Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Conlan Olson

I've noticed that people on FOP trips often talk about "the real world." I don't think anyone is exactly sure what this means – is life with cars and beds and running water more "real" than living in the woods or a cabin? What is "real," and why do "unreal" experiences like FOP trips or being an undergrad so often feel so impactful? I'm thinking a lot about this these days. We've all been abruptly evicted from our lives on campus and thrust into what FOPpers or undergrads might call "the real world." But it's not quite the real world, right? With half the world sitting at home and the other half fighting for the lives of others or themselves, this hardly feels like the usual picture of what the real world should look like. I've realized that, for me, the lack of reality is exactly what is making these days so challenging. Reality, for me, is having goals and timelines. It's having structures, whether they are something to embrace or something to resist. It's seeing your self in relation to others' selves. It's feeling good or bad or satisfied or frustrated. This is not the world that I'm experiencing right now.

To me, one of the most important things student organizations can do right now is provide a sense of reality to students. FOP, despite not knowing what our program will look like in the coming months, is continuing training new leaders as if things were normal. I hope this gives people concrete goals and progressions to follow. Sometimes, even if you don't know where you'll be in a month, learning to tie a knot is satisfyingly...real. For me, at least, FOP training has given me a sense of community and allowed me a feeling of connection to other people even as we're all in our own unrealities. On the rowing team, though we're missing the heart-pounding reality of racing, we're sharing our workouts with each other, enjoying the solidity of training plans, heart-rate zones, and the pavement under our running feet. Maybe the most impactful thing for me, though, has been with an organization that, on campus, would take up much less time than others: the climbing team. We video call three times a week, say hi and catch up, and then do a core workout together. We hold a plank, each time 15 seconds longer than the last. This consistent march in 15 second intervals has given me a piece, however small, of something real.


This page has paths:

This page references: