On October 8, the TEDxFoggyBottom team had our opportunity to get to know each other at a team bonding event. We traveled to the Mount Vernon Campus SUMMIT Challenge Course at The George Washington University and participated in leadership activities through the low ropes course. Later, we continued the day indoors for team bonding activities. This first bonding trip is an exciting tradition here at TEDxFoggyBottom, and is always a highlight of the process of planning our incredible spring conference. Check out what Lexi, a first-time TEDster had to say about experiencing our tradition:
I’m a transfer student. Anyone who’s met me at GW knows this, because it’s how I introduce myself, every time – “Hi, I’m Lexi, I’m a transfer student.” It’s become a term I use as a safety blanket, a way to justify how out of place I’ve felt at GW so far. Hi, I’m Lexi – I have no friend group, I’m involved in zero campus organizations, I don’t have a job, and I have nothing to do with my free time – but I’m not that lame I swear, I’m just new.
As a new member of the TEDxFoggyBottom team, I entered our first team bonding session with that defensive epitaph firmly at the ready. The event started much like you’d expect, repeated introductions and awkwardly trying to integrate yourself into a conversation as we all stood around in the rain waiting for the events to start. But once the events did start, I found myself forgetting about my carefully rehearsed intro and fun facts about myself – but granted there wasn’t much time to talk when you were trying not to die while inching around each other on a wet log in the pouring rain. But regardless, the activities had their desired effect – after you’ve fallen on top of each other in the mud you kind of cross a line of familiarity, and suddenly talking to each other without rehearsed bullet points isn’t such of an ordeal.
As we sat down for lunch, I found myself using my “I’m a transfer student” safety blanket less and less as I talked to new people. Instead it was “Hi, I’m Lexi, and Olivia and I just almost died on a log outside, how’re you?” Not as catchy, I know, but the shared experiences gave me a way to connect with everyone that I hadn’t had before. We could have called it a day then and I would have been happy – I was part of a group and I had some new friends, which was more than I had had 2 hours before. But then is when it got real real.
Now, another thing you should know about me, is that I am hella emotional – like sometimes I’ll remember an ASPCA commercial and start crying – that level of emotional. But I’m not a big sharer, I don’t like to talk about the things that make me really emotional, maybe because I think it’s embarrassing, maybe because I think no one else will understand, or I don’t know, any of the hundred other typical reasons people don’t share things. But when I sat down with that group of people (a lot of us still not knowing each other that well), and heard people talk openly and freely about the things that affect them, the stuff that they carry through your lives, the same stuff that I carry that makes me feel separate from everyone, that opened some floodgates for me. In retrospect, it was incredibly embarrassing and I considered moving states to never face any of the people there ever again, but in the moment, it was such a cathartic experience. It was the first time at GW that I felt like I was in a safe space where I could talk and be heard and be understood, and to listen and to understand and to be connected to people.
That was what I had been missing. My “transfer student” tagline wasn’t to justify to others why I didn’t have an internship or a job, it was to justify to myself why I didn’t have a space I felt connected in. But in that moment, sitting in that circle of friends and trying not to Kim Kardashian Ugly Cry, I felt connected again, and I could just be myself again, no epitaph required.