College is a Climbing Wall
Since the onset of winter term and all of the work that comes with it, Dartmouth's campus celebrated a small and long-awaited victory — the reopening of the climbing gym! As a new climber, I decided to go on my first week and see how I liked the challenge. Upon entering the space, I was confronted with an overwhelming number of routes, all rated in a measure I couldn't contextually understand, and yet at the same time I was presented with an incredible number of opportunities; opportunities for failure, opportunities to learn, and opportunities to succeed in new and exciting ways.
In many ways, this presents a parallel to Dartmouth and college in general. You arrive on campus as a freshman, suddenly blasted by the overwhelming number of opportunities and choices presented to you, all of the doors you could ever need opened at once. This presents a similar struggle to that of which I faced in the climbing gym, where do I even start? Luckily as a new member, I had someone show me around the gym, explaining all of the equipment and demonstrating in a show of athleticism how to make a V7 route look like a V1. At Dartmouth, we had first-year orientation and international orientation. Similar to the tutorial in a video game, you are introduced to Dartmouth in a slower and easier to swallow manner, allowing for you to feel comfortable before diving in.
Next at the climbing gym came another pivotal moment: Which route was I to take first? In that holy and mad moment, this singular decision seems life-defining, it seems to be at the centre of all rational things and instrumental in your future career with the hobby. What if I pick one that is too hard? What if that means I have to give up midway or that I fail? This would surely result in me becoming so demoralised that I can't continue with the sport. But what if I pick one that is obviously too easy? Would I become the laughing stock of the gym? The guy who can only tackle V0s? This again resonates with the experience of your first term at Dartmouth — more specifically course election. We find ourselves completely open to all of the wonderful courses Dartmouth offers, and now we must decide which three to pick! Of course in both scenarios, none of these doubts and worries will make a difference nor are they reasonably going to come true! If we 'fall' or have to drop a course, we get back up and try again! And if this scares us then we learn to accept that it is part of college! And if we find ourselves worrying about picking courses that are too easy — don't. All courses here are intense in their own ways, it depends on the skill-set you bring with you to it. In all seriousness having an easier course-load can be a blessing, just pick courses that genuinely interest you! The satisfaction of having conquered a term or a route at the gym will empower you to take on more.
The third barrier comes during the climb — the fatigue. Fatigue can be physical and it can be mental, but at the end of the day it is inevitable. Mid-way through a climb your fingers begin to loosen, your forearms swell up, and then you take a daring look down. Similarly, mid-way through Dartmouth when midterms are pounding you and homework buries you, everything can feel as though it is slipping away. When this happens in climbing though, we must find a rest position and focus on the next move we intend to take to escape the situation and move on. If treated early enough, the swelling can decrease and won't end your climb. If left, however, it can compound and result in you losing grip completely, plummeting to the ground. This is why it is important to move when we can, stay focused on the steps ahead of us, and rest whenever we are in a good enough position to do so!
Grip by grip, inch by inch, fall by fall, we eventually conquer the climb; we reach triumphantly to that previously just-out-of-reach hold, and can allow ourselves to drop back down. The feeling of elation is brief, but sweet. You could quite easily now scramble back up and down much faster than before, and you have added a route to your shelf of accolades. At Dartmouth, each highly condensed term is only a part of the full climb, and our rest between is very short, but each step forward we take is to be celebrated. There are 12 total, and they go by fast, so savour the moment! The moral here is that life is effort, and sometimes it is pain, but when we push through and take care of ourselves and we make it a little further than before, we are making progress. Keep climbing folks.