Revisiting an old journal entry from a thought-provoking hiking trip

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That’s us!

Before cracking open my Microeconomics textbook drearily for the nth time this week in preparation for my 2nd midterm on Wednesday, something unexplained came over me, and I found my hand reaching for my journal instead. Leafing through and re-living some of those old moments in memory, I came across the series of entries I had written while I was on the BOLT trip, the five-day backpacking trip in the New Hampshirean White Mountains that I took with 8 other Brown students a week before the start of sophomore year. Having already fallen into that rabbit hole, I guess I’ll share the entry that struck me with the biggest wave of nostalgia. I scribbled this down while shivering on a tree-stump barely two months ago, yet I still wish I could reassure that Gloria from two months ago that everything will be okay, and that I’m really happy to read about myself being so happy.

8/31/2017 — THURSDAY — BOLT TRIP Day 4

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve made it alive this far.

- This is the longest I’ve ever been:

- Unplugged from technology

- Not showered

- Cooking my own meals

- Living with strangers

- Being outdoors(period.)

- Not fretting a ton about weird existential questions (aka being present)

Needless to say, I’ve broken through a lot of “firsts” with this trip. A part of me, deep down, fears that sophomore year would just become a re-run of freshman year but with none of the magic and novelty. A part of me fears that the main narrative in my head would shift from “wow, I’m in college!” to “OMG, grades, internships, concentrations, soul-selling, jadedness, etc…”. Though I can’t promise to myself that these things won’t happen, I can say that my BOLT experience has helped me recalibrate and splash some proverbial cold water in my face.

BOLT does such a cool thing of pulling students out of the comforting presence of our smartphones and social media, and slamming us together by putting us through trials and unexpected hardship. This promotes good old summer-camp-in-elementary-school-style friendships, where it doesn’t matter so much where you’re from, but where you are now. This might be one of the few rare opportunities left that we’ll get to be very close with and understand intimately people who are vastly different from us in background, personality, culture, outlook, etc. Because, if you think about it, the connections we choose to make in the future will always be tied to something, be it the same job, professional circle, or same neighborhood. Also, the friendships and connections we seek to create in the future will ultimately be restrained by our prejudices, or our existing assumptions of compatibility. I think BOLT is allowing us to enjoy one last hurrah of the simpler times, where we can all just be, and not have to be so calculating.

Another thing BOLT reminds me of is something mentioned in “On Friendship” by Alexander Nehamas. Genuine friendship is one of those unusual things, unlike instrumental friendships, where you’re not constantly searching for the best. If someone asks me why I love my best friend, it’s not because she is the single most intelligent, or accomplished, or charismatic person I know. It’s because it’s me, and because it’s her. BOLT emphasizes forming friendships not to build the fastest or most athletic team, but to have groups of individuals that can work alongside each other, imperfections and all, getting by with the tools that they have. There’s something that feels really pure about it that I can’t exactly put my finger on.

Ah. On an unrelated note: I think it’s interesting how, right now, I’m the most physically filthy and disheveled I have ever been, but my mind feels clearer than it has been in a very, very long time.

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Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student || gloriawfeng.com

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