or shine, it’s good to be looking forward to what I do best. And im so excited for what’s around the corner with my program and my career.

image

Why I write

Photo 119George and I had a food blog. We used to poodle around NYC looking for the best of the best, good deals, good vegan options, busts, and of course home recipes. It was a hobby with both enjoyed and a way we bonded. Blogging was a staple in our relationship and writing was the foundation of it. We met in a creative writing master’s program. So I write because I desire to find the words to redevelop and unlock the memories I had with him which serves as a means for me to feel connected and work through losing him. My posts aren’t as frequent now as they were in the early months, but my grief and feeling of loss isn’t as prevalent.

My method of operation to combat grief first was with writing, and then fitness. Now I pretty much have the fluctuating emotions in check. Beginning of the new year it was rearing its ugly head, but again the power of words helped me sort through it. The phrase time heals all wounds is accurate. But it’s naive to think I’m the same person I was 2 years ago. I was active in changing my spirit and mind by changing my body too. Early on my thoughts would drift to those moments when George was gaunt and jaundiced. His cheeks sunk inward, and his lips chapped from the medicine and the blue in his eyes popped because of the yellowish tint where it should’ve been white. But even when that was happening he still told jokes, he still made me laugh, he expressed so much love to everyone around him. And because of his joy of life it made me feel guilty that I was crippled by his absence. I knew if I was sad he would be devastated, so I worked on bettering myself from within. Finding reason to get out of bed. And luckily I had a responsibility of coaching my lacrosse team and running a program, but even more simplistic than that, I had a sweet little man I needed to care for.

Bodie grieved along with me. He would cry behind doors, snuggled close to George’s pillow, and just occupy his side of the bed. Those nights he hopped off the bed and whine just on the other side of the door tore me up inside. One time he did it at 430a and I called my mom because it was so sad. But together we changed and those dark memories became better. I remember the times George would play the guitar and make songs about Bodie and his love of his blue ball. Those times we walked through Prospect Park to the doggy beach and met other terriers for Bo to play with and then ignore just seconds later. I don’t remember the days he was dying as clearly, and it’s a blessing.

Writing allowed me to remember the good times, sort through my sorrow, find meaning in the memories, and bridge my old life to the one I continue to build now.

 

Love, loss and lacrosse

I met George when I was a graduate assistant for the women’s lacrosse team at Wilkes University. Our attraction and admiration for each other began in the master’s program there, and it’s the preface of our love story. I was an assistant coach at Sacred Heart University when we began building our lives together. Then I was hired at Drew University as the head lacrosse coach as we planned our future.

But at Drew my first year I had to passively watch his cancer begin to overpower him. I didn’t know what was happening. I was in denial. And in my second year, he passed away. My third year at Drew I was rebuilding a foundation, but knew my time was limited there. I needed a change, a place to make new memories in a world without him. In my first season at Huntingdon College, I feel like myself again. I feel stronger than I ever have before. Thankful for the adventures I had in my time in the northeast, and grateful for all of those who’ve supported me. The love I shared with George has propelled me forward, and I try my hardest to make him proud. He’s my why. I do what I do because of him.

2 years ago I was forced back to the region where our paths crossed and love began. The thought of going back to Northeast Pennsylvania still turns my stomach. Revisiting Wilkes Barre/Scranton area is my real life hell. Some day I know I’ll appreciate it, but for right now it’s too painful. With the help of a friend, I wrote an essay for the Guardian about the Drew vs Scranton game of 2014. It was torture going back there then, but love carried me through.

Balancing life and beyond

Ive been seeing Mike for over 7 months now. It’s going very well, though we’ve had our struggles. I’m now in my 30s and I’ve seen many of my friends get married and also see a select few have to go through divorce. I’ve noticed that some of the ones going through divorce suffer from a form of grief. Which isn’t a surprise because their life is drastically changing and sometimes dealing with those emotions are very difficult and confusing. It’s not the same, clearly, as a spouse passing but I’m empathetic to the drastic life changes and the struggle to get back into the dating game.

I feel complete when I’m around Mike. Life is good, and the companionship makes dealing with stress, whether it’s from work or not exceeding self-expectations, much more tolerable. He makes me feel special and it makes me feel special and unique. This weekend I had games and we went 0-2, but he supported me all weekend long and helped me not dwell on the losses but see the good in them more. He’s been following my team all season long and reminds me how far the team has come since the first game. And sometimes coaching gets the best of me and I really can get hung up on the wins and losses. I have expectations for myself and I set the bar high and if I can’t achieve or deliver I do get down on myself quickly. And to put it bluntly, I can be a real bitch. He’s been a good balance to me.

I think about old Julia and how immature I would be with wins and losses versus now. I remember when I was coaching at Sacred Heart I would be so angry after losses and just be downright mean to George. He would support and do things not so different than Mike but I wasn’t receptive to it. I just think of how far and how much I’ve grown up and how now I’m capable of separation of work and personal life, and have a functioning relationship. Our past certainly molds us into the people we are, but how we come out of the worst situations and how we learn really does build us and forms our character. Take care of the little things and once those add up the big things will follow.

I took a big leap of faith moving to Alabama, and I’m glad I did. I’m happy with how things are turning out, and I feel more levelheaded. Lacrosse is going well, life is improving, and the relationship stuff is coming together. I really do feel like I can give my all to every aspect of my life, and for awhile there I didn’t think I was capable of that kind of balance. image

Impactful weekend

Over the weekend I traveled with my lacrosse team to Ferrum College and then to Greensboro College for games. We split this weekend but it was an interesting weekend. Not because of the games but more so of the people and places.

in 2013, the first year I was a head coach at Drew University, my lacrosse team traveled to Ferrum College for spring break. It was strange being back there. I remember how excited I was to be on my first spring break as a head coach. George would send me texts of encouragement and at night call me to get the details of the game. It was nice being back there and once again pulling out a good quality win. After the game we got back on the bus and headed two hours south to Greensboro, NC. When we got into Greensboro one of my friends who coaches at Guilford College stopped by our hotel and we chatted. It was so great seeing her! I just am so appreciative of the people and relationships in my life. She was a huge support for me after George passed and I remember seeing her at tournaments and camps, and she was so kind and open to hearing my woes. We’ve played together on club lacrosse teams and it’s wonderful seeing her, and her son and how things change so much but friendships remain strong. It makes me really grateful to be involved in the lacrosse community.

Coincidently, one of my other lacrosse friends was in the Charlotte area too and we were chatting over the weekend trying to see if our schedules would match. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but I enjoyed the back and forth lacrosse talk we had over the weekend. He’s a great coach and I love getting his perspective. Admittedly he’s one of my friends I was careless with the immediate months after George passed and I tend to bring up how cold hearted I was then. He reminds me I indeed was an ass, but he got to have a front row seat to watch me change physically and mentally.

It was such a bizarre weekend now that I think back on it. Almost like a reminder of how important the relationships in your life are. Don’t take anything for granted.

 

Shadows chasing shadows

I can feel my grief in my muscles. The aches and tightness in my legs are constant reminders of the sadness that creeps into some of my days. I still find my release in fitness, and I grieve more some days, and on those days my body takes the punishment when my mind wants to run away. I’m feeling anxious tonight. This weekend is the first weekend of many recruiting trips. Recruiting plays a huge role in the success of my job, but I haven’t forgiven myself for spending so many weekends on the road when I should’ve been with George during his final weeks. When I got the phone call that he must go into hospice care, I was at a recruiting tournament in New Jersey. It was a Saturday at 9a and I remember getting to Memorial Sloan Kettering to speak with the social worker about hospice by 11:30a.

I hold on to so much regret.

Tonight I felt the uneasiness of grief creeping in so I laced up my sneakers and went for a night run. I am getting more comfortable about Montgomery and my neighborhood so the night run felt good. My sore muscles started to loosen up as I found my stride, and the grit of the pavement under my feet was a sweet reminder of how good it feels to hurl my body throughout the streets until my mind disappeared. At one point, the street lights shined down perfectly and I was chasing my shadow. The dark carbon copy stretched out in front of me, and I would chase her down until she lengthened and fell behind. And then at the next streetlight, she would creep into the lead and I would chase her again. There’s always going to be shadows from my last life hanging around, and I’ve been good about running away, but if I’m going to move past the shadows, do I have to face it head on?

image

Reinventing in Southeast

IMG_3030

It’s been so long since I’ve updated this thing! Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t and I mentioned that nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary has happened so no need to update. But I think there’s a lot. What would have been my two year anniversary just came and went a week ago, and during the time I had recruits at Huntingdon. It was a good distraction, but just like most anniversaries, the lead up to it creates the most anxiety. The days leading up to September 19th were grueling, but when the 19th came, I felt good. Relaxed. Happy. I thought about George, I missed George, but I also remind myself how the love I have for him still has helped me improve and better myself. I’ve said it once and I’ll always say it, I am so lucky to have experienced a love like his. I can only wish when I leave this earth someone loves me as much as I love him.

I’ve been in Alabama for 2 months now, and I LOVE IT! In New Jersey there was this cloud of death and sadness that hovered around me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I played by the grieving handbook and didn’t make any major life decisions in the first year of widowhood, but when this opportunity came about I did think it was George pointing me in the direction to reclaim my life. And I think I have. When someone dies, no one can prepare you for the financial aftermath and I was lucky to have support of my parents, and to have a great emergency nest. But the reality came that Drew paid me really poorly, and I never was able to recover financially from George’s passing. I was scraping by. Being down here for 2 months I’ve already rebounded back, and though I don’t think money provides happiness, it does provide security which helps with overall happiness.

In New Jersey I learned to cope with the emotions of losing George, but now I’m learning how to live without him. I am so glad I took this risk to move to Montgomery, because I feel so free and independent. There was an adjustment period, but it was because the culture and people of the South are so different than the North. I’m coaching the sport I love, interacting with passionate and determined young women, meeting all sorts of people from different walks of life, and last but not least, I am teaching spin classes at a gym nearby and every time I am on that bike, I know George is smiling at me. Life it good here in the gump. Plus I met a sweet Air Force fellow at the dog park, and Bodie and his dog have become best friends while we started dating. Can’t really complain. My bouts of grief only last minutes now rather than days. That’s one thing worth noting.

IMG_3088

I was eating a carrot

Moon of Alabama

One afternoon my boyfriend and I were out on a walk with Bodie and he started talking about Montgomery, Alabama. How it was an up and coming city of the south and that there was a lot of booming businesses and a lot of potential for career moves. I remember I shrugged it off and said “wasn’t Jefferson Davis inaugurated in Montgomery?” He didn’t know. But turns out Davis was. It was the first Capitol of the confederacy.

Just days later I looked on NCAA marketplace to see what jobs were beginning to be posted because toward the end of lacrosse season you begin to see the job carousel. The lacrosse world is very small and usually if there’s a surprise opening you can get the back story to it in just two phone calls. Gossip spreads quickly. But there it was, a school I had heard of once before and it was located in Montgomery, Alabama. The place that so arbitrarily came up in conversation less than a week before. I clicked on the school’s link and I was intrigued.

A week later I decided to apply.

Three days after I sent my resume I had a phone interview with a man in Atlanta about the college. His wife worked at Emory. George’s initial surgery to remove the tumor was at the Emory hospital. I couldn’t shake that this whole thing manifested so quickly and was more than just a coincidence.

I set up my on campus interview and I was in Alabama on what would have been 20 months married. The school was small and quaint. Something you would see in an ABC Family television show. Brick buildings, massive football stadium on one side of the campus and a baseball field and tennis courts on the other. And in the middle of campus there was a small quarter mile long park. Flush with green and the shadows of the trees were like lacework on the paved path. It was beautiful and nothing I was anticipating. The following day I was offered the job.

It has been less than 2 years since George passed. I feel myself aching to move and experience what is out there. I’ve always wanted to live south because in college when I was learning about southern history it felt like a distant world. Even when George was alive I talked about how I wanted to move with him to Texas if his work ever decided to relocate him. Well this isn’t Texas but I think George has given me the push to take a risk and have me live the way I dreamed of.

Ill be moving to Alabama this summer and taking over the Huntingdon Women’s Lacrosse Program. It’s my next adventure and I cannot wait to live in a place I’ve read so much about and be around people who actually know who William Yancey is.

My time at Drew was so special and the unconditional love and support I received during my darkest days has given me strength to want to continue living. The people I’ve met here in New Jersey have impacted my life and will have a special place in my memories. image

Another Spring Season

Toward the end of last year’s lacrosse season I started to have some major grief issues. The lacrosse season allowed me to stay busy and keep my mind off of what I had lost. This year there was a lot of highs and lows, and though my team is awaiting to hear if we had made it into the post-season tournament, things feel a little unsettled like they did a season ago. When the season is over, my normal routines get altered and I lose a little bit of purpose in my life. I can’t explain it, but I have this unnerving feeling of not sure what comes next.

We lost a must-win game on Saturday and after the game, I just wished George was alive so badly so I could vent to him. All season long, his absence was felt so much more this year than last. I would come home from practice and just want to tell him everything that’s gone on. All the good news and the bad. Just a need to talk to him. After Saturday’s game I wanted to tell him how disappointed I was, and how I felt I had let my team down. But through the wanting to have him return to me, having all his small trinkets and some of his stuff around me in the apartment, I knew this is a piece of this journey that going at it alone was best. Something that will prepare me and make me stronger for the future. Whenever I want to breakdown and just fall apart, I remember how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown and changed. And regardless of outcomes, and petty conflicts, no one can take my strength away from me. It is a part of me, and has made me who I am now.

So just like I did last year at this time, I’m turning to fitness. Running, biking, lifting, and swimming. It just makes me feel alive. I want to look as strong as I feel. And I’m closing in on that goal. So much has changed since that dreadful morning of November 25, 2013.

IMG_9942