by Mackenzie Berk
The Life Chapter of Hilary a Physical Therapist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation and a graduate of Cleveland State University, Mackenzie Berk Hathaway Brown High School Student and Aspiring Physical Therapist
Chapter 1: Life Before Hilary’s Dream
Face to face with Hilary, I am struck by her strong and radiant presence. I asked her what she would do differently if she could go back to high school and college and her answer catches me by surprise with its positivity. She said “Actually nothing- I feel the path I have taken to achieve what I have currently has been great and I am satisfied with where I am today”.
I interviewed Hilary in order to understand her life path as a Physical Therapist: a career I’m interested in. How did Hilary mature from an aspiring teenager to an adult who, in her own words is, “actually am paid to have fun every day at work and help others to become more functional in their lives!”
Hilary’s passion for her job obviously began when she was very young. She described herself as always having high aspirations for herself and her near future. She started her long journey at North Olmstead High School. Like me, she was a true student-athlete who sought future success. I compared my situation to hers. My High School, Hathaway Brown, works hard to prepare its students for the life after high school, and I sometimes really feel the pressure. I wanted to ask Hilary if her high school had prepared her. She told me “I think very much it did. I was involved in a program my senior year where we spent half of our time of the school day volunteering out in the community. It was a very life oriented experience and prepared me I think for college and also my life on my own without the support of my parents.”
As I spoke to her, she seemed so sure of her path. I asked her if she had thought as a 17 year old that she would end up where she is today. Her response was that she had hoped to achieve a dream job and that, she said, “I actually have my dream job! I wanted to work in pediatrics and knew of the Cleveland Clinic and the work they did. I did a clinical rotation at the hospital when I was in PT school and that actually turned into a job! One of the most amazing days was when I accepted the position to work there 15 years ago.”
Hilary’s life story reflects both who I think I am and how I see myself growing in the future. Her life story most similarly reflects how I see myself growing in the future. Sometimes I have trouble defining to myself what I want out of my future and dream job. Therefore, I asked her to describe what her day was like in only three sentences. She was able to reply in just two sentences and said “play, laugh and improves the quality of life for children. Work with amazing and talented employees in a unique setting of a standalone rehabilitation hospital that teaches me daily!” I compared her description to online profiles for physical therapists. Coming from an impersonal source, the description of a typical day of a physical therapist sounds similar in its skills and responsibilities. A typical day consists of “examination, diagnosis and creation/implementation/adjustment of a plan of care”. While this career sound interesting and challenging no matter who describes it, coming from Hilary it sounds welcoming and joyous.
Chapter 2: Balancing studies, athletics, and developing towards her dream.
“It made for late nights of work, but I also was smart and scheduled my afternoon classes with a break as best I could.” Hilary is commenting here on how challenging her path has been. I was very interested in how she was able to balance college soccer and her career-oriented studies because as a passionate student- athlete myself I have had to deal with the incredible pressures of doing the activities I love. Hilary’s comments reminded me that learning how to do this in high school has been one of my greatest achievements so far. But, Hilary’s growth apparently wasn’t completely straightforward. I found this reassuring because I know that it’s unrealistic to expect to achieve immediately my goals.
Her life has had some twists and turns, beginning with her family’s moves from Vermont to multiple cities in Ohio. Her parents discouraged her from going to Dartmouth, her dream school. She worked at times in fields unrelated to physical therapy like babysitting, working in restaurants and coaching high school soccer. She transferred from Hiram College to Cleveland State University. Yet throughout the changes, she was constantly reminding herself of her goals. “I actually began volunteering with a non-profit organization in my junior year of high school and that connected me with a local physical therapist. I continued to volunteer for her and the organization through my college years.”
Chapter 3: Life within your Dream Job- dreams takes hard work and self-knowledge; if I do what I love, I will create happiness.
“I actually have my dream job! I wanted to work in pediatrics and knew of the Cleveland Clinic and the work they did. I did a clinical rotation at the hospital when I was in PT school and that actually turned into a job! One of the most amazing days when I accepted the position to work their 15 years ago.” Her excitement about her life inspires me. But what I have really taken away from my interview with her has been her appreciation for her own life, her work, and at the same time her acknowledgement that she has had to work hard to be where she is today. I asked her, “how does your job support the flow of our society?” She replied with, “I like to think that I help improve the quality of life of the children I treat and that in turn allows them to be productive and involved in their community and give back to others.” When I reflect on Hilary’s answer to my question, I see that my question was loaded; I already sensed that happiness in a career and in life has to do with the idea of “a flow”. Happiness comes from connections and from using your talents and skills to create helping connections. My learning style and the way I’m involved in life has always meant both physical activity, hands on work and helping others. Therefore, for me, like for Hilary, I plan to support the flow of our society through a career in the study of human movement also known as kinesiology.