From rowing to writing: How City College helped me find my passion

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Adam+McDonald+%28Five+from+the+right%29%2C+and+his+teammates+celebrate+a+first+place+win+during+the+lightweight+eight%2B+event+during+the+2019+USRowing+Southwest+Youth+Regional+Championships.

Adam McDonald (Five from the right), and his teammates celebrate a first place win during the lightweight eight+ event during the 2019 USRowing Southwest Youth Regional Championships.

Adam McDonald, Staff Writer

The one-year-long quarantine forced me to discover a new passion outside of sports, and I found it in writing.

In the series finale of “The Office,” Andy Bernard says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve actually left them.”

For me, those “good ol’ days” were playing sports in high school, particularly rowing.

I started rowing in the first place to see if I could meet the challenges posed by a totally new sport.

I wanted to try something new and different, and rowing gave me everything I was looking for. 

I found a community to belong to, a way to test my limits and an escape from all the stress of homework and grades. The world faded away when I was on the water.

During a race, focusing on sucking in enough air and performing took precedence over the math test problems I couldn’t solve. 

City College has no rowing team, so once I graduated high school I needed to find something new to fill the void athletics had left.

Without rowing, I remembered how many positive things I’d taken for granted while playing sports—the mental clarity, the fitness and the sense of purpose I found in rowing were all suddenly gone.

I had no way to escape from everyday life, and I forgot what it felt like to put everything I had into a focused goal.  

Then the pandemic came, and ripped even the slightest possibility of finding a replacement for rowing out from under my feet. I found myself sitting in quarantine with a growing gut, estranged from my friends and without an escape from stress.

The “good ol’ days” of sunny workouts on the water seemed like dreams I had a long time ago, the intense, focused practices with water splashing and sweat streaming in my eyes were gone.

It seemed like the elation of winning a race, the pride of making it through yet another excruciating workout and the camaraderie of my team would never come again. 

As time crawled by during the pandemic I continued my search for a new outlet. It was challenging. From working out alone in my garage to surfing and getting a job, I looked everywhere for that new passion.

Writing has been the only success I’ve had in finding a substitute for athletics.

A strange thing happens when I sit in front of a keyboard. The outside world begins to go silent. 

It doesn’t matter what I write as long as I am putting my thoughts down on paper. That alone clears my head and centers my focus.

My heart beats a little faster, my breath a bit shorter and I can challenge myself with my own words.

By seeing my ideas in writing I think clearer and can distill the meaning out of what I’m trying to say. 

The idyllic perspective I had of rowing has changed over time as well. It’s become apparent that view was a function of hindsight. When looking back I tend to forget the many difficult hours of rowing along with its own set of challenges.

While I’ve opened myself up to the possibility of rowing again at university when I transfer, I can’t help but wonder: are the “good ol’ days” the means, or the end?

The real “good ol’ days” are now. Writing may not ultimately replace athletics but it offers an opportunity to reflect on why the long, challenging days will be the fond memories.

Writing allows me to escape for a moment.