When I look back on my activities of the year, I am a little surprised at how much I actually did, and I believe this is mainly due to how the activities were not “duties” to me. I was in a charity run, in the rugby and football teams, and involved in fitness programs generally; I helped in a junior study and was part of the Environmental Society; I volunteered in helping the homeless; and I took both music and cooking classes. This wide variety of activities led to different interactions with others because those in each activity usually had different focuses. For example, in the work for the homeless, the interactions were based on senses of shared commitment. Everyone involved seemed to be concerned with making life better for others, just as the cooking and music classes’ interactions were more individual, because we were all there to learn and improve our skills. With the fitness programs and sports teams, interaction was more intense, but still casual. Considering the range of experiences, then, I am inclined to say that interactions in every case reflected the nature of the activity itself and, the more I was engaged in them, the more I was encouraged to connect with the others doing the same.
On a more specific level, I joined the football and rugby teams because I hoped to improve my playing skills, get regular and enjoyable exercise, and enjoy the feeling of helping the teams to win. What actually came from the experiences was a shift in my values because winning was not easy, and I came to realize that doing my best was the most important contribution I could make. I was definitely successful in becoming more fit and learning skills, but I did have to face the challenge of losing, as well as sometimes sacrificing my own wants for the sake of the team. Other players helped me with this in an interesting way; that is, they never lectured me about misguided goals, but instead set examples of what playing for and in a team really means. I think my playing did assist both teams, but they each helped me as well in teaching me about priorities. Changing my attitudes was not easy and did not happen quickly. Still, I feel these two experiences gave me lessons that will be valuable when, as an adult, I will need to recognize my role in a group effort, and understand that the real goal is giving the best I can give.
The charity run also encouraged me to do well and finish among the top but, like the teams, I learned in the processes of preparing and running that finishing well was not the true idea. I did run the race successfully, but the greater success was knowing that it was for a good cause, and this allowed me to more enjoy it. Once again, it seems the only difficulty was the burden to “win” I placed on myself, and getting to know the others taught me to take a different view of the experience. A specific value I gained here is the knowledge that just making a small effort for others actually creates a wonderful feeling, apart from any good it achieves. If we generated support for the cause, I also know that I consciously realized that such charity activities are efforts I will want to make in my future, because it is rewarding on a basic level. In a sense, my participation in fitness brought some of the same ideas to me, apart from how it was not connected to charity. I certainly did this to improve my physical well-being and this I achieved. The only real difficulty was “mood,” as sometimes I was less willing to do the work. Again, however, only watching others make efforts motivated me, and I think I learned how interaction, even at this mild level, is so important. Doing anything when others are involved generates motivation by itself, I believe. The others and the coaches helped me in the working out and I did learn a great deal from them about efficient fitness activity. More importantly, however, I learned how motivation is often in place by simply beginning the work. This is a perspective gained from my other activities, but I believe its being reinforced is extremely valuable, and it applies to far more than fitness.
My participation with the Environmental Society, helping the homeless, and the junior study were similar experiences for me, apart from the reality that the first two actively went to working for others. What is interesting here, however, is that the Society efforts gave me the same sense of “giving” as did the homeless volunteering, because anything going to the welfare of the community affects everything other part of it. In both cases my goals were only to assist and learn, but these were easily accomplished. Also in both cases, there was the difficulty of accepting how so much more is needed for real change, and I learned, with the perspectives of those around me, that no real change happens overnight and we can only do the best we can at the time. In a sense the junior study had similar aspects, in that I came to see that nothing is more important than focusing on the work in front of us. I will admit that, with the study, I encountered problems with other students I felt were not right for the work. I resented this to an extent and it discouraged me as well. The leader, however, helped me to realize that conditions are never ideal and, if we expect too much, all we will achieve is frustration. This encouraged me to make a stringer effort, and it also taught me – I hope – to be less judgmental of others and recognize that I am far from perfect myself.
Finally, the music and cooking classes were not experiences I expected to provide me with anything beyond increased knowledge and, hopefully, skill. To some degree, I achieved these goals, but these classes actually gave me a great deal more, and maybe because, like rugby and football, the social element was so connected to the work. The difficulties in both were mainly centered on my taking in information and applying it correctly, and I do not feel I am either a “natural” cook or musician. Still, I learned the very basic lesson that so much of what is achieved depends upon the commitment of the person. As with the fitness program, motivation and desire came with increased trying on my part. This in turn goes to the rewards when the efforts turn out well, and the real satisfaction of knowing we have learned. When I reflect on all my activities, in fact, I do not think I would want to change how I behaved within them, and only because my problems and difficulties were what enabled me to move forward. I think we learn certain lessons because we need those specific lessons, and they can only be taken in when we overcome our issues during the processes. Beyond anything else, I have the sense that interaction itself, and in any activity, is the key to learning and making the most of the experience, because there is always something more to learn about yourself.