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I learned so much during this ACE experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have an experience like this. I had plenty of challenges that I didn’t completely expect but also a lot of growth. To start off with, a big challenge was the length of time and how I perceived it. I have never been on a trip for as long as three weeks, but I never anticipated it being much of an issue because I knew we’d be busy and locked in on what we were doing. To my surprise, early on, I started to become a little homesick and began to miss my standard home comforts. This surprised me because I have always considered myself pretty easy going and not too worried about stuff I can’t control. But there I was, counting the days as they passed, still enjoying what we do on a daily basis and emerging into the community, but once I was by myself, I’d often think about going home.

I started to understand how to truly be fully immersed in every moment, and how much discipline that requires.

– Michael Bennett, Duke Men’s Track and Field

This led me to a very important takeaway in my ACE journey. I started to understand how to truly be fully immersed in every moment, and how much discipline that requires. I tried to only think about what I was doing presently, not about what I’m doing next or the goal down the line, or what I did early, strictly what I was doing at that moment. This was a challenging but fun experiment because it made me listen to my surroundings better and worry less about comfort. It allowed me to be okay with a little discomfort and not worry about when whatever we were doing was over, and what was next. It also taught me a lot about my mind, as I remembered a takeaway from a book I read. It taught me that all of a person’s fears are based in either the past or the future, never in the present. I was fearful because of a past experience or of something to come, but once I started to throw that out, I realized how much fear dissipates.

After realizing this, I stopped counting days as much, and started to just enjoy and breathe in everything I was experiencing at a time. This made everything much more pleasant, and the last week in particular was filled with a lot more joy. I started to understand much more about the purpose of the community members we were working with and why we were actually doing the things we were doing, rather than just mindlessly doing what I was told. Overall, this experience was wonderful, and I plan to work on staying present in all parts of my life from here on out.

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