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October 23, 2013

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But Clark Is Also Sort Of Like Boston Because Lots Of Stuff Is Different

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As faithful readers might recall, I recently talked about how Buffalo, New York gives me a sense of belonging because everyone there likes the Buffalo Bills. If you haven’t yet checked out that blog post, I highly recommend it. It’s a crackin’ read.

The Boston Red Sox are going to the World Series.

This has happened before. In 2004 it was a big deal because they hadn’t won in 86 years, but then I just really didn’t care come 2007 when they went again. I’m a Mets fan. There’s no reason for me to care about the Red Sox.

So why was it that I watched the final strike Game 6 of the NLCS with my arms wrapped around four of my friends, and we jumped and shouted and cheered when Iglesias whiffed for the final out?

Good question. This brings us to our much anticipated Thesis Statement: coming to Clark has become a lesson in adaptability. Not long after I came to school here, I realized that my comfort zone was pitifully small, and that I probably wouldn’t get very far by staying inside it. For your consideration, a list of accomplishments that I’m proud of that were in my comfort zone:

  1. Nothing.

Being able to push yourself is the key to learning. If college is all about new challenges and trying new things, then you’re naturally going to be a little uncomfortable with a lot of stuff. When I took my first upper-level political science class and was told that there was a 25-page research paper in my future, I was pretty scared.

But then I said, “okay, how am I going to get this done?” And I developed an action plan and decided to work on it for an hour a day for the month before it was due. I got it done, and actually got a really good grade. And I’m really proud of that paper, partially because I got a good grade, but mostly because I didn’t freak out. I knew that I was in for something I had never tried, and I didn’t panic.

The same goes for everything from running a newspaper to having my first roommate.

This whole “challenge thyself” mentality goes beyond social situations and big, scary papers and obstacles that you expect to learn to overcome in college. It also comes into play when someone stands up and looks you in the eye and says “Nope, I think you’re completely wrong.”

This has happened to me a couple of times here. Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the death penalty, the Electoral College, Spree Day, the passive voice, campaign finance, and a bunch of other topics have gotten a little worrisome. These debates were never mean-spirited or resentful, but they were challenging. And there was a moment, almost every time, when I realized, “Yeah, I still think that I’m right, but that doesn’t make this other person any less right.” And the ability to understand that seemingly illogical notion is a strange skill, but an important one.

Because living in the world is about knowing that my perspective is no more right than anyone else’s. It’s hard to believe yourself when you say that, but you have to.

So in terms of the Red Sox, I’ve come to a place where I understand that my roommates love that team just like I love the Mets. And now that I’m here, and crowds of people are jumping and cheering, I can’t help but get excited. I don’t feel a need to feel locked into my own team, my comfort zone.

And so now I understand why people disagree with me in terms of campaign finance. I can also pick Mike Napoli out of a lineup of other cavemen. This learning is how I shape my views and my education. It’s a continuous process, and sometimes it feels like I’m being squeezed through a juicer because of the sheer volume of stuff I’m taking it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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