The way I look at my birthday has also forever been changed because of the proximity of it to my man Fran Crippen who tragically passed this October while competing in and Open Water race that had no business being contested in the UAE. In a cruel twist of fate, I got the horrible news via text while getting ready to celebrate the marriage of my Fraternal line brother. It had been almost 12 years since I met Fran when he was a sophomore at Germantown Academy. We developed a relationship over those HS years where we kept in touch as he compiled numerous accolades at the University of Virginia and as a member of the Mission Viejo Nadadores. The last time I saw him is the perfect snapshot for my memory. He had just won the Open Water Nationals 10k event, and helped a teammate win the 5k race two days later. I met him and some of his closest friends and family at a Long Beach restaurant to celebrate his victory and the marathon I had just run. He was truly at the top of his game and I looked forward to his eventual coronation as an Olympian, which was his dream. The fact that that opportunity was taken away from him, means that for me, enjoying the milestones takes on a new meaning. They are not moments to be played down, but instead should be given their proper recognition. When my son danced all over the house Monday as he presented me with my very own Star Wars light saber, all I could do was watch and take it all in. The fact that my wife, parents, and mother-in-law chipped in to surprise me with a computer, two weeks after my laptop died moved me to the point where my eyes were "sweating". The motto of the Elevation Foundation, created in Fran's memory, is "Live Your Dash", and for me, the emotion generated by people's large and small acts of kindness is what that mantra is all about. Fran embodied that in all aspects of his life while he was with us, and he leaves it behind as a valuable reminder to us all.
As I move beyond the celebration of my birth this week, the countdown begins to the end of my doctoral program, a milestone five years in the making. I have no idea the emotions I will feel as I defend my dissertation, participate in the Hooding Ceremony, and walk the stage at graduation, but I know that I will be surrounded by family and friends who have supported me the whole way. It has been a process that has not only developed my skills as an educational researcher, but has also cemented my commitment to use the entirety of my skill set to have an impact on the lives of as many young people as possible. I have been blessed with much, and have had a privileged life in many ways. The friends that I have developed over the years have been a huge part of that along with my family. I'll be checking in here on the blog more often now that there is a functional dissertation with my name on it. I feel that the most exciting part of my journey is just beginning, and it's not fun if you can't share with those who you not only care about, but have played a role in making it happen.