Written Senior Perspectives: Erin Walk

Written Senior Perspectives: Erin Walk

The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.

Erin Walk, Women's Lightweight Crew
Hometown: Chevy Chase, Md.
Concentration: Engineering Sciences
House Affiliation: Pforzheimer

Any college athlete can tell you that early wake-ups and practices are par for the course, but I always saw them as a necessary evil rather than something to rejoice in. In fact, I found something truly odious in getting on an erg first thing in the morning, and for most of college I set my alarm for the last possible moment. In the rush to arrive on time, I’d inhale a protein bar and some coffee while speed-walking from the shuttle stop to the boathouse. This year, however, something changed. Every Tuesday morning I leap out of bed when my alarm goes off at 5:45, ready for my favorite hour of the week.

If you ever walk into Peets at 6am, you’ll probably find a group of bleary-eyed lightweight rowers doing work, downing espresso shots, and otherwise preparing for the day. When I arrive at 6:20, one of my teammates looks up “You’re late, I thought maybe you weren’t coming today.” I laugh and reply that the shuttle was off schedule. Just being in their presence relaxes me and makes me feel strong. On days when I doubt myself on the erg, or question my ability to perform, I look to them as a reminder of what I’m capable of. Though all sports have a team focus, there’s something about rowing that cements us all together as a unit. Maybe it’s the synergy that happens in the boat when everyone is working in harmony, or how the pursuit of team perfection relies on supporting each individual in reaching their full potential. There’s a recognition that, in the boat, competing personalities and differing reactions to defeat and failure, no matter how well intentioned, can create rifts and disagreements which interfere with constructively moving forward. In this setting, I have learned the importance of holding myself accountable for what I personally am able to change, rather than fixating on what I wish my teammates had done differently. By holding myself to a higher standard, offering constructive criticism and leading by example, I am able to work towards new goals and confront new obstacles in a way that unifies rather than separates certain individuals, be it in class or on the water.

About a week ago, a few days before my Senior Day and our last regatta on the Charles River, one of my teammates posted a picture of us celebrating our first class of seniors four years before. Looking at that picture it suddenly hit me that, on that day, my freshman year, I thought I would never be in their place. This sentiment wasn’t because I couldn’t conceive of graduating college, but because I genuinely believed that I would no longer be rowing by then. Thinking about that girl, a little lost and lonely, who had been injured for most of freshman year, I’m so grateful that she found the courage and perseverance to come back. Rowing, and most importantly my teammates, have taught me how to work hard, how to hold myself to a higher standard, and how to put the team before myself. As I plan to make big and often intimidating transitions in my life- from entering the work world to shifting between areas of study- I know that I can rely on these lessons and these individuals who never give up faith in me even when I doubt myself. And if I forget, I know they’ll still be there for me any morning next year, 6am in Peets.