Role models

Being a 4th year postdoc has encouraged me to start looking around and determining what I want to do ‘when I grow up’ – though I also firmly believe that I will never grow up.

Applying for grown-up jobs also has me dwelling on my 32-year old story; what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and how that stacks up against both my reasonable expectations and my wildest dreams.

In just the last two days, I’ve come across social media blurbs about three women (two young, and one amazingly well-preserved elder) whose stories I’ve found particularly compelling and have inspired some ‘what if’ self-reflection and sometimes downright whimsy.

First, Heather Anderson, 34 year old personal trainer from Michigan. This amazing, independent, woodsy rockstar crushed the unassisted through-hike record for the Appalachian trail in 2015. She traversed 2,168 miles in only 54 days – alone and walking to her own food drop sites (that’s 5 weeks, let me repeat that…5 weeks…faster than any other female has done this before. Mind blown. Oh, and she has the same category speed record for the Pacific Crest Trail, too. Miss Anderson fits the bill for a role-model young female athlete (she’s older than I am, yay!) who’s in it for the beauty of the experience and not the fame. You can read some of her story here.

Second, Jen Tinsman, Ph.D. student at Columbia University. Jen’s work is broadly in the areas of speciation and conservation genetics; she’s evaluating how anthropogenic habitat shifts affect population-level adaptation in her focal species. What really impresses me about Jen is that she studies lemurs in Madagascar! For those of you that know me, you’ll get why I think this is really cool. When I was really young (maybe 4-8 years old?) my response to the adult question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was “I want to study lemurs in Madagascar”. Jen, you’re livin’ the dream. Keep up the amazing work. You can read more about Jen and her research here.

Finally, a nun who loves to run captured my attention this evening. Sister Madonna Buder competes in marathons and IRONMAN Triathlons, at the spry young age of 84! I’m so flabbergasted by this humble and devout dear that I’m not sure quite what to say. You can hear her talk about how she sees competing as a near cumpulsory way to use her God-given talent in a short video here. I hope she keeps on inspiring others to do all they can as long as they can…for a very long time.

These three have reminded me that ordinary people really can accomplish extraordinary things and that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

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