We all have particular people in our lives that, whether they know it or not, have an everlasting impact on who we currently are and who we inevitably become. The people who’ve helped shape me fall into two specific categories. More on that in a second. Let me first start out by giving you some background information on where I am in life and my short-term plans, then I’ll inform you on how I got here.
My name is Neil McMillan, I am a 24 year-old living in Winston-Salem, NC with my golden retriever Goose. I am currently half way through my master’s degree at Wake Forest University in Health and Exercise Science. This major entails studying, researching, and working with individuals diagnosed or at risk for chronic disease to help prevent, manage, or reduce the burden. Much of my thesis work will revolve around examining an intervention’s ability to improve arterial compliance as measured through ultrasonography. Furthermore, I have been fortunate enough to receive a TA position through which I teach an undergraduate course. I cannot express how thankful I am for this opportunity, and how fortunate I have been to get to this point. Following my time at WFU, I plan to pursue a PhD in Exercise Physiology and teach at the university level. Enough about where I am, let me tell you who helped me get here.
The first category of people is hard for me to speak about, the deceased. I first refer to my grandmother. She passed shortly after my freshman year of college began. We went to her house every major holiday; she was the glue that held that side of my family in the Midwest. Later I was told she died of heart failure. Although I minimally understood what that meant, I took comfort knowing she was surrounded by the people she loved most in her last days. Little did I know, her disease planted a seed of curiosity that wouldn’t sprout until later on.
On a brisk Sunday morning in early October, my life changed forever. At approximately 8:00am, my phone started ringing. I looked at the caller-ID, it was my mother. I contemplated not answering, as I was tired from working two jobs the day before. Still half asleep I reluctantly I picked up the phone and answered with a groggy hello. Her upset tone immediately seized my attention; something was wrong. This was the phone call informing me that my roommate had died in a car accident. I thought it was a joke, after all I saw him just the day before. My mother was sobbing, my dad already began to drive to see me, and I just sat there. Once I got off the phone with my mother, I had to wake all our other roommates, call our closest friends and inform them he died. We were all in disbelief. I didn’t understand and couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I grew up down the road from him in the country, went to high school with him, went to undergrad with him, lived with him for almost 5 years; we were nearly inseparable. He was my best friend and my brother. He had a profound impact on my life.
Lastly, I’m going to jump next to very influential people who fall into my second category, living. My time at UWEC was invaluable; it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. A majority of my days in EC I lived with 5 people who rapidly became my best friends. Extending from there, our large friend group became a tight knit community who truly showed me how to be there for one another. I thank you all. Jenner and Chris were no exception, as they are some of my best friends. Academically speaking, that seed of curiosity sprouted and rapidly grew while I immersed myself in courses revolved around diseases and pathophysiology. Multiple instructors left a lasting impression on me, but the professor who taught me courses on disease and pathophysiology stands out. He became my research mentor, and continually pushed me outside of my comfort zone to conduct research and present at national conferences across the country. He is a main reason I am where I am academically.
Sorry this is a little longer than I expected, but ultimately it eludes to what Take Today means to me. As much school as I’ve been through, I’ve learned to take every academic opportunity which presents itself. If it scares you, take it. If it’s uncomfortable, take it. The extra work will pay off; I guarantee you that. Simultaneously, try to strike a balance. When it comes to your friends, take the opportunity to see them. Go hiking, see a movie, go tubing, grab a beer. Take the opportunity to call or visit your family. Be genuine and live in the moment. Quit worrying so much about what will happen and more about what is currently happening. My best friend is no longer here to do these things. By no means am I perfect, but I try to live by these words. I strive to make him, my family, my friends, and myself proud of who I am and will be.
Your life may change with one simple phone call. Do not leave anything to question, do not take anything for granted, live life to the fullest. Take Today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.