I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was early in the first year of my PhD program in Physical Therapy at the University of Miami when my advisor and committee called me into a formal meeting. You have to maintain a high level of work to stay in the program and I was right at the line. I remember sitting in that room with all of my male professors.
As I sat there, they started speaking. Many said I couldn’t cut it, that I wasn’t capable enough. I thought I could, but only if I stopped “bringing my bar to school.” This was their nice way of saying that I needed to choose between school and lifting. They didn’t think I could do both. It was one of the lowest points in my life in a very long time. The doubts began to creep in again. This bar, was it too much of a burden?
At that moment, I remember thinking back to when I was a kid in Venezuela. Standing on the field with the boys, most of them didn’t think I could make it either. Many of them didn’t want me to make it. They wanted to prove a point by being rougher with me and tougher on me so that I would quit. Off the field, they called me so many different names. But I didn’t have a choice. Quitting back then was so hard for me. I couldn’t even imagine it. So I kept at it, getting better and better and eventually making the National Team as a teenager.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I got past that meeting, and how I managed to persuade the faculty to give me another chance. But I did and I knew I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity this time. And I knew this too without a doubt – I wasn’t going to choose because others told me I should or that I had to. The decisions that affected my life would be made by me and only me. Maybe that sounds selfish, but that’s what I believe I earned.
Being in graduate school and lifting weights were both an important part of my overall education. I didn’t want one without the other as both were vital to me, equally. That doesn’t mean they were exactly the same though. I know I needed one, and I know I desired the other. So I was prepared to show my professors I could do it and prove them wrong. This wouldn’t be the last time I’d have to do it – and definitely not the first time.