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Penned with Zen: The things we could be doing

TNH Columnist

Published: Friday, January 31, 2014

Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01

Two summers ago I met Andrew, a UNH alum, at a bike race. He went on to podium that race, and began to gain attention as an accomplished bike racer. His hard work ethic and candor caught the attention of C.F. Racing, a premier racing team in Massachusetts. The name C.F. comes from cystic fibrosis, a chronic lung disease that the team promotes treating through regular and rigorous exercise. C.F. Racing recruited Andrew and last July he was in their uniform and lining up for his first professional-level race in downtown Exeter, N.H. That race he ended up crashing out and snapping his collarbone. With a season-ending injury like that, he disappeared from the bike racing scene for a while.

Fast-forward to late January at a fundraiser event in modest theater in Arlington, Mass. Here the UNH team and the Boston area bike community came to watch Andrew’s documentary detailing the challenges some of his teammates face racing with cystic fibrosis. It was a pretty great film. OK, it’s not going to win an Oscar this year, and it’s probably better if Andrew sticks with engineering as a full-time career, but it was still impressive seeing about five months of volunteering and hard work come together as a documentary.

Andrew traveled with the team to get racing footage and tracked down lung experts to explain the therapeutic benefits of exercise for treating cystic fibrosis. He managed to get a composer to create a film soundtrack and got friends and family to help edit his footage. In five months’ time, Andrew went from zero filming experience to putting together a professional documentary that both earned money and brought an informed awareness to the public. Not bad for having your arm in a sling for about half of the time. 

I do not think Andrew needed to get his collarbone broken to invest energy into a project out of his comfort zone, but it ended up being a nice pretext. You can imagine it was more than a little frustrating to be taken out midway through his first elite racing season by a major injury. Instead of just sitting on the sidelines while recovering, Andrew decided there were other ways he could be of benefit to C.F. Racing and being involved in the bike racing community. The great takeaway is how Andrew applied his time and energy to a task completely unfamiliar to himself to get involved and benefit others. By now, I hope your reading of this anecdotal retelling you have realized I’m trying to impress the same onto you.

It’s the start of a new year, a new semester. It’s the start of a new day too, if you want a more indiscriminate reason to try something new. Or, for a more significant reason, it’s the last undergraduate semester for some of us in college. The end of an era, as the saying goes. How will you make the best of it? Are you even making good use of the time now? The lot we are dealt with in life varies, but it is your own responsibility to at least do something with it.

This is not a call to make another start-of-the-new-year resolution. Consider it a great opportunity to find or explore something new— a one-time endeavor to invest your effort into something different, either for others or for your own interest. Community service is a common one for people, such as volunteering time for after-school programs directing sports or donating time working at a non-profit organization. An enjoyable option can be to attain a new skill, either through a hall social or an event in the Seacoast area, and use it to benefit others. You can learn how to take cheap Pillsbury dough and use it to make cinnamon donuts for a bake sale. These activities can develop into lifelong passions and can become great prospects- relevant, tangential or completely random. 

You can come up with plenty of reasons to motivate yourself: broaden your horizons, add a nice extracurricular to your resume, meet someone cute – remember, two weeks until Single’s Appreciation Day – break out of the usual monotony and so on. One that is worth adding is to help others. UNH has done a lot of great work in the Seacoast area promoting business, education and community. It does not hurt to help the university by getting involved and donating some time and energy to the local community. Or do not worry about having a reason first. Go in or out of your comfort zone, learn to do something new, and then see what happens. You might pleasantly surprise yourself.

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