I approach new skills and hobbies much in the same way, I assume, as a champion diver who doesn’t realize that he’s on the shallow side of the pool. I get all psyched up, I jump in gracefully with all my energy, and just as I get completely immersed – WHAM! I hit the wall. I then stumble out of the ‘pool’, make shifty eye contact to anyone who saw my embarrassing attempt, and then get the hell out of there.
It’s that second stage where I actually need to apply myself, when people switch from remarking “For a beginner, you’re doing remarkably!” (Pun ridiculously intended) to actually wanting to see solid improvement that I hit the wall. My track record speaks pretty profoundly for itself:
- I’ve learned rudimentary phrases in Spanish, Italian, Wolof, Chinese, and Sign language, only to give them up later.
- I’ve played guitar, viola, oboe, recorder, and even formed a band (“Kidz Only”) only to become the talentless performer I am today. That being said I still have a killer recorder rendition of Soft Kitty in my back pocket should the need arise.
- I’ve played soccer, baseball and basketball at the little league level, was a ‘tumblebug’ young gymnast, finished a mini marathon and even captained my men’s foil fencing team – the most athletic thing I’ve done in the last year was race my friend Rob to a mini mart across the street from our hotel during a Mock Trial competition.
And if that’s just the major things that I can remember, just think of all the smaller hobbies that I can’t remember!
As a History buff, one of my favorite things to do is to look at the past, put together patterns, and apply it to the present. With data like this, it’s easy to do – I love to explore. I love to do it all, try it all, and just say “yes!” I actually really like this quality of mine, and the results from freshmen year – farsi, english country dance, chinese lion dancing, rushing (albeit half-heartedly) frats – have been amazing experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But there’s also a time to buckle down, to know what you want and to work hard to get it. My Sophomore year, I need to focus!
I’ve already got this going in academics. Last year, my classes would give no possible indication of an intended major – there were multiple languages, engineering, natural science, social science, and humanities. But now, as a History major concentrating in America with a minor in French Cultural studies, I’m taking four classes in American History and one in French culture. I’m so excieted for this I could scream! I won’t, but I could.
I still don’t know what’s going to happen with my extracurriculars, but I know what I want. I want to figure out which activities make me really happy, which I look forward to doing and don’t feel like a drag on my life. I don’t volunteer with the Tutorial project for resume-padding or because they had the biggest signs at the Student Activities Fair, but because the hours I spend reading with Robert and playing our math games are often the best parts of my day! I get the same feeling from Mock Trial and Admissions, and it’s in these areas that I want to really commit more and dig in my heels. That’s not to say that I’m going to throw everything else by the wayside, but if I’m participating in something and wondering, “Geez why am I here? I could be doing X right now!” …Well then, it’s time to cut out the fluff.
Then of course if I want to pursue teaching American History in High School, I need to do more (read: something) pertaining to education. Hopefully I’ll be able to shadow teachers, find mentors, and start to understand with better precision just what I’m about to jump into! No more floating around, it’s time to throw down the anchor and focus.
Hopkins is the kind of place where it’s easy to over-commit. Hopkins has over 380 clubs and each one has such enthusiastic people in them that the pull to join in is incredibly strong. I mean I, the guy with barely any background in Chinese culture ended up dancing in a chinese lion because I thought it looked cool and the people were all really nice and friendly! Then by branching out to Baltimore and DC, you can get caught up in hundreds (thousands? Millions?) of different opportunities – Hopkins gave me the keys to do practically whatever I wanted, and the exploration of Freshman year was perfect for me. But now, as I enter Sophomore year, the time has come to Focus.