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Rowing with my homies

By Hannah Vickers

Section: Sports

October 8, 2010

Before coming to college everyone told me these would be the best years of my life and that my first year would be incredible. Of course, my life had to be different.

My high school boyfriend and I broke up the first week of second semester while I was visiting him. I realized some of those first friends I made and was supposed to remain close to for the rest of my life were not necessarily the best people I would ever meet.

Everything I was told to expect did not come true, but the one choice I least anticipated to change me has done so more than any other.

One of the girls on my first-year hall (whom I love dearly and remain close with to this day) convinced me to join the crew team. Seeing as how I have never been what you would call a “morning person,” the idea of waking up at 4 a.m. made me slightly nauseous.

Still, I took her advice and signed up to be a coxswain, despite the fact I could not have spelled that word if my life depended on it. My job was to steer a straight course, encourage my boat with a bit of yelling and correct them on any mistakes they might be making.

It seems strange but joining that club sport was the best decision I made in my four years here. Like everything else there have been ups and downs. I took a semester away from the team when things got a little crazy, but as a whole nothing has shaped me more than the people from that group.

I will never forget one episode from my sophomore year. I was officially a varsity member of the team and was talking to one of the novice coxswains before her first race.

She was nervous, reading her meticulous race plan agian and again. Then she started asking me for advice on what kind of calls helped my boat move quicker or what she should do if there was a log in the middle of the race course. I had no idea.

It dawned on me that all of a sudden I was a source of knowledge (or was at least supposed to be). She trusted me completely, having no doubt that I would know what to do. So I did what all great coxswains do: I pretended to know exactly what I was doing.

I thought of some advice off the top of my head that sounded decent and gave it to her, acting supremely confident while trying to avoid any questions. For the first time someone was looking up to me besides my younger cousins, and it felt amazing.

Every morning was still a struggle: few things hurt more than realizing that annoying beeping sound is your alarm and yes, it is that time again. Once I got out on the water, though, I felt alive; I was in my element. I do not row and have the perfect, un-calloused hands to prove it. Instead I took my seat either lying down in the front in one of the bowloaders or sitting up in the back of the sternloaders, facing my stroke seat.

From there I did the best I could to inspire them to push themselves just a bit harder and fix that one mistake they keep making–sit up straight, hands away before you come up the slide, don’t drop your hands at the catch. These words meant nothing to me when I coxed a boat for the first time but became so familiar during the course of four years.

I travelled with the team to Philadelphia this past May for my last Dad Vail Regatta. This is the largest collegiate regatta in the world and the energy in the air is amazing.

Few things get your blood pumping more than coming up on the finish line and fighting to edge out the boat next to you for a medal with the cheers of thousands in the grand stand. I knew the moment would be bittersweet. I was ready to move on beyond Brandeis but I was going to miss that feeling of pure satisfaction after a perfect row.

I just hope I find something else to wake up for that is as inspiring as the sunrise over the Charles. In the back of my mind I know nothing will be able to touch it.

So here is another cliché everyone tells you about college that I know is true: go try something you would never have thought to try. You never know what will change your life.

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