Around The Yard: Anne Cheng


Returning to GoCrimson.com for a second season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrative. For a full list of blog entries, click here.

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Anne Cheng
October 13, 2015

Junior year has begun! Only after half of my college experience has already zoomed pass, I feel like I have finally just begun to better understand what it means to live the college experience. Though the ideal college experience is different for everyone, I personally believe that it is a time for discovery and self-improvement. It is a time to view the world with different eyes. I have learned from my past two years here and now my sights are set on new goals for the upcoming semester. I was not aware of this at the time, but as a freshman and even as a sophomore, I had held on to the wrong mindset and had barely gotten by. I desired to play well for the golf team, achieve high marks, and join a bunch of clubs on campus. These goals are quite standard—quite typical and nothing too extravagant. In regards to my life as an active student-athlete, I was complacent. But as for the way in which I felt like I lived my first two years, I was not satisfied. A lull had developed where there should have been an interest, my outside activities morphed into a checklist of “things-to-do”, and a touch of emptiness made its way into my chest. Though I was comfortable with the routine of my life, I was not satisfied with the way I carried myself.

For my up and coming third year here, I still do many of the same activities that I have always done as a freshman and as a sophomore. However, now, I think about the things I do differently. Before I decide to join a club or become involved in an activity, I always ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I remind myself that there is much more to a person than what can be expressed in words or written in a resume. During sophomore year I had begun volunteering at a local hospital. My initial reason behind this choice: “Volunteering at a hospital is something that medical school would expect me to have had experience in,” so I treated this as another item to cross of my weekly checklist. I’d go in to the hospital, quickly push a couple patients around, and leave. This style of action, however efficient, was of course problematic. With the way I approached my role as a volunteer, it became an unfulfilling duty. But, just before I made plans to stop volunteering at the hospital, I started to chat significantly more with the patients I had interactions with.

I suddenly took notice of things that I had previously so carelessly brushed over. I listened to the patients talk about their life’s dreams and about their personal burdens. Yet at the same time, I could sense the pain within their smiles, and I could comprehend the gratitude as well as the hardy resilience embedded between their silences. As a volunteer in a hospital, I was often viewed in a position as a person of cordial trust. For this reason I encountered patients who were openly eager to share their ailments, their struggles, and their joys with me. I found a different story behind every individual. And I was extremely humbled by what they shared.

I realized my ignorance for people’s different lifestyles, and I felt my own struggles pale in comparison to what many have endured through. My difficulties in the classroom appeared silly, and my challenges on the golf course seemed like a blessing. I rediscovered a newly found appreciation for life, for family, and for everything we have. The hospital patients have unknowingly taught me so much about the ups-and-downs of life, but chatting with them also helped me further understand another point that until then I have not thought deeply about: the importance of human relationships.

It is as important for us to give as it is to receive. Throughout my first two years, I regretfully pushed friends and people into a secondary role of importance below my busy pursuit of completing “the checklist” of things I had to do. The things I did were coated with a thin layer of meaning. However, inside the hospital walls, I had the chance to reevaluate my own relationship with friends and with other people. Countless times I have witnessed a patient beam with happiness upon the visit of a friend, the touch of a loved one, or sometimes even a light-hearted conversation with a hospital volunteer. I have seen and personally felt the physical, emotional, and mental dependence intertwined amongst all people.

My priorities after my two years here at Harvard have shifted slightly. The activities that I had simply treated as a checklist have transformed into an opportunity to find greater meaning and understanding in life. The experiences I’ve had in the hospital as a volunteer accurately reflect many of my other experiences here at Harvard. By being more open to people, more understanding, more caring, and more aware, I am able to gain a wider perspective about the world and form more meaningful connections with people. An open mind and an open heart really do go a long way.