Aspiring To Our Role Models

Elders are commonly role models through their actions and words, they help shape who we become, influence our personalities, and enable us to mature. They set examples for us and we do as they do, reflecting the way they talk, the way they walk, and the way they interact and live their lives. In addition to our elders, role models are often friends, coaches, professors and others with whom we interact every day. These people are continually teaching us something new, good and bad. We can also learn from people we don’t know, like celebrities and athletes we see in the media, to develop an electronic relationship. But what happens when role models withhold information from us, or are prevented from sharing information with those who regard them highly? Does that do more than restrict the sources of information on important topics? Younger members of the current population are less active on political and social issues than prior generations. This may be the result of the treatment given to public role models who tried to send messages to those who looked up to them.

Smith and Carlos Statue

Smith and Carlos Statue

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were two very successful Olympians who protested against racism while accepting their medals on stage and during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympic Games. This act was heavily criticized by the general population and caused many problems for Smith and Carlos. Similar action by athletes have been minimal since then because lots of people would associate political actions by other outspoken athletes in the same light as Smith and Carlos. Public role models have tried to assist struggling parts of society in other ways, such as visiting hospitals, creating or participating in youth exercise programs, and rebuilding communities destroyed by natural disasters or political conflict. Don’t get me wrong, all of those efforts are admirable, necessary, and help raise awareness on important topics, but they aren’t controversial and not equivalent to supporting a minority viewpoint in a very public way. When it comes to political dissent, few speak out on big issues like war or sweatshop labor. All role models, even those aren’t well-known athletes, have the right to and should express themselves more freely, just because they can. Their specific opinions aren’t important, but our role models, especially if well known, must remember they’re setting an important example by demonstrating how to be an active member of society.

Political agency uses ideas and theories to influence actions by individuals or groups to achieve political goals. College students and other young adults are not sure if they can find their place in political activism. Criticism of public figure role models deters students and others from becoming political agents of change. For example, Steve Nash once wore a t-shirt to a press conference, which there was a strong anti-war message. His critics responded “just shut up and play,” implying that his views on social issues were unwanted. Surprisingly, the censoring comments came from others involved in pro sports. Nothing is ever going to change unless people take action. Yet when someone like Nash, an athlete and worldwide celebrity, tries to speak up about what he believes in and gets shot down for it, other athletes are going to be cautious of their actions. An example of why they don’t feel “safe” speaking out about issues is because “You get to the NFL and you’re just trying to get your head above water and float and survive in the NFL, let alone take on (serious political issues),” Brendon Ayanbadejo, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker who started advocating for marriage equality in 2009, said. “I started speaking out in 2009. I was in my 30s already. It’s so hard just to make it in the NFL, you’re not going to start talking politics and controversial things until you’re comfortable in your career.” And, even if you do, it becomes a distraction. Athletes minds have to be clear the minute they step onto a field.”  If Mill were asked his opinion, he wouldn’t think it was a big deal because it doesn’t violate his view on harm: “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.” Celebrities speaking out about views don’t harm others. In a way, it’s a celebrity’s job to both be good in their talents as well as be educated about society. They’re the ones that can influence change on the greater population. Their fans look up to them, and if they think certain laws are unjust, they should be able to speak up about them and be praised for it.

“Athletes are, obviously, human beings with opinions and causes and issues they care about, and unlike many “ordinary” people, they stand on a platform that gives them major influence in American culture. The relative rarity of the athlete who speaks publicly on major social, political, and cultural issues would only seem to add to the influence they can have when they do.”

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is a great example of this. He got 2,000 people to attend a speech he gave on Congo and conflict materials, which is his newly started political cause. Only because Rodgers is so accomplished in his career that controversy was minimal as a result of this speech. Much of this crowd was probably fans and had no interest in hearing about his cause, rather solely interested in seeing him in person. Yet, that’s the point of the platform they stand on. Everyone that is a fan of Rodgers will listen, and thus this engages more conversation, more awareness, and more educated people. “I’ve been given a platform based on the success that we’ve had as a team and that I’ve had individually,” Rodgers told ThinkProgress after the event…“What am I going to do? I have a voice, I have an opportunity to tell people what I care about. And I care about this deeply, I care about making an impact in this world.”

John_Stuart_Mill_by_London_Stereoscopic_Company,_c1870

John Stuart Mill

Values change every day because opinions and views of right and wrong are influenced by what we read, the things we hear, the people we talk to, and our role models.  Mill believes, “I am harmed if my ability to pursue my life as before is significantly curtailed.” Our elected officials, athletes, artists and celebrities have the ability to influence our views and inspire us to take action, yet their ability to do so is decreasing. The same way that the best athletes seem to get the best calls by referees and umpires, only those considered to be the best at what they do are able to speak openly, yet this is not appropriate. Athletes and other role models who are well informed, even if not the best at what they do, should not be restricted from showing us how to take action or speak out if the topic is important to them. Role models have the responsibility to speak to those who will listen. Perhaps we need to look at the way role models are measured; instead of labeling a good citizen by a stated viewpoint on a topic, their willingness to be politically and socially active, influencing change of any kind, is more important.

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You Should Love History

I’ve never really been a big fan of history. Drawing pictures of Columbus sailing across oceans while in elementary school, giving presentations to explain the birth of religions in middle school, and writing research papers about social issues that I was not encountering during high school, all weren’t enjoyable. Thus, the significance of learning the history never really clicked for me. They seemed like a burden and I remember complaining to my parents and friends about having to learn about things that happened so long ago; I never understood why we spent so much time in school learning about the past. Living away from home for the past few months, relying on myself for my basic needs – food, sleep and personal hygiene – and taking college courses with hundreds of my peers has allowed me to understand how I am who I am because of my personal history. I also see that what I am doing right now is going to impact the rest of my life.

Thanksgiving Weekend 2014

Sitting at this year’s Thanksgiving table with family, I realized I am starting to appreciate history. I was able to understand the importance of certain stories shared by my elders by paying attention to how their experiences were significant to them. I made connections between classes I’m taking and realized the value of learning from our past and how it affects today. It was as if Edmund Burke was sitting at the table with me and saying, “see?”

Thinking about this further, saying that I’ve never been a fan of history is false. Maybe it’s the same for other young people like me. Maybe it’s because I associate “history” with reading textbooks, studying the works of philosophers, or watching documentaries. I now see that learning about the past and appreciating the effect of historical events can be so much more than that. History can include learning how to swing a golf club by your grandfather, driving lessons from an instructor, asking for class enrollment suggestions from an older student, or even as simple as listening to someone tell you about their week. Burke states that we get political knowledge by looking at what people have done before us (The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, (Oxford, 1989), p. 57, p. 111). However, his concept extends to other parts of life, not just political aspects.  We can use his concepts to understand just about every part of life from sociological behaviors to health and fitness knowledge.

If we can learn about our past we should not repeat mistakes. We can build upon what happened once, increase our understanding of how or why it is now a part of history, and then deal with similar events differently the second time around. Advances in technology have allowed more people in more parts of the world to become educated, which should lead to more successful and fulfilling lives for those who are taught. Additionally, social media is one of the most useful tools for sharing information. When information is posted by individuals to their own accounts without being filtered by mainstream media, and instantaneously delivered to the palms of the hands of everyone connected to the sender, and then delivered again to others, societal events become accessible to nearly everyone on the planet. Staying on top of current events is an obligation we all have to avoid repeating things we know do not work.

The Social Media Effect

There are many critics willing to discuss the dangers of being constantly logged in to Facebook or Twitter, but they ignore that social media is not just for sharing photos and memories with friends. Social media connections can introduce new topics or events that might’ve been missed, but shouldn’t be. For example, when I recently logged into Facebook I learned that the International Space Station just created its first 3D printer-generated object. I can easily gather information about ISIS when I log in to my Twitter account. Regardless of how information is delivered, we all have a duty to learn how and why something happened. Connecting that information to current events will help achieve societal progress in the future and, more importantly, will teach those who live here after us. For example, Burke examined concepts that the French revolutionaries used and tried to understand the reason behind actions and events. It may be obvious that every individual action has its purpose, but reason is also “collective and cumulative,” and the results eventually become history (p. 79. 88, 102). We have a social contract with prior generations who set the table for the current generation, and we can meet our obligation to flourish by remembering how we got to where we are. Progress can be achieved and we can fulfill our duty to leave society in a better place for our future generations by repeating the cycle. Contributions by current members of society may lead to extreme changes, and some change may be difficult to achieve, but, Burke believed that incremental change is sure to occur and will have a lasting effect.

Burke and Mill have explained how established customs help us know how to live our lives. Taking their ideas another step forward, some things do not transfer from generation to generation, older customs may not have a place in modern society, and yesterday’s values may not be needed or wanted in more current times. Individuals should be able to determine what is valuable to them, and those determinations can be made more easily due to the volume of historical information now available.

History is more than just documents, textbooks, and artifacts left behind. It’s what happens in our lives today, re-examined tomorrow. If injustices occurred last week, it is history that cannot be ignored and should be examined carefully to prevent the same things from occurring again this week. Taking advantage of the opportunity to share more stories, using initiative to learn in new ways and meeting new people who have ideas with a different perspective is what learning history is all about. Use Facebook and Twitter to search for news, find a Ted Talk that expands your way of thinking, sit down and talk with your neighbor, call your grandfather or read a newspaper. No matter the method, I encourage you to find the time to learn about our past, update yourself on the current frequently and with a passion, think about your daily experiences, and become a fan of your own history.

Imagine a World Without Government…

Hard to imagine, right? Government functions include making laws for lots of things we all do in our everyday lives. In democratic societies, laws are written to provide equal treatment to all people and not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, etc. Yet if this is the plan and if our leaders follow the plan, why do we have so many problems today? Throughout our history, there are endless examples of inequalities and imbalanced rights between different parts of society. Even when laws are modified, such as the way Title IX was supposed to level the playing field between men and women in sports, the laws haven’t worked to expectations; discrimination is still easily found in all parts of modern day life. In social lives, religion and sexual preferences, there are hierarchies. White heterosexual males are still at the top of government, gay individuals are not accepted as “normal” by the majority of the population, and men still run big businesses and are still the primary breadwinners. How is this possible when all of us are supposed to be considered equal, gay marriage laws have been passed, and women have been given extra opportunities to bring them even? Perhaps it’s because governments and laws can change, but people don’t change quite as easily.

In a society, the good people, who don't need rules, and bad people, who do need them, are like the good angel and bad angel

In a society, the good people, who don’t need rules, and bad people, who do need them, are like the good angel and bad angel

It’s been said, “good people don’t need laws and bad people don’t follow them.” Could we be overdoing it on the laws, allowing more chances for bad people to not follow more laws? The answer may be that society would progress without laws. Laws “hinder people’s ability to develop their own personal sets of ethics. They don’t help people learn to respect people for the sake of respecting people.” Most of us don’t like the feeling of not being in charge of ourselves. Perhaps without authority ruling over us, without a higher political power telling us to respect inequalities, more equality would arise.

King Louis XVI

King Louis XVI

Examples of government failure can be seen throughout the history of organized governments. King Louis XVI’s rule over France gave us the legacy of fear. He himself was sentenced to death and decapitated in public. This created an environment in which revolutionaries celebrated a gruesome way of dealing with unjust leaders, which led to increasing the number of guillotines used to promote one belief or another. In Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty’s lecture “Changes. Changes.”, he brings up the concept of epistemic arrogance, or faith in human progress, which includes the power of reason, freedom to experiment, and equal opportunity. The French Revolutionaries were epistemically arrogant in thinking they had figured everything out, knew all the right answers, and how to deal with those who had different thoughts on making their society liveable. Because political change hasn’t been executed correctly, there must be faith in human progress without it. Mill argues that we should experiment with different ways to live together, which could include governing ourselves and having faith in each other.

Burke would argue that the most efficient way of shaping our future is to rely upon our past customs. It is essential to know our past to be able to improve in our future, however the things that have worked in the past may not be concurrent with modern day times. The technological advances we’ve made couldn’t have been predicted and thus modifications to rules are made because of this. Many different groups have been created as well, such as conservative and reform. Either way, we must consider the value of the rules we have and the ones we want to modify to find their significance and the impact they will have on our lives.

There is also a governing rule for all sports. Presidents, commissioners, and owners all exist for each sports team and league. Although they do make many decisions, much of the initial conversation about issues comes from those who play in those leagues.

Jimmy King of the Fab 5 – far left

Jimmy King of the Fab 5 – far left

One example comes from the November 15th University of Michigan theme semester event “Values of College Sports Conference” where various panels led discussions about different topics. Jimmy King, a member of the Fab 5, spoke about education in relation to sport. “We’re past the times of discrimination…whether it be gender or race, we’re all in this together.” We shouldn’t follow the “old values” of the past anymore because our society is changing. King discussed his view about laws and that even as a society, they don’t really make a difference as those with power break them and get away with it, as occurs in the NCAA. The business of college athletics is absurd as coaches take advantage of the system and get paid million whereas the athletes get exploited for their work. In football, rule modifications are made to fit the technology and advancement of the modern day. Speculations about kick-off rule changes have recently been made. If they followed through, would “football without kick-offs still [be] football?” Similarly, would a society without government still be a society? In my opinion, it would. People are afraid of change. Being open to voices other than your own, respecting others, and going outside of your comfort zone to consider the possibilities of improvement in our society, sports leagues and more is necessary for progress as a whole.

Can we learn to be a self-ruling people in the greater society? Do activities like sports that a large part of society participates in need individual governing bodies, or can we do it ourselves? Would there be outrage and an increase in violence if we dismissed laws and governance? I have faith in human progress and believe that the best way to overcome any of the problems we have today is to experiment with our ways of living, like Burke, whether it be minimizing government rule, increasing it, or having an in between. One thing is for sure though, when experimenting we must consider and learn from what we have done in our past when making new decisions for our futures so that we don’t make the same mistake twice. Political knowledge is gained by considering what has been done before us. Perhaps we’ve been through enough change to start something new. As Burke believes, the future is unpredictable. Therefore, we must try out different things, like governing ourselves.

Being a Woman and Other Standards in Sports

popeye_the_sailor_man_by_shawnguku-d3k183e

Popeye the Sailor Man – an example of physical strength

If you were asked to define what strength is in an athlete, how would you do it? Most of us would reference the capability of muscles to move or lift an amount of weight, or the ability to maintain speed across a certain distance over time, or demonstrating an ability to apply force which generates a particular motion, or stops a different motion. But, what about mental and emotional strength? How can human qualities such as those needed to overcome adversity, resist temptation, control reaction, or determination to reach certain goals be measured? The strongest muscles, capable of lifting, moving, or altering course will eventually wear down. In contrast, emotional strength is sustainable throughout one’s lifetime. It is a widely held belief that men’s physiques allow them to develop into bigger, faster, and stronger athletes than women. In most professional sports, male athletes typically have “better” records and their accomplishments outweigh those of women. This has created a societal perception that female athleticism is inferior to male athleticism. However, what if the measure of strength could be quantified by the strength of character instead of physical attributes? Would we still perceive “better” results from the men?

Professor LaVaque-Manty states in Chapter 5 of “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities,” of his The Playing Fields of Eton (2009), the extent of women’s participation and success directly correlates with gender norms and institutional barriers. Title IX greatly increased opportunities for female athletes to participate in amateur level sports, which has led to increased participation on all levels and strengthened the battle against unequal rights. During the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles only 30 years ago, 24% of all worldwide participants were women. By 2012, the percentage of female athletes on the U.S. Team more than doubled, resulting in a team on which greater than 50% of the participants were women. The long-term and powerful effects of Title IX cannot be ignored, and while awareness and acceptance were not instantaneous, the resulting female majority may be an indication that strength should be measured by the ability to endure adverse conditions and inspire others to participate in greater numbers year over year.

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Candace Parker with child

The media attention and broadcast hours devoted to women’s sports is a fraction of that given to men’s. This reflects an inequality and the question is whether there is a lack of opportunity for female athletes because of a lack of interest, or is the public not interested because the opportunities do not exist? It is evident that being physically fit and accomplished is not enough for the female athlete; those who compete at the highest level gain recognition only when they are also attractive. This double standard is ridiculous in our current society. An example of media coverage on one particular female athlete’s physical features being emphasized even though her physical feats are extraordinary can be found in ESPN’s feature of Candace Parker. The article starts, “‘Candace Parker is beautiful. Breathtaking, really, with flawless skin, endless legs and a C cup…She is a woman who plays like a man, one of the boys, if the boys had C cups and flawless skin. Perfect, white teeth’…imagine that applied to men’s sports: Imagine an article starting this way: ‘Lebron James is handsome. Breathtaking, really, with flawless skin, endless legs and a medium jock strap he is proud of but never flaunts.’” It sounds ridiculous, right? Social standards don’t require men to be the best in their field and attractive. This sends the wrong message, reflecting society’s requirement that successful women must also be photogenic. Discussing Parker’s bra cup size instead of points in a magazine geared toward a male audience is shameful. The examples are numerous and are not limited to one sport or another, as long as the female athlete’s appearance can sell.

 

Anna Kournikova – "Kournikova-SYD-4" by TwoWings - own work (scanned photography). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Anna Kournikova

Anna Kournikova is another female athlete whose fame was tied to her appearance. “Her popularity during and after her professional tennis career has less to do with her accomplishments as a tennis player, but more to do with her being extremely photogenic, endorsement advertising, and personal relationships with high profile sports and celebrity men.” Her story is even more ridiculous when we consider she never won a singles tournament, even though her face dominated the media for a number of years.

If you know the story of The Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King achieved a great feat, beating a male tennis player in a match. However, because King fit the masculine stereotype and wasn’t attractive like Chris Evert, who came into the female tennis scene shortly after King, she wasn’t as marketable. Evert held the public’s attention longer and more intensely. Attractive female athletes were able to obtain endorsement deals and other advertising appearances for which King and her numerous accomplishments were never considered. In one ESPN article, it was plainly admitted that Evert’s success is described partly by her skill, and partly by her appearance. “Part of it was — and there’s no getting around it — she was feminine in a time when the stereotype of the woman tennis player was more masculine.”

For both genders, the percentage of athletic participants who become elite professional athletes is extremely small. Male athletes are judged and gain approval on the basis of their athletic performance. On the other hand, female athletes must be able to compete and rely on their physical appearance to overcome institutional barriers. In that context, lets revisit the question about strength. Is it the male athlete whose physicality allows him to outperform his female counterpart when measuring by traditional competitive means, or is it the female athlete who must compete against male athletes for recognition and battle against bias, doubt, or actions designed to hinder performance and still succeed? The emotional aspects of professional sports is undeniable, yet honored infrequently. This leaves me wondering what we value about sport and who is the stronger athlete. The Olympic motto reads, “Citius, altius, fortius” and translates to faster, higher, stronger. Perhaps the steady and growing introduction of female athletes will result in the existing slogan being replaced with “acceptatione, comunitas, pondus” which translates to acceptance, community, value. Working together as one community to recognize the value of the professional athlete’s effort rather than appearance will reveal the true value of sports, including its ability to break down barriers in social settings.

Sports, Amateurs, and Nature

I firmly believe the expression, “Everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes it’s a disappointing exam score, sometimes it’s meeting someone who becomes a great friend, sometimes it’s an injury, and sometimes it’s finding a $5 bill on the ground. And, sometimes it’s the worst thing ever…cracking your brand new iPhone 6. Good or bad, I believe there’s a reason everything happens, and there’s a lesson to be learned from each occurrence as well. As a youth in a complex society, letting things happen as they will requires me to be prepared for the day, but to live life in the most natural state as possible; letting things take their course and going with the flow. I try to learn from my elders, but I have to be independent so I can learn about myself, figure out my own interests and hobbies, and know what I want to do. Eric Dunning, in his essay “The Dynamics of Modern Sport” (in the anthology Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process, Blackwell, 1986), discusses the termamateur ethos” – the idea that sports at the amateur level should be played strictly for pleasure instead of worrying about winning. Competition is so prevalent in modern day professional sports that the simplicity of amateurs, playing for pleasure, is a concept that no longer exists. Even worse, the physiques of young athletes are no longer able to develop naturally.

The most obvious example in sports in regards to changing the body operates through the use of steroids, which “are controlled substances that people abuse in high doses to boost their athletic performance.” A common misconception is that steroids are used to improve skill, but, in reality, their purpose is to “help build muscle tissue and increase body mass.” Across all sports, steroids are used by many athletes to “win at any cost,” which is the opposite of the amateur ethos concept. Steroids create an unfair advantage between those who use them and those who don’t and have been banned in many professional sports. So, many factors change when steroids are involved. Pills and needles have become as popular for gaining strength to hit the ball hard in baseball as going to the gym or practicing in a batting cage.

Nature is not fair, to be honest. I’m a 5’5” male, a height that is rather small to be a true competitor in most sports. Yet, I always wanted to believe I would be a professional athlete the same way I believe everyone has a place in this world. It’s up to us to figure it out. Honestly, hearing about this increased use of steroids makes it less enjoyable for me as a viewer and more understandable that I will not become a professional athlete. Worst of all, using performance enhancing drugs is a bad influence upon our youth and amateur athletes because it creates this mindset that they also have to use steroids in order to be as skilled as their sport idol. If they don’t, they have fewer possible places in the world.

Going straight to professional leagues out of high school is another inhibitor of development because education is one of the most important tools necessary for success in modern society. Before eligibility rule changes in some sports, athletes could be drafted to a professional sports team after graduating high school, causing them to miss out entirely on a college education. One of the biggest recent changes involves the eligibility rule in the NBA, where a player must be 19 years old to participate. In response, Brandan Wright, a professional basketball player, said how the new eligibility rule, “might hurt guys who need money, but it will help people grow and develop.” I agree with Wrights’ stance on the issue based on changes I see in myself in only two months at Michigan. The new rule, requiring athletes to attend at least one year of college before going pro, may also encourage athletes to return to college to complete their four years soon after finishing their sports career. After playing football at USC, Troy Polamalu was drafted to the Steelers in 2003, but hadn’t earned his degree. During the NFL lockout, he went back to do just that. la_polamalu1x_300Polamalu says, “I truly love football and it’s such an immense blessing and privilege as an athlete to be given the rare opportunity to use those talents at the highest professional level, but it’s certainly not a replacement for an education.” I ultimately believe that our amateur athletes must have the opportunity to experience a college education and explore their life options to know their true place in the world.

As children we often look up to our parents because we trust them. Unfortunately, many parents start training their children to become professional athletes at very young ages. Being swayed to focus upon one life path without exploring other options because our parents decide for us isn’t healthy. In order to be successful we must be independent thinkers. That is how, and why, I am here at the University of Michigan. This notion of forcing ideals upon our youth was not practiced in my family, and yet there are many families with parents who tell their children who they need to become. There are also many families in which parents push their young children to their physical limits too soon. Friday Night Tykes is a TV show that follows the lives of eight and nine year old football players that play with, for the most part, the same rules, regulations and intensity as professionals – yes, this includes tackling and screaming coaches that don’t have a filter on their words. See for yourself an episode from Esquire Network.

These children haven’t been given the freedom to try out different sports, hobbies, or develop other interests. They’ve been trained to believe that football is the utmost priority and outweighs all else. Therefore, playing football has a seriousness to it that isn’t necessary at such a young age; it should be played for fun. Our amateur athletes and youth need to be able to have the freedom to explore athletic and non-athletic options for their personal development. Many high schools, like mine, now offer broad liberal arts curriculums to give students a wide range of knowledge and experiences across multiple subjects. Young athletes like these must be able to explore different sports to find their places in the sport that is right for them. 

Developing the mind and body naturally is the key ingredient to having a healthy and successful life. Pushing bodies to their limits before they fully develop, during the amateur years, or using steroids at any level of play, is wrong. Looking back at my opening statement, what I really mean is that I believe that “Everything done naturally happens for a reason.” If we can let our amateur athletes and youth develop themselves and find their places in this world naturally, then life will take its course for that individual as it is meant to. Each and every one of us must be able to find out for ourselves what we are best at without altering any part of human nature.

“Junk Food For The Spirit”

One question that I constantly ask myself is, “Why am I here? Why am I here at the University of Michigan?” It’s safe to say that this question hits home to many students here. I sometimes wish I was one of the few that has had their mind set on what they want to pursue. “Wait a minute, read that sentence you just wrote again,” my father would say. “Slow down you crazy child” (he’s a huge Billy Joel fan), you don’t need to know what you’re going to do with your life just yet, you’re a month old freshman.” It’s easy enough to stress about the future, but it’s also important to live in the present. Look at that, a month in and I’m already getting ahead of myself.

If you didn’t know me that well, it’d be easy to assume that I’m here in Ann Arbor simply for leisure. I came here for the infamous football Saturdays, for being able to socialize with people from around the world, for forming close friendships through a fraternity and eating an unhealthy amount of Pizza House. Yet if you knew me better, you’d know that I’m not here simply for gaining the ideal college experience, one filled with the aforementioned as well as joining clubs and playing on intramural teams. Let me put things in simpler terms – it’s kind of like when I go to Five Guys.

My essential purpose is to have a satisfying hamburger, yet the french fries, peanuts and soda make the meal that much better. These extra activities are, similarly, complements of going to this amazing school. I applied and accepted my offer to study here at the University of Michigan in order to eventually graduate and make a difference in the world. Whether that difference be for the general public or for myself, the drive to be a successful human being is why I am studying here in Ann Arbor.

Being a student at the University of Michigan is a big time commitment, to say the least. From attending classes five days a week, to being involved with several clubs, to spending time with my greek life peers, to studying hours on end, to finally sleeping takes up all 24 hours of each day. The most important part, of course, is studying, which is required in any spare time I can find in order to keep up with the workload that oh so perfectly lives up to the recently named #1 public university in the U.S. – GO BLUE! Yet, it is that perfect amount of work that causes endless amounts of stress for students like myself globally. Countless hours of studying and participating in extra-curriculars are done in order to achieve a higher dream, one that requires myself to push my mind and body to the limit and beyond in order to triumph. However, in order to achieve this success in the future, I must do well with my studies in the present, which can be very difficult to achieve without the utterly necessary sport and holiday, an idea brought about in A. Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time For Paradise.

Participating in sports, whether it be team or individual, and spending holidays with family and friends are both activities thats internal significance will always outweigh the external. Whether it be a team sport like baseball where winning together will always be an indescribable feeling full of loud and joyous screams, or playing golf where success is celebrated in almost complete silence, the acts of playing sports bring about absolute contentment.

Additionally, when sports are enjoyed with my family, whether it be casually throwing a football on a grassy field, hitting a tennis ball back and forth at the neighborhood park, or my family cheering me on from the sidelines, enjoyment is attained and the mind can be drifted away from the strenuous work life. It is sports that allow me to relieve the mind of strain and discomfort that is brought about by long periods of time of continuous work. Work that in the moment can sometimes seem so unnecessary, oftentimes having less importance than a game of catch with my brother. It is this simple game of catch that seems like it has more real value than work because happiness is where meaning lies, and happiness is hard to find when work is difficult. Therefore, I must force myself to internalize this, and in the meantime I must think about why I am doing all of this “unnecessary” work and the sole reason that I am doing it for.

Like Giamatti states, participating in “recreation is re-creation.” A re-creation, a re-vitalizing, a re-freshing rush to my mind, one that has probably been used more than what it was made for, because in order to succeed in the modern day this overuse has developed to be the new norm. Thus, the combination of sport and holiday is the most natural form of “drug [made to] divert [people] from real problems.” Distracting myself from work is the only real way I have been able to return to it after a break and be able to find the energy necessary to do my work efficiently. It is up to each and every one of us to find our own definitions of sport and holiday. I leave this up to you all as your “junk food for the spirit” is probably different than mine, and different than Giamatti’s. We may both be fans of Five Guys, but only you can find the right balance of work to sport and holiday for your own definition of success and thus discover why you are attending the University of Michigan.