I’ve always seen myself as ‘just average’. I’m not terrible at life, but I’m not exactly spectacular at anything either. This summer, I’ve decided I’m done with that defeated attitude.
During this DukeEngage program, I’m actively working on different aspects of myself and getting closer to someone I want to be — even if it’s just raising the level from ‘mediocre’ to ‘alright, I guess’. DC gives me so many opportunities to work on things I want to. The 3 specific activities I’m going to dig into in this blog — my internship, badminton training, and Muay Thai (Thai boxing) – are all about building self-confidence and becoming a more well-rounded person.
I may not be interning at Google like my computer science friend, or working at the Deutsche Bank like my finance friend, but my work in DC is important in a different way and I’m finding my own kind of fulfillment.
One of the attitudes I’m trying to get over, which also keeps me in the perpetual ‘I’m just mediocre’ mindset, is comparing myself to others. I’d stalk my friends’ LinkedIn profiles and scroll through their list of 15 employable skills and relevant work experience, while my profile only states, “I speak English, Thai and Mandarin”. Even that is a partial lie because I barely speak five sentences in Mandarin. Now, I tell myself that though I may have less experience and different ‘desirable skills’, at least I’m doing something about it. In my own time, I’m taking online ArcGIS courses. I’m interning at Anacostia Riverkeeper, a small nonprofit that aims to restore and connect the community to the Anacostia river in DC. I mainly do policy research, investigating how other polluted rivers in the USA were cleaned up. I’m learning how to produce summaries, communicate in an office environment, and even write grants. I may not be interning at Google like my computer science friend, or working at the Deutsche Bank like my finance friend, but my work in DC is important in a different way and I’m finding my own kind of fulfillment.
A more personal goal is to get better at badminton, and being in DC gives me that opportunity. I regret not training and trying harder on the only sport I enjoy; now, I’m stuck in the awkward position where I’m clearly better than the average person, but in tournaments real players would casually wipe the floor with me. I was hesitant to get the Duke Badminton team jacket, because I felt like I hadn’t earned it — like I didn’t deserve to wear it. This summer, the first way of getting over this childhood regret is to literally make up for it. I’m now taking badminton classes every weekend, always putting in 110% even when I’m visibly shaking and the ground is slippery from my sweat. But another, perhaps more important way, is that I’m telling myself “it’s okay.” It’s okay to not be good at something I enjoy. As long as I’m trying my best, it’s okay.
Lastly, DC has helped improve my self-confidence by giving me the chance to try out a completely new hobby: Muay Thai. I’ve never before launched my full weight at something, kicking, punching, elbowing as viciously as I can, and WOW it is so satisfying. Combat training is way different than other types of work outs I’ve ever done, and I’m feeling better about my body than I have in a long time.
For me, this DukeEngage experience is more than my internship — it’s about trying to work on myself, and accept my shortcomings. My efforts have already yielded a badminton training partner I really like, a closer relationship to my friend with whom I’m learning Muay Thai, and very, very sore muscles. I’m enjoying my office and learning more about the USA’s sewers than I ever thought I would. And I hope that after this summer, despite my skill shortcomings, I’ll be able to walk into Wilson Gym proudly rocking my Duke Badminton jacket.