Growing up, my family had a lot of different animals, but perhaps one of the most memorable to me was the big ram we called Evander. Evander was a mean old ram and wouldn’t hesitate to let you know it. My brothers and I were terrified of Evander, as we had all been run down on more than one occasion. When we were feeling especially brave, we would play a game of chicken with him, but these games almost always started with a dare (who can back down from a double dog dare?) and ended with one of us in tears and an unhealthy amount of bruising. While we liked to think of it as a game, it didn’t do much to change the fact that we were still scared to death of him.
One day, all the sheep had managed to get loose, probably by some negligence involving the chain keeping the gate in place (hey, don’t look at me, I wasn’t the last one to lock them up). They had meandered down into one of the neighbor’s fields and after several hours we had rounded up all of them but Evander, so we split up and had a search party for him. After a couple hours, I stumbled into a field a couple miles from home and sitting at the edge of the field was my brother, lying on top of a sheep. As I approached, I could see he was covered in sweat and breathing pretty heavily — both he and the sheep were. I will never forget the look of pride he had, and when I asked why he sat there instead of bringing the sheep home, he simply replied: “I wanted to savor this moment.”
Upon being found, Evander had apparently charged my brother (didn’t see that one coming), and having few other choices, my brother was forced to fight back. After what was recounted as an epic battle, my brother had managed to down the big guy and then lay on top of him to keep him down. Or maybe it was to teach him a lesson. The story depended on if my mom was listening or not and definitely had nothing to do with the fact that she might have loved those sheep more than she loved us. After the incident, Evander’s pride was so hurt he never bothered my brother again. Shortly after, I too downed Evander in order to partake in the benefit of not getting run down anymore. This was my first experience that I can remember stepping out of my comfort zone and ultimately becoming a better person for it.
Flash forward to when I was accepted to attend the University of Michigan, and I found myself feeling a very familiar fear. I was terrified of going so far from the place I called home and leaving behind everyone and everything I knew. When it came down to making the final college decision, I liked to tell people it was a money matter. With the scholarship help from the University, it simply made sense. Deep down, I knew it had a lot more to do with facing my fears and forcing myself to dive headfirst into something about which I knew very little. This allowed me to take a huge step outside of my comfort zone.
I remember thinking about the story of Evander whenever I began to doubt myself, thinking about the pride and feeling of accomplishment I saw in my brother and later experienced myself. As a first-generation student, I have had to step out of my comfort zone time and time again. Many times I have found myself in a very unfamiliar situation and each time I take that extra step, I become a slightly better person for it.
As evolving students, we must always try to push ourselves. We need to face our fears, try new things and step outside that comfy circle we often find ourselves becoming complacent in — and not just when it’s convenient for us, but whenever we have the opportunity. Without challenge, there will be no growth, and without growth, how can we possibly expect to create and contribute to the change and progress we wish to see? Because I faced my fears and stepped outside my comfort zone, I was able to achieve a new sense of pride I wouldn’t change for the world. A Wolverine pride.
Lucas Dean can be reached at email@example.com.