Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Second Year, Still Full of Firsts

Here I am, almost halfway through my college career, feeling remarkably self-assured. I’ve officially declared a major, I’ve been approved to study abroad next semester, and I’ve managed to maintain my sanity as a dual-sport college athlete. However, as I write this blog post on the flight back from the water polo spring break training trip, I feel obligated to admit that I still have much to see, do, and understand. As a matter of fact, this trip confirmed my cluelessness.

I spent this spring break the same way I spent last year’s: with the water polo team, between two coasts, in four different beds, and playing 11 water polo matches. When my team left the Leonard Center a week and a half ago, I expected our trip to be uneventful. I definitely did not expect to spend 11 days relearning a lesson that Macalester never fails to teach me—that I still have much left to see and do in this beautiful world. 

I quickly became wrapped up in delight over all of the “firsts” that I encountered on this year’s trip. This tournament was my first visit to Utica, New York. More importantly, it was the first time I had experienced good barbecue above the Mason-Dixon line.
How else would we pose for a team picture at Dinosaur BBQ?

As a native Marylander, I don’t claim to be from the Deep South, but I do know good barbecue when I taste it. Let me tell you, Dinosaur BBQ (in Syracuse, N.Y., of all places!) was definitely up to snuff. 

That’s my “up to snuff” face.
Then, following a cross-country flight, I arrived in Northern California for the first time. There I got to spend one night with my teammate’s family. I tried bubble tea for the first time. I rode in a convertible for the first time. And get this: I picked an ORANGE right off a TREE.

This is me containing my excitement.

Maybe it’s because of my East Coast upbringing, but that had never even crossed my mind as something that people actually do. I mean, obviously oranges come from somewhere, but I had always envisioned some mythical land of citrus. I was clearly wrong, because Maggie’s family had their own orange tree in the backyard, and they were kind enough to let me pick one (or three). After we left Maggie’s house, the team spent a little time exploring San Francisco. We definitely made time to see the Golden Gate Bridge; we heard it was a pretty famous landmark.

Me, in front of the BRB (Big Red Bridge)

That evening we flew to Los Angeles for the final leg of our trip. Between our remaining games, we managed to find some time for trips to the beach and Hollywood. 

The famous Hollywood smudge

The beautiful Corona del Mar beach

We made it to the last day!
After we finished our last game, our coach treated us to s’mores and a bonfire on the beach. The whole team gathered around the fire, laughing, singing, dancing, and enjoying our last California night. All of a sudden I realized another first: my first sunset over the ocean. It seemed a fitting way to end a trip full of firsts—with teammates I love, on a beautiful beach.

There is no better form of team bonding
If you check my Facebook profile, you’ll find that my favorite quotation is from Angelina Jolie: “I was just a young woman who realized there was a lot I didn't know about the world. And I wanted to understand.” I think this quote is particularly germane to my trip. I’m not saying that snapping a picture of myself in front of the Golden Gate Bridge has led me to a greater understanding of how the world works. Honestly, it was incredibly humbling to realize it took me 19 years to see just one iconic landmark that some people see every day of their lives.

Despite everything I’ve figured out so far in college, my spring break trip confirmed that I am still clueless in the best possible way. My classes all remain challenging, my knowledge of the Minneapolis/St. Paul transit system is still a little shaky, and my first time picking an orange was just a week ago. I think it’s pretty clear that I still have many more “firsts” ahead of me

However, I would venture to say that I know almost everything I need to know for right now—even if it’s not much of anything at all.