Sailing teaches an essential life skill: balance. Balancing your weight on the water. Balancing your listening skills with your immediate intuition. Balancing the pull on the ropes and sail. There is a reason why so many idioms and inspirational phrases take from the sport.
And it is a sport. Leisure sailing is riding waves and wind passively. Race sailing is harnessing waves and wind in efforts to move faster than your opponent.
This semester I had my first experience sailing in the ocean. We usually practice on Lake Henrick which is small for a lake, therefore extremely small for sailing (which usually occurs in a bay or cove of water). Its perimeter is no more than 3 miles of tree-lined edges ideal for a photo op, less than for consistent winds. The trees shelter the water, and wind indiscriminately passes through the bulk of the forest. In sailing, this is described as, “shifty winds.” Sailing in the ocean makes for more consistent wakes and winds. It is always pounding at you.I was jostled, thrust, and lifted 4-5 feet in air in the ocean. A sailboat can do amazing things given the right circumstances. Though we turtled-- our boat flipped over, I enjoyed the rush of it all. Having to nosedive into the water and attempt to flip the boat back vertically made me feel so athletic, strong.. I never thought I'd ever have such an exhilarating experience.
I'm not yet comfortable taking someone else out on the waters, but I am willing and excited to try my hand at taking a boat out alone. Perhaps in the Spring
Perhaps an immodest observation, but I've grown up in a world where I've had many positive interactions based on my looks. I remember visiting New York when I was around 10 with my dad. In the middle of Times Square, I alone was selected to have my photo taken and displayed on the massive screens over-hanging the buildings. Later that afternoon, I sought lunch in a cafe capping the Square, and my Hispanic server shouted to his co-worker, "ella es bella" grinning and gesturing his chin toward me. These are but 2 of many stochastic experiences dotting my youth. The dots connect via my self-esteem in looks; I am happy with my appearance.
Veering from a personal standpoint brings me to reflect on beauty in a macroscopic, human level. Why is beauty so important?
Many sociologists and modern anthropologists debate this question. But a biological perspective offers unique insight that is perhaps less fickle.
Common biological tabloids refer to the golden ratio (symmetrical features) indicating health and baby-like characteristics indicating fertility. The reverse applies as some less common and less preferred features divulge negative qualities like disease or poor health.
Jill Helms, Professor of Surgery at Stanford introduces the idea that beauty is so exclusively warped up in one singular body part: your face. Your face is inextricably tied to your identity, and that places a lot of weight on the aesthetic of that part. Therein lies the injustice. Fortunately, the world in which I surround myself, and the world I believe in demonstrates that the attractiveness of one's face (a look) isn't all that matters.
This year I've taken a much less shy approach to trying new experiences. Growing up I'd always sit in awe when I saw someone doing a sport or performance onstage, but I never thought I'd be the one to take part in the act. Money and time were scarce. Still, I enjoyed my short moments of glory; in youth I loved chorus, the spelling bee, and award ceremonies.
In college, I find myself more adventurous. I love watching dance and performances involving the body. So last week I took this intrigue and explored it myself onstage! By belly dancing.
I had taken beginner's ballet last year, and actually loved the rigidity of it. So much practice and strict form. Because its precise method, I found ballet very therapeutic. Belly dance is definitely more flirtatious and whimsical. As performance night approached, I spent all of my extra time practicing by yellow light near my study desk. I wanted to perfect it and feel confident onstage. I was proud when I found my friends loving the performance and saying they were inspired by my sass and personality with dance. Little did they know it was my first time performing!
Dance is a wonderful form of exercise. It teaches me patience, to be comfortable in my own skin, and the profound effect practice can have on confidence.