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Defining Moment: How THON changed my life

22 Feb

Everyone has a defining moment in their life.  My definition of a “defining moment” is a life changing event that teaches you a lesson about your character.  It’s different for everyone: a birth, a death, a revelation, a change.  Sometimes its importance may be difficult to recognize at the time; it may even take years to identify its impact on your life.  No matter how long it takes, once you recognize a defining moment in your life, you are forever changed.

My defining moment was an experience that lasted exactly 46 hours.  For those of you familiar with THON, I was a dancer in THON 2010.  For those who are not, THON is another name for the Penn State Dance Marathon.  It is a 46 hour no-sitting/no-sleeping dance marathon to support families affected by pediatric cancer through the Four Diamonds fund.  Only approximately 700 people each year get the privilege of spending those 46 hours on their feet but 15,000+ students volunteer their time to make the weekend possible.  Best of all, this past weekend, THON raised over $10.68M to fight pediatric cancer.

THON is an amazing philanthropy that helps hundreds of families affected by pediatric cancer.  I recommend that everyone visits right now to learn more about the wonderful ways the charity serves others.  I would also encourage everyone to donate online as well.  I can guarantee that your donation will work miracles for families who have been living in a nightmare.

Typically when you think about a charity, you think about how it benefits the people it serves.  One thought I would like to point out is that people forget to consider the impact the charity has on the volunteers as well.  Participating in THON has changed my life in ways I cannot even explain.  The biggest take-away for me has been the realization that I am a strong person who will fight through a physical, mental, and emotional challenge.

Standing for 46-hours without sleep or coffee to support children with cancer is something that has defined who I am as a person.  The memory of those 46 hours will always be a part of me.  When I am faced with a challenge, I always think back to THON.  Even when the pain was difficult to bare at the time, I made the choice to continue to dance without complaint.  It was by no means easy but it was worth it.

My THON 2010 Journey

Click the link above to watch the video I made to tell the story of THON 2010 (it’s definitely not a work of art by any means but I still love it!).

My THON family

“Building my brand” is about defining who I am and making sure the world sees me as the best possible version of myself.  Because of my experience at THON, I am confident that I can use the following two words to define my brand:

Dedicated & Strong


The Awkward Moment When: You realize that working hard just isn’t enough.

9 Feb

It can be really discouraging when you know that you are doing a lot of great work but you realize that no one is noticing it.  There are two ways to handle this situation:

1.  Accept the fact that others are not going to go out of their way to notice your work and be at peace with that fact

2.  Realize that others are not going to notice your work unless you go out of your way to show them what you’ve done

I think the first option has always been my go-to reaction.  I always thought that good work would get noticed because it always did in school. Regardless of outward recognition, at the end of a semester I’d see a good grade and feel good about the fact that my work was noticed.

How did my teachers know that I was a good student?  They went out of their way to figure out how well I was doing.  They assigned tests, projects, and homework that was meant to be completed, collected, and graded.  Their job was to record my progress and they worked their butts off doing it all year.  The only effort I had to put into the process was hard work.  The rest was up to the teacher.

Now let’s fast forward to my place in the working world.  I am still working hard and completing projects to the best of my ability.  Up until this point in my life (let’s just ignore last year) someone has always tracked my progress.  Up until about 15 minutes ago, it had been natural to assume that someone else would continue to track my progress at work.  This next point is a great argument for why the transition from being a “kid” to an “adult” is not an easy one:  It is now MY job to track MY progress.  If I can’t show others what I’ve done well, I’ll just get lost in the dust.

To complicate this situation ever more, I should mention one important fact about myself:  I hate attention in pretty much every form.  I don’t want people to notice me any more than they notice anyone around me.  Although I appreciate the idea of recognition, I would absolutely hate it if someone made me stand up in front of a room of my peers to congratulate me for doing something well.  To me, the best recognition would be if someone pulled me aside and mentioned that they noticed __(Insert positive feedback here)__.

After rereading my post up until this point, my problem seems very obvious now: my fear of attention has been holding me back from being noticed for a long time.  My assumption that people will notice my hard work just because I’m working hard is wrong.  I know plenty of people who work hard and have never been recognized or noticed.  In an ideal world, those who work hard will be rewarded.  Just in case anyone was wondering…. we do not live in an ideal world.  We live in a world where “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  As much as I don’t want to admit it, I know that I need to learn how to be assertive and put myself out there to be judged.

This is that awkward moment when:  I finally understand my own blog title.

I could spend my entire life “Building My Brand” but never actually selling it.

From what I hear, admitting that I have a problem is the first step.  So then what’s the next?

For me, the answer is easy: Planning.