Authentic Eagles: Nicoline Bach on Challenging Yourself

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality  can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working towards being more authentic.

Nicoline Bach, A&S ’15

This year has already been a whirlwind; I went from living abroad and traveling weekly to working a full time job to running two half marathons to climbing a mountain. In one word, it’s been epic. But to backtrack to last fall, I was running from “pillar to post,” as my mom says, and my days consisted of going from one thing to the next; I had meetings, practice, study groups, coffee dates, what have you. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed to say the least and the things I was doing weren’t giving me as much joy as they should have, mostly because I didn’t let them. I became easily frustrated because I felt like I was spread too thin and came to the end of the semester in a desperate sprint for it all to be over.

Flash-forward to me sitting on a flight to Madrid, where I would study abroad, and I told myself one thing: do what you want to do, and make sure you’re happy with it. So I gave myself small challenges that ended up growing into much bigger ones. I said I would actually read for pleasure and I ended up flying through 10 books in 5 months, an unusual pace for me. I said I would train for a half marathon and I ended up loving it so much that I ran two. I said I would get a “real” job while also training to go mountaineering and I ended up summiting a mountain that I had grown up staring at in awe.

Not to say that any of these endeavors were easy, nor that they’re for everyone. But what I found to make things more fulfilling was to ask myself “what do I want to do today?” instead of “what do I have to do today?” And more often than not, my goals aligned with my desires. When thinking about whether I wanted to train for the Madrid Half Marathon, I wasn’t sure I could actually do it, but decided I wanted to find out. I’ve never really been a long distance runner, but I was surprised when I found myself going for lengthy runs almost every afternoon. The race was an amazing way to prove to myself what I could do when I put my mind to it and to learn more about what I actually enjoy.

A year ago, I don't think I asked myself what I enjoyed enough. Instead, I saw what everyone else was doing and, in a way, just followed suit. At first, focusing on my own wants may seem selfish, and to a certain extent it completely is. How fortunate am I to be able to ask that kind of a question. But at the same time, I think it was an incredible way of getting to know myself better and articulating what I actually enjoy versus what everyone else enjoys, or what everyone else thinks I might or should enjoy.

My climbing experience was a fulfilment of a life-long dream. I summited Mount Rainier, a dormant volcano just south of Seattle. It’s a three day climb and involved high altitude, long hours and early mornings. We came to points where it took a lot of focus and I could really only concentrate on what was at hand. It turned into a sort of meditative practice; focusing on exactly what I was doing, right there, and loving every bit of it.

Soon enough, we were walking across the crater at the summit, taking pictures of our wind-burnt faces with the sunrise in the background. Regardless of the fact that I was on a mountain, the opportunity to be solely focused on the present in such a way is, sadly, so rare. I’ve always strived to be more present, but it’s easier to say and a lot harder to put into practice. That’s exactly how I felt a year ago; I wanted to enjoy each day wholly, but found myself instead struggling with the things I had hoped would make me happy.

I haven’t found the answer to this complex, but I do know that I wouldn’t have climbed to the top of that mountain or explored fantastically different cities or felt the joy of reaching a finish line had I not asked myself and allowed myself to want to do so. I’ve found that sometimes it takes just that one question of “what do I want to do”, not only for dreams to become reality, but also to better understand myself and be present in the midst of the happenings of my day. Looking ahead to the ever-looming post-BC life, I continue to ask myself where I want to be in a year. I know I’m looking for my next mountain, metaphoric or not.