The first thing that struck me about Swarthmore, at my freshman orientation all those months ago, was the people. Within my first week I met musicians, artists, immigrants, and national champions of this or that. I met people that liked the same music as I did and those who didn’t. However, I quickly realized that I would feel intimidated at Swat and even a bit incapable. These people all fascinated me because of their success, intelligence, and interests, but they seemed more successful than me, more intelligent than me, and more interesting than me. This feeling first hit me when I realized that in a subject I excelled at in high school, I was actually behind at Swat. I had not placed as high as most of my peers, and had not done as well on the AP test. Quickly, I gave myself a pep talk that would change my perception of this school and continue to keep me afloat. I reminded myself that we all came from different backgrounds and had been given different opportunities. They hold different skills and interests, but in the end we will end up with the same degree, having taken the same classes. Instead of looking at the abilities of my peers and saying “I can’t do that,” I found myself saying, “I can do that if I keep working.” I found myself motivated by the parts of their lives that had first intimidated me. Their passionate knowledge made me want to learn even more about the topics I had neglected for so many years. My politically minded friends made me more knowledgeable about politics. My athletic friends motivated me to try new workouts in the off-season.
As I said, my first week I found myself overcome with a fear of inadequacy. Once I approached the fear from a different perspective, my crisis became my favorite part of college. I got to take classes alongside people this interesting? I got to have friends this interesting? Returning home, I would tell my family and high school friends about the amazing accomplishments of my college friends. I was so excited to have people this great in my life. As my freshman year draws to a close, I reflect on all the people who have come into my life, those who motivate and humble me every day.
As my friends have influenced me to pursue new interests, my friend, Ben, has motivated me to go bowling. Ben, a man of many interests, went to a bowling alley more than a month ago for a birthday party. Naturally, he had a great time. Unnaturally, he returned to the bowling alley three times that week. This rate increased to its current average of four or five times a week. A group chat of over 30 people has been created just to find people willing to bowl with him at 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday or 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday. So, I have found myself bowling. Something I did maybe once a year when I was young, I have done four times in the past three weeks. I don’t continue to do this because I am good; I am very much the contrary. I go bowling because it is simple fun. It is a sport I do not have to focus on, and an activity that requires no work after I leave the alley. Although Ben and the more avid bowlers in our group try to play their best, I tend to enjoy the bad games even more than the good ones. I laugh at my inadequacy, at getting two frames of zero in a row, getting only 11 points in the first four frames, or even the supportive reactions from my mediocre attempts at knocking down pins. My typical perfectionist persona seems to enjoy the moments of chaos, unpredictability, and failure.
I have had many amazing experiences that will influence my life. Bowling, although making some great memories, will not be one of them. However, bowling represents the influence those other experiences have already had on me. Ben, a man who once intimidated me with his knowledge and interests, now only intimidates me when he bowls. (Just kidding!) While bowling with my friends, I find myself enjoying the obscurity of Ben’s new passion and laughing at my failures. The one thing bowling doesn’t make me want to do is become a better bowler; instead it makes me want to become a better friend. I have three more years at Swat to be changed even more by the people I encounter. I only hope that by the end of my time here, I will have influenced others just as much as they have influenced me … and maybe bowled a turkey!