Meet Hillary! She's a soon-to-be-graduate ready to take on the next chapter of her life meanwhile keeping herself extremely busy! Her heart condition doesn't stop her from giving it 100% in everything that she does whether that be working out or studying for her CPA exam. Read more about how she would spend the ideal day and why everyone should celebrate cookie Friday.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW?
My life is busy! Currently I’m in school at Calvin College studying to become a Certified Public Accountant. I’m in my last semester of college and so along with the final stretch of schooling and cramming in 19 credits, I work two on-campus jobs, and am studying for my CPA exams (hello future!). There are 4 different sections for the CPA exam, all requiring 100+ hours of studying, so it’s no small task!
My routine depends on the day. Every Monday and Thursday morning I wake up at 5:45am so that I can work-out with my boyfriend. It’s a crazy routine that has stuck since being in a college sport, but I love it! To me, there’s no greater feeling than working out in the morning and then getting to enjoy a great breakfast all before 8:15am!
On the days when I’m not waking up before the sun, I get up about 45 minutes before I have to leave for class, just enough time for one episode of Gilmore Girls, my current Netflix TV show! I like to play an episode while I get ready because usually I’m so busy the rest of the day that I don’t have time for Netflix, so it’s a fun and relaxing way to start the morning.
The rest of my day is fully booked from 9am-7pm. Between that time every day I will work, study, go to class, eat my daily PB&J for lunch, work-out and go to dinner in the dining hall. Some may call me ridiculous, but as a senior in college I still regularly eat in the dining hall and I have no shame about it! I, for one, don’t have to cook then and to me that’s a win. But I also love my teammates and spending an hour with them eating dinner most week nights is a great way to continue building relationships and allow me to really sit and enjoy the day. Especially because after dinner it’s back to studying, I told you, I have to study 100+ hours for each test and I’m determined to pass!
There isn’t really a particular music, person, or place that helps me stay motivated. (Although I do love a good chat with friends, jam session to Broadway musicals and adventure to new and old places.) I guess it’s really just knowing that I’m doing all of this for myself and if I don’t do it, I’ll disappoint my potential and what’s the point of being mediocre?
Wow, this is tough. I know for one thing there would be an absurd amount of funitivies… so let’s begin! I think I would want to start the day with pancakes because seriously they’re delicious and make me happy (especially when there are chocolate chips included!) Then it would probably depend on the weather, but let’s just assume it’s a warm summer day because I enjoy them most (and am anxiously awaiting summer.) So I would gather up a car full of friends and drive up north. In my ideal world, we would jam out to Broadway show tunes such as The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Dear Evan Hanson, Hamilton, etc. with the windows and sunroof open. That’s just a happy image. We would probably end up spending the afternoon on the beach playing games like spike ball, swimming in Lake Michigan, climbing up and down the dunes, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fresh fruit for lunch. Once the prime-time sun was done for the day, we’d go to the driving range and hit some balls or go mini-golfing and go-karting, whichever the group wanted. We’d go out for dinner and maybe go on a bike ride. Then end the day with ice cream or dessert of some sort (preferably one that includes chocolate) and a board game.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR STRENGTH, WHERE DOES IT COME FROM OR HOW HAS IT EVOLVED?
I think I found my strength the day my doctor told me I had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. I really didn’t have a choice but to be strong, because if I wasn’t strong I’d break.
YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT DIVING, HOW DID THAT START? HOW HAS IT SHAPED YOU?
I didn’t start out loving diving. I actually hated it. Diving was a replacement sport for me and so during the beginning of my diving career my freshman year of college I really struggled with being the worst one on the team. I watched my fellow teammates swimming and wishes so badly that I was able to join them instead of try and look graceful flipping into the water. Over time though I was able to see my hard work pay off and my skills become more and more refined. I grew close to the other divers and my coach and came to appreciate this sport, for something completely different than swimming. That’s when I began to love it. Diving has shaped my college experience and who I have matured to be over these past four years. It has taught me that hard work and determination can help one succeed, but I’d say some natural given talent is also necessary. It’s taught me that we are not defined in life by one sport or ability and that when a door closes, there are always new opportunities awaiting us!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FOUR PERSONALITY TRAITS AND WHY? (DESCRIBE HOW SO FOR EACH TRAIT)
Adventurous: Adventure is about going out of your comfort zone to open yourself up to the experiences and beauty that life gives you, no matter what path you choose to go on. I think this is a descriptive trait for me as I choose to go to Chicago and take the experience, regardless of the fact that I don’t know the outcome or what life will be like. I also love funitivies. Funtivities is my word of fun-activities and if you ask my friends they’ll probably agree that I’m really willing to go and do most anything!
Strong: I think this is true for me in both the physical sense, as I do lift weights so hopefully I’m at least a little bit strong! I think it is also true for me in the emotional sense because I think having inner strength means having the capacity to face challenges. It means having enough energy that when you are faced with a tough situation that drains you, you still manage to find a little more to get through it.
Determined: When I set my mind to something, I’m not typically one to back down. I love goal setting and goal reaching. And so determined to me, highlights my strong feelings towards accomplishing something and not allowing anyone or anything to stop me!
Athletic: I love sports and I love competing. I think the athletic trait very obviously captures this essence of who I am and why, despite all my health issues, I worked so hard to remain a collegiate athlete.
WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES YOU’VE FACED? HOW HAVE YOU USED STRENGTH TO OVERCOME THEM?
I guess the biggest obstacle in my life has been my heart condition. It’s been close to 5 years now since I’ve been diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and really not a day goes by that this heart condition doesn’t affect my life. To help readers understand what this is, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM for short) is when the septum, which is wall in between your 2 heart ventricles, is extra thick. This extra thick muscle was taking over my left ventricle, leaving me with not a whole lot of space for the blood to pump. This results in my heart having to work a lot harder than the average person’s, which causes my heart to get stronger, and that in turn builds more muscle. So it was a never ending downward cycle. HCM is the leading cause of cardiac arrest in young athletes and when I was diagnosed, I too was a dedicated swimmer and athlete.
Having doctors suddenly tell you that the activities and lifestyle you were living was no longer a possibility for your future is tough. Exercise restrictions were put in place and suddenly, my search for collegiate swimming had to come to a halt. How was I going to handle this?
Fast forward 4 years. This brings me to summer of 2016, the summer before my senior year of college. During that 4-year period, I started diving and participated on Calvin College’s swim and dive team. I was a college athlete (with a lot of restrictions.) However, before being cleared for my senior year I had my annual appointment and the results that came back weren’t so good. My septum had grown to a threshold of 3cm thick and suddenly without much warning I had gone from manageable HCM to HCM that was dangerous and in need of surgery.
I had an ICD implanted. This is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, which basically means I have an AED inside of me. In case I were to ever go into cardiac arrest, this device attached to my heart will shock me instantaneously, hopefully saving my life. But that wasn’t the only surgery I needed. In December, I had open-heart surgery. Yup, like the surgery where they break your sternum, cut you open, and stop your heart! Let me tell you, that was the most painful experience of my entire life and I wish that upon no one.
Throughout this whole experience I’ve needed to be pretty strong. As I faced my open-heart surgery, I often felt alone, because no one understood the fear and anxiety I was facing. None of my friends have had to sign documents before their surgery deciding what happens if something were to go wrong, who would make my medical decisions, and how long I wanted to stay on life support. I needed to be strong for myself, for my family, for my friends. I don’t like people seeing me weak, especially because people don’t know what to say. I also had to be strong post-surgery. The healing process was painful and it felt like an eternity. I pushed myself to do my rehab and whatever I could to help get me back to feeling better ASAP. Don’t be fooled, I struggled during this process. Being strong, to me, doesn’t mean I don’t cry. Being strong means I cry and struggle for a bit but then get back up and do what I can to fight and overcome.
YOU’RE MOVING TO CHICAGO! ARE YOU EXCITED? HOW DO YOU SEE YOURSELF LIVING THE CITY LIFE?
I am both nervous and excited for Chicago. Because I’ve grown up in West Michigan all my life, when looking for a job I thought maybe that would be the perfect reason for me to move away for a bit. It’s an adventure and somewhat of a rite of passage, except most people do that by moving away to college…I’m doing mine after my 4 years of college. It is an exciting feeling to know that there’s going to be this grand adventure of living a lifestyle completely different from the suburb life I’m used to, but I’m also crazy intimidated! I don’t really know more than 5 people who live there now and so it’ll really force me to go out of my comfort zone to make friends and get those new experiences. I’m an extrovert so I’m pretty hopeful that I’ll be okay, but there’s always that little bit of worry!
It has always been my dream to be the face of a company and a “classy ass businesswoman” and I think the city life will help me achieve that goal! I think once I find a place to live I’ll really be able to get excited about planning for my life in a little studio apartment. Then I can plan how to get around the city and schedule all my hopeful visitors!
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
Holy cow I have no idea. While I am a planner, I know firsthand that a LOT of unplanned events can happen within the span of five years. So while I would love to give an answer about how I’ll be married, still living in the city, settled down in the suburbs or any other idea, I really can’t predict! It’s my goal to let adventure and life take its course as I grow and simply to seize the opportunities I’m given.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIVE BY, OR THAT YOU’VE GIVEN OUT TO OTHERS?
Enjoy this life by doing as many funitivities as you can, you won’t regret it. Also, ALWAYS CELEBRATE COOKIE FRIDAY**
** I have always loved cookies and last February I found an incredible bakery in Eastown near my college house. During this same time, my grandma was sick with cancer and I would go visit her every Friday in the hospital. I began stopping by Cakabakery each week to celebrate the success of another week and reward myself for a job well done. I would also purchase cookies to bring to the hospital to brighten my grandma’s day, and anyone else who was visiting her that afternoon. Unfortunately, my grandma has passed since, but I continue to go because this place is a highlight of my week and I continue to look forward to it every week. Plus, so many people know of my love for this weekly event now that they ask if they can come with to have fun and celebrate the end of the week with me! It’s always a joy to bring someone new to my favorite place.