Joe Kind: A Guy

by Joe Kind | 1/7/16 9:43pm

I spent my New Year’s Eve at home with my drunk friends — Kathy and Anderson — on CNN squabbling with one another. I, sober and stressed by packing woes, watched in awe as the ball dropped in Times Square. Would I ever be there in person? Hell no. I can only imagine myself standing in the same place for hours at a time, having to pee discreetly in a plastic water bottle or suffer the consequences of holding it in, wondering “Why in the world would I ever commit to such a heinous act?” Maybe I could do it with the sweet coddling of a significant other, in the hopes of making it on America’s home screens while making out. Or, better yet, making out while simultaneously showing off my Confused Baby Boy adorned with layers and layers of fleece. “He is so cute and cuddly,” America will think. Well, in this case, America is stupid. Babies deserve better.

I like to pretend these kinds of things.

Indeed, 2016 is shaping up to contain lots of pretending -— pretending to be living in a big city apartment, dingy as can be; pretending to be working in an office; pretending to have a job at all; pretending to graduate…

I am a senior. Hear me complain yet again about my job search. I honestly am over the struggle of it all. Is it possible to ever admit enjoying parts of the application process? In my time applying for entry-level positions — which is all of a couple of months, let’s not forget — I have learned a lot about myself and my aspirations for my future. The process empowers me to think beyond what I thought I could do, or what I thought I would do. I don’t see a reason to be so bitter about that.

Maybe it’s just that the light is around the corner, finally. At least I think it is. The process certainly creates a tunnel vision of course; maybe I’m just seeing the flashlights of other lost souls.

2016 is finally upon us — insert several exclamation points here exclaiming false enthusiasm.

I think this calendar year presents more unanswered questions than any previous collection of 365 days in my life. And for obvious reasons. But even the same questions considered at the start of each year seem to carry more weight than in years past. Take the classic — where will I be for the holidays this year. Before college, this question usually meant, where will my family be on vacation during the holidays this year, if at all. During college, this question turned into, where will I physically be for Thanksgiving (because I have had to return early to campus each year for swim training instead of spending the six weeks of break at home). After college, this question only evokes more uncertainties. Will my future job, assuming I find one, even allow me to take a holiday break? Will the break be long enough to justify holiday travel at all during the holidays? Will I be making enough money to afford a plane ticket home?

All these uncertainties breed an unprecedented sense of urgency.

I would think that I know all about urgency. My strongest events in swimming have always been the sprints. One may even argue that, in my short career in the pool, the sprint events have been my only events. But I digress.

You can therefore imagine the confusion running through my head when my high school swim coaches told me I needed to learn how to swim with urgency.

I will always remember that conversation. We were at an outdoor swimming pool on a rainy Saturday. I had just finished a race and had done only okay. I approached my coaches for feedback. They explained that beyond all the mechanics, beyond all the technical elements that comprise a strong race, I needed to change my mental attitude. I can’t just swim through the motions. I needed urgency.

Flash forward four years later, almost to the day. It was a Monday, the last week of 2015. I check my email, as I tend to do at the start of my mornings, to see that a memorial service was being planned for Tate in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

My teammate and good friend lost his life too soon, as I had learned the day before. When I read the email on that groggy Monday morning, after resting on a poor night’s sleep, I got out of bed almost immediately. Something inside me had shifted into an autopilot. I reached down to the floor of my bedroom for my computer and began to peruse the internet for flights to Nashville. I didn’t consult my parents or my sister or my friends. I didn’t think about any of the costs or the burdens. They would all be dealt with later. An hour later, after several phone calls, I emerged with a rearranged itinerary and a renewed sense of self. I was going.I know what urgency feels like.

Tate was a terrific guy, for those who did not know him. He was precisely the kind of person that made me happy to attend Dartmouth — someone who challenged me to be better, in and out of the pool; someone who kept an open mind and was driven by a strong sense of character; someone who you always wanted in your corner because you believed he would never leave you behind.

I woke up early on Jan. 1 for my flight to Nashville, with a clear head. Thank you, Kathy and Anderson, for making me laugh yet another year in a row. 2016, here I come. Ready or not.