Finding My Passion

Steffi Jones

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

My path to the cross country team of SMU has been a unique one. The journey to find my true self got me to Dallas, got me back to Texas, and brought me back home.

But being a runner in college wasn’t the initial plan.

Being a pole vaulter was.

I got a scholarship to the University of New Mexico (UNM) as a pole vaulter, and I was ecstatic. I was going to continue my education, get a scholarship, and compete on the highest level. All in all, it was a tremendous accomplishment, and my family couldn’t have been more thrilled and supportive.

Still, something was tugging at me during my senior year of high school. I felt like something was missing.

Running was missing.

I may not have always identified as a runner, but technically, I’ve always been one.

I ran throughout high school, and I come from a family of runners. I have many fond memories of running 5k’s in middle school and spending my summers up in Seattle, training with my uncle, which was a lot more comfortable than running under the hot Texas sun.

But, for whatever reason, I just pushed those memories aside as I grew older and got good at pole vaulting. During my senior year, I started to feel frustrated with pole vaulting. I still loved the sport, but something about it got me into a bit of a funk. I felt like I needed a break.

So, when winter break came along, I decided to run a bit more seriously. Part of me felt like I had to; it was eating at me.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to get hooked.

It felt so good to just run, without expectations, without pressure. To just run free, feel the track beneath my feet, and just go.

After winter break, I knew running had to play a bigger part in my life again.

I ran an 800m race in my senior year at a 2:13, which inevitably brought up a conversation with the coaches at UNM. They recruited me for pole vaulting, but here I was, running a 2:13.

And, at the end of the day, we were both on the same page and knew what had to be done.

Adding this sport back into my life wasn’t easy. I was still pole vaulting and had to come in as a walk-on for the UNM team. To fight and earn a spot on such a competitive team was no small task. It took hard work and sacrifice to be a collegiate level runner, pole vaulter, and academic student.

But, nothing worth getting comes easy, and we are promised a pursuit of happiness, not a degree of difficulty for achieving it.

I was just happy to be on the right path for me.

Finding your muse

As I’ve learned over the years, it’s very challenging to find your true passion, your true calling. Some people spend their entire lives searching for it.

Trying to find meaning, trying to find purpose, trying to find happiness. I think it’s one of the reasons we go to college.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to find what we want to do with our lives, pick majors in school, get on the right track towards our careers— but what happens if you make the wrong decision?

At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that if you’re honest with yourself and listen to your heart, you can’t go wrong.

There was a time where my heart told me to go all-in on pole vaulting, so I did. Then, there was a time where my heart told me to go all-in on running, so I’m doing that now.

It doesn’t make the years I did pole vaulting a waste. I learned and benefitted so much from this chapter in my life.

No doubt, I wouldn’t be who I am today without the experience from my pole vaulting years.

The pursuit of happiness is not a straight path, and being brave enough to listen to my heart and ignore the doubts I had about changing directions was the best decision I ever made.


Speaking of best decisions I ever made, I’m so happy that I found a new home here at SMU. When I was finishing my undergrad, I was hungry for more. More education, more development, and more competition.

After talking to my family at UNM, I decided SMU was the perfect place for me. They have an incredible one-year program for a master’s of Science in Management, a top Cross Country & Track team, and being in Dallas means I’m returning to my Texas roots.

I’m so excited to be here at SMU, and can’t wait to show the world what I can do when I’m fully locked in on one sport.

So, let’s get to work! I’ll see you at the starting line.

But, nothing worth getting comes easy, and we are promised a pursuit of happiness, not a degree of difficulty for achieving it. I was just happy to be on the right path for me.