Last night a friend asked me where I want to see myself in 20 years. And I blanked. I haven’t even been alive for twenty years – and most of my time on this earth has been spent learning to walk, attempting to understand societal norms, and enduring six years of prepubescent, adolescent confusion. The thought that I have 20 more years of navigating who I am and what I want to do with my life is daunting, but it’s also exciting. As my friend said, nothing I can imagine today will live up to where I am 20 years from now. And he’s right. I cannot predict the future, and that is what makes it so enticing. If I knew exactly what I would be doing 20 years from now, I would drop my books, stop training and stop living. I am driven by the idea that my actions, my decisions and my passions create the path I’m following. I choose which path to take; I choose which direction to follow. While, yes, sometimes I reach a fork in the road and have little control over which path to choose, it is my actions and my outlook on life that determines if the rough, off-beaten path is worth taking or too difficult to traverse. No path is too difficult to trek, you just might need better hiking boots.
When answering this question last night, there were some basic things I wanted to include in the 20-year-Samantha-life-plan: a family, a dog or two, a home near the mountains, multiple bikes… But as I continued thinking about where I’d like to be by age 40, I realized there’s so much that can happen. The possibilities are limitless. And words cannot describe how fortunate I am to be able to have that perspective on this question.
Too many individuals have to live day-by-day. Too many individuals lack the liberty to dream big, and lack the security to dream free of worry for their health, their families or their futures. I do not have adequate knowledge to propose a solution to such societal ills; however, I do have enough passion to understand that something needs to be done. I cannot sit idly dreaming about winning triathlons and earning multiple degrees in the next 20 years while realizing that so many individuals are dreaming of just surviving to tomorrow. Whether it be a life stricken by war, poverty, inequality or violent intolerance, it is a life lacking the freedom to dream.
In the next 20 years I want to make a difference. I want to help individuals fulfill what I believe to be the innate right to dream. Yes, I want to race and hopefully win some triathlons, but I also want to further my studies in bioethics to garner a greater understanding for the barricades preventing individuals from dreaming. This semester I have been fortunate enough to take courses specifically pertaining to my biomedical ethical interests, and these courses have broadened my understanding of the discourse that is human rights and access to the rights I have taken for granted.
There are some crossroads intertwining my passion for triathlon with my passion for the study of human rights and bioethics. The following are two of my favorite organizations at this crossroad:
Every Mother Counts. Every Mother Counts is a non-profit advocacy organization with the mission to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world. One woman dies from childbirth complications every two minutes. A family was in my 20-year plan. Too many women world-wide lack adequate access to healthcare to live that dream. Every Mother Counts has partnered with one of my favorite companies in the endurance industry, Oiselle, who donates 40 percent of their net profit to organization. Oiselle (pronounced wa-zelle) is a women’s running apparel company with a mission to provide the best running clothes for women in terms of comfort, performance and passion. Oiselle’s powerful mission to revolutionize women’s running as an industry and sport has helped many female athletes, including myself, find the strength and confidence to take flight on and off the track.
Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is an organization that unites girls through running. Through a 12-week program culminating in a 5K race, girls learn that they have the power and ability to do anything. The program focuses on gaining self-confidence, self-understanding, strength of character and a passion for taking care of oneself. I found myself through running. Running has been my therapy, my coping mechanism and my love. Lacing up my running shoes has a therapeutic effect and grounds me. Without running I would not be who I am today. Girls on the Run helps girls discover the psychological, physical and emotional benefits of lacing up their shoes without the competitive aspect of other youth running organizations. Find a Girls on the Run Council near you.
As I become more enthralled in my studies this semester and more committed to my passion for triathlon, I have realized how fortunate I am to be able to dream, and to dream big for that matter. My aspirations require a lot of hard work, support, time and dedication, and I am extremely lucky to have access to all of these things. As I continue navigating my path toward my goals and dreams, I aspire to also provide others the support and access to what is necessary for their dreams.
Twenty years is a long time, and I hope mine will be filled with plentiful training sessions, exciting races, friends, ethical quandaries and the opportunity to help others discover the reality of their dreams.
I encourage you to investigate Every Mother Counts and Girls on the Run. Consider donating. Buy some cute Oiselle apparel, which is also donating. Then lace up your shoes and go for a run. It’s the best therapy.