On a crisp autumn day back in November (because I clearly needed at least two months to fully process my experience), I made the five-minute walk from my dorm over to the athletic field.
I was somewhat nervous; the prospect of engaging in a potentially embarrassing athletic event made my stomach churn. In middle and high school, the entire school gathered to watch field games. Despite being decently athletic, I lacked the coordination and confidence needed for dance competitions and flag football. Needless to say, these days were never my favorite.
A week before, I had woken up to an email advertising an upcoming school event. “How many times can you flip a tire in one minute?” Well, I wasn’t sure. While waiting in line for dinner later that day, a friend and I joked about how it seemed like an activity that would fulfill the expectations of students coming from metropolitan areas of what rural pastimes were like.
The doubts did not surface until I found myself walking to the fields alone. I had scheduled myself for a later slot in the hopes that fewer people would be in attendance. Still, several dozen students were still milling about, either helping to run the event, supporting their friends or waiting their turn.
While waiting around, I started talking to a couple second-year students who were also unsure of where to sign in. To my surprise, they were also nervous about the event. We chatted briefly about majors and classes, anything to avoid the topic of our upcoming physical challenge.
I watched a tall lanky student effortlessly flip the tire again and again until the minute was up. When time was finally called out, someone announced that he had beaten President Ambar’s score. It felt good to cheer on people I had just met but when it was finally my time to take the field, I was relieved that I didn’t have too many supporters cheering from the sidelines.
Ugh, the tire was so heavy! Prior to this experience, I had considered myself vaguely athletic and somewhat fit, but I had obviously had no idea what I was in for. I sunk my fingertips into whatever grooves and crevices I could find on the tire’s surface and heaved with all my might. An eternity later, the tire flipped. This I repeated again and again. When the whistle finally blew, I dropped to the ground, panting.
Every muscle in my body ached for an entire week. Simple motions part of my everyday routine, such as brushing my teeth, washing my hands, and using a pen to write notes, sent spasms of pain down my arm and to my fingertips. In a weird way, though, it felt reassuring to remember that intense physical exhaustion, something which I had experienced often enough after a week of high school track practice.
But overall, I’m glad to have participated. In high school, I would not have been so inclined to do so unless it was required. Although I was on athletic teams in high school and enjoyed physical activity, the prospect of entering an optional competition would have never crossed my mind. I was too worried about the likelihood of embarrassment or failure back then. I am not precisely sure why I signed up as a first-year in college, but I most likely showed up because I had nothing to lose. Although I knew some students on campus from my hometown, none of them were in the audience at that event that day. Distance from home and who you used to be can be liberating.
For other students and first-years out there, I would encourage you to try new things, which sounds cliché. I don’t mean that you should do wild things you are terribly uncomfortable doing. Doing things too far outside of your comfort zone while still adjusting to a new environment is not always the best idea for yourself. What I mean is choose things that you may have encountered in high school before -- things that you have enjoyed before or think you might enjoy now -- and try them. If you don’t enjoy it, you don’t have to do it again. You don’t have to totally reinvent yourself in college but you can expand your comfort zone and realize new possibilities.