Choosing Myself

By: Rachel Borland

During my freshman year of high school, my parents started fighting all the time. It was unbearable to be home, so I joined any extracurricular that would keep me at school. I played sports, marched in the band, did my homework in the library, and joined the musical. From seven in the morning to nine at night, I lived there. When I wasn’t at the high school, a real estate agent chaperoned glimpses into strangers’ lives as I accompanied my mom on her search for a new place to live. I wondered what struggles everyone else was hiding behind closed doors. On the rare occasion that I was home, I walked on eggshells, trying not to pick sides or offend either of my parents.

During this time, I was considering becoming a Packaging Engineer, a choice that made my dad, a mechanical engineer, glow with pride. I took a computer aided design course to get a taste of what it would be like. As the year progressed, I dreaded going to the class more and more. I was not passionate about the work I was doing and I knew I had to find a new goal to aspire to.

Since I was a kid, I had been visiting nursing homes with my mom, a physical therapist, who would sometimes take me into work with her. I began to envision myself as the one who could enable others to grow stronger, alleviate their pain and push them to regain independence. The prospect made me look forward to my future.

“I realized that by pursuing Physical Therapy I wasn’t choosing sides; I was choosing myself. I had to invest in my own happiness.”

However, I agonized about what my dad would think. Throughout the divorce, I obsessed about maintaining neutrality through my parents’ conflict, but with this decision, it felt like I was betraying him. Conversely, I wanted this path too much to deny myself that future. I realized that by pursuing Physical Therapy I wasn’t choosing sides; I was choosing myself. I had to invest in my own happiness.

I would use this mantra again when it came time to decide on a university. I was caught between the University of Pittsburgh, where my mom and all my brothers attended, or Slippery Rock University, a Pennsylvania State school. Even though I had been to Pitt a thousand times, I felt uncomfortable on my college visit. The campus spreads throughout the city and there were *so many* people there! On the other hand, I loved Slippery Rock’s campus, tuition was less expensive, and I could potentially cut one year out of my schooling through their accelerated program.

I urge students who are embarking on their journey to higher education to never allow the noise of outside circumstances deafen what their heart is telling them to do.”

Flash forward to the present and I know I made the right decision. I am eager to return as a sophomore to my new second home, Slippery Rock University. I am majoring in Exercise Science and I am on the Accelerated Pre-Physical Therapy track. I am also a member of the Women’s Club Volleyball team and the Honors Program. At first, my dad was kind of bummed out that I wouldn’t be sharing a similar field as him, but now he’s just happy that I found something I truly enjoy. I urge students who are embarking on their journey to higher education to never allow the noise of outside circumstances to deafen what their heart is telling them to do.

The SRU Club Volleyball team after winning the Pitt Tournament.

The SRU Honors Program Living Learning Community during the first week of fall semester.