For our 10th Conversation Corner, we are adding another element to the equation that is Dear Diary. Drumroll please...this week's interviewee is a soon-to-be graduate from the Class of 2021.
Finally, it is time to interview someone who has been on my list of interviewees since day one of Dear Diary. I waited until the 10th Conversation Corner to do this interview because I wanted to establish the community we serve: any and all post-grads, but even further, future post-grads as well. I couldn't think of a better first member of the Class of 2021 to interview than @jxix99. In 2020, I have found myself having more virtual conversations than ever before, and to my surprise having regular virtual conversations with people who I did not even do so with before the pandemic. Like, I FaceTime my mom all the time, but did you find yourself reaching out to someone new outside of your regular routine? That person for me was Jimmy. He may be my boyfriend's brother, but I'm extremely lucky to also call him a friend.
I talk about ending my senior year of college in a pandemic being hard, but ending your junior year in a pandemic and starting your senior year in one is even more difficult. Yet, you wouldn't get that vibe from talking to @jxix99 because of his positive energy.
As a student-athlete (watch out @TheOlympics), this year has been extremely different than he expected it to be, but Jimmy shares some advice on how he's making the most of his senior year.
As our constant disclaimer, the Conversation Corner has one rule: it will always be real. No B.S., because quite frankly there is enough of that already on the internet.
So here we go...
DD: Quote you live by?
JC: “Hope for the best, be prepared for the worse. Life is shocking, but you must never appear to be shocked. For no matter how bad it is, it could be worse and no matter how good it is, it could be better.”- Maya Angelou
“They can beat me, but they will not beat my outfit.” ⁃ Rihanna
DD: Explain those quotes a little bit more for me?
JC: “The first is a more serious one that I have really taken to as I transitioned into collegiate rowing but (I) have found that it is super applicable to me in all aspects of life. I like this quote because it’s not strictly negative or pessimistic, and yet it is also not naive or arrogant. It is just realistic. This quote sets you up to really enjoy life and open yourself to the best of what life has to offer, but also to be prepared for the lows that are inevitable.”
“The second quote is more light-hearted, it's from Rihanna and I think it is just so savage and authentic. I like this quote because everyone feels their best when they look their best; inside and out. Yet also, it speaks to just being yourself, know(ing) who that is, and owning it. I like the idea (of) wearing what you want as an expression of yourself and on top of that if it makes you feel bad a*s then wear it. You do not need to adhere to anything other than what makes you happy and secure.”
DD: What has it been like to be a senior in college at this moment in time?
JC: “You know, it’s not great by any stretch but also not (at) all-time worst position you can be in. It is sad to have such a half a*sed end of college experience. Normally by now, I would be finishing up my final fall of rowing at Wisconsin and outside of that getting to truly enjoy this final time with my friends, but that's not the case. The best way to describe it is that you constantly just feel behind on work and are playing a constant game of catch up. This is mixed with the uncertainty of what is to come.”
“One thing I really do not enjoy is when older people tell (you) all the things you 'should' be doing right now. I know they are trying to be sympathetic but personally, when you hear that over and over again you just want to be like, 'I get it! Thank you.' Overall it's an unfortunate experience, but I think my class is persistent and hardworking and will carry on the way that we need to, to get it done.”
DD: As a student-athlete, how has this year changed your experience?
JC: “It is a completely different experience. Our team went 180 days without having a single in-person team practice, which is just absurd for us. Prior to that, I think I had maybe two weeks as the longest stretch of not having practice. The whole process of practicing is completely different and we adhere to strict health guidelines that have been put in place by the athletic department. We can only row small boats which are singles or pairs (so one or two people) but normally our team strictly row 8+s, which is eight people plus one coxswain (my position), but that has been deemed too high risk. We normally travel to two big races in the fall, one in Boston, MA, and the other in Princeton, NJ, but both were canceled. We are going at this season with a very open mind and trying to do as much as we can that will benefit our training plan, while also being safe.”
“What (has been) interesting is that being an athlete has helped me reframe a lot of the negativity that is going on right now. If you think back to the quote from above, we are always taught to hope for the best but expect the worst. So, with this in mind, it has been really cool to see the resiliency of my teammates and friends and how we’ve looked out for one another even when we were not seeing each other every day. It honestly makes me more eager and more fired up for the inevitable day when we will get back training.”
DD: You're so positive (the main reason I've been dying to hear your opinion and experience), so how have you continued to push through during tough times?
JC: “Haha, I'm flattered that you think I’m positive. You know honestly as does for everyone, emotions come in waves and I feel (like in) these days the troughs feel lower and lower, but I always try to be very mindful of that fall and putting in the mental work to mitigate it.”
“I love randomly calling people when I get the chance, which is something that I used to do before Covid just because my high school friends and I would go weeks without actually hearing each other's voices. I love randomly calling someone who I want to talk to and just checking in. It doesn’t have to be some 30-minute heart to heart but even a 3-minute check-in really turns my mood around.”
“Also I personally love driving, so when I know I want to be alone but need to think in an open positive environment, I will get in my car and just drive places. If you don’t have a car that's fine, substitute it with a walk. I know that sounds so corny and just like 'meh' but I swear by it. If you have some good music, (Rihanna, Frank Ocean, Ariana, SZA, etc.) and an open place to think your mood will completely shift. You can even put on a dope outfit and make the experience that much better.”
“The last thing that I do that has really caused me to be able to work on my mindfulness and stay positive is getting a notebook. I was challenged to start doing this by a coach of mine and it was meant to be a quick reflection every day about something that happened at practice. All I had to do was write one thing that I did, wanted to remember, or even felt about the previous practice. It literally took me two seconds every day and it made me so much better at my sport. I then just started doing it with my days as well and I have to say that it is such a good feeling to be able to write something down and then walk away from it. On top of that, it does not have to be negative, you can literally write down anything and all it causes you to do is reflect.”
“Disclosure, it does not work for everyone but I've been doing it for about 2 years and I really like it.”
DD: Advice for fellow seniors in the Class of 2021?
JC: “Take three deep breaths. Let's take a shot. And we are going to be ok.”
“I think it's really important to stop asking 'Why?' and more 'What can I do?' It stems from something my coach says to me all the time, 'Worry about yourself.' At the end of the day all you can do is worry about yourself, so keep that in mind and just try to be the best you can be.”
“Also, you don’t have to like (or even be nice to) everyone but be respectful. It's 2020 just be respectful it is not hard.”
DD: What would you tell your younger self?
JC:“Making mistakes is OK. As long as you don’t make them twice because that looks sloppy.”
“Stop doubting your resiliency, because you really can get through anything you put your mind to.”
“You will eventually cut your hair…but it will be for a good cause.”
DD: Now for our final question of each interview, what now?
JC: “You know ever since I started reading these from the beginning I would always read this question and internally ask it to myself. Note that I never thought I would actually get to do one, so this is pretty dope. Moving forward I’m going to start cashing in on relationships and the connections that I have made in and out of rowing over the years. I really have no idea what comes next but that doesn’t bother me, because I do not plan on just sitting dead in the water waiting for something to come save me. Not knowing what I want to do is fine, but I plan to figure it out by talking to my network and coming up with options. I still have a year of eligibility to row and I have other options in that arena, so for the time being I’m going to try and figure out how I can incorporate that into my life moving forward but above all continuing to be advantageous, kind, respectful and authentically myself.”