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Alumni Profile: Janie Williams, '12

Posted: July 30, 2014

"On June 1, 2013, I embarked on a journey across the country that would change my life forever.

Along with a group of 25 other college-age students, I traveled by bicycle from Baltimore, Maryland, through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, all the way to San Diego, California. In total, the journey was 70 days and 4,206 miles.

We made the trip in an effort to raise money, hope, and awareness for young adults affected by cancer. Every form of food, shelter, and even entertainment along the way was donated. This meant sleeping on a lot of church floors and eating a lot of pizza, since that was easy to get donated.

I would be lying if I said this journey was even remotely easy; in fact, this was the most mentally and physically challenging endeavor I’ve ever done in my life. But through all the tears, hills, and horrible sunburns, I can proudly declare that the journey was well worth it.

Along the way, we performed community-service activities, including visits to various Hope Lodges and American Cancer Society offices, and delivering Chemo-Care packages to those currently going through treatment. For me, this was one of the most rewarding components of the trip.

One of my favorite moments was visiting Mrs. June Taylor in Memphis, Tennessee. Mrs. Taylor was on her last day of treatment for breast cancer on the day we visited her. She shared with me that out of her nine children, eight had been diagnosed with cancer. She felt as if this horrible plague was ending with her, and she was just so grateful to us for engaging in such an activity. Mrs. Taylor reminded me that I would never be given more than I could bear, and she encouraged me to continue my fight, no matter how tough it became or whatever doubt would creep in my mind. Always keep going! I love Mrs. Taylor and will forever be grateful for her perseverance and encouragement.

If I had to sum up the three lessons I learned from this trip they would be the following: first, no man can exist on this earth independently. We all need each other to survive regardless of whether we acknowledge that fact or not. Second, we are all much more similar than we are different. Third, every mountain looks smaller the farther you are from it. I mean this literally as well as figuratively.

Through this journey, I learned a lot about myself. One of the most important things I learned was that I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to. No matter how outlandish it may seem, all it takes is determination, faith, and the ability to ask for help when you feel the first two starting to fade away. I also learned that I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. In the words of Henry Ford, “If I think I can do a thing or think I can’t do a thing, I’m right.”

I’m currently working and volunteering with an organization called PICO National Network in New York. In August, I will begin law school in Washington, D.C. My original plan was to head straight to law school upon graduation, but I decided to take a full year off to engage in some of the things I wanted to, including the bike ride.

I encourage all graduating seniors to take some time off after graduation to do what you want. Whether that’s a road trip across the country on a bike or in a car, volunteering in another country (which I also did), traveling for the fun of it, picking up a new hobby, starting a book club or a band, learning a new language, taking a job or internship that has nothing to do with your major but seems cool, starting a blog or bakery…or both! Do what you want to do!

There is no “correct” way to do this life thing, so don’t be afraid to fail. Remember that in the end, we only regret the chances that we did not take."

Read more alumni stories in 1300 Elmwood.


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