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Hit the Ground Running

By Cheyenne Cunningham, Safina Center “Kalpana Chawla ‘Launchpad’ Fellow”

Speaking at my first press interview on shark migration and behavior along the South Carolina coastline in Myrtle Beach. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne Cunningham

Nobody actually warns you that life after (undergraduate) college is the true test of grit and mental fortitude. As a December graduate with intent to pursue August enrollment into law school, you are expected to: score exceptionally on the LSAT, craft viable opportunity within professional realm, fulfill application requirements for at least ten schools, and successfully complete at least two internships before March application deadlines. That gives you approximately two and a half months to send your motivation into overdrive. No matter the level of intellectual capacity, that is an overwhelming checklist. While the average individual might be inundated with discouragement, it was this pending and turbid life segment that soon became so clear to me.

Indeed, overwhelmed I was- discouraged I was not. Perhaps more than ever before, I realized that making an impact could simply begin by remaining cognizant to the ways that I can match my best work with what people around me may be doing. I have become more diligent in honoring my own work- placing importance on what I do inspires me to chase a larger impact. I realized that I had to hit the ground running- sprinting actually. Not jogging.

Instead of discouragement, I treated those two and half months as if they were a college intensive course. So much to get done in such a limited amount of time- the ultimate time management challenge. I began to manifest opportunities that would not only benefit me but would benefit others around me as well.

Shortly after the holiday season I had been invited to a high school near my hometown as a guest speaker on marine environmental issues. Humbled by this honor, I was initially apprehensive to face a local school whose faculty watched me transcend into the woman that I am today. As soon as attention was directed my way, nerves were obliterated, and I felt a sense of eagerness to exhaust the topic that I love more than life itself. Active student and faculty engagement made me feel as though I could move mountains afterward, their reception brought me a sense of purpose and made my mission feel genuinely significant. My mission was to compel them, and in turn, they compelled me to persist at being the very best at what I do.

Experiences such as these, make the temporary struggle worth it. Every inch of success that I achieve, give me a mile of motivation. Whether I am speaking at a school, spreading awareness abroad, or providing insight to local media, I realize this: by not chasing your ambitions you are only doing a disservice to yourself, which in turn will reinforce that you did not deserve them anyway. Real opportunities are not to be met with disdain, they are to be met with prompt initiative.

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