K-Ville Tenting. For five weeks. For a ticket to the UNC-Duke game.
I had only heard of it from my neighbor, who graduated from Duke four years ago. The only phrases I remember him vaguely mentioning included, “Tight-knit community”, “so cold”, and “skipping classes for the sake of tickets”.
I didn’t really understand the purpose, or the process.
But then all of a sudden I was in a tent of twelve and I was Tent Captain and the tent was bought and the pallets were laid and the lanterns were hung and the sleeping bags were strategically placed and the tenters were in over their heads.
I learned so many things, beyond even the obvious of how to survive while camping (like the necessity of a zero-degree sleeping bag, the importance of double layering your socks and placing your pillow inside your sleeping bag, how to change inside a sleeping bag, how to sense when it’s about to rain, and how to sleep through snoring and pre games around you).
I learned that people make sacrifices. Not just any people, the people that care. The people that care about you, that care about the others in the tent, and that care about getting those tickets. All the times the boys covered for me as I went on Rush escapades. All the times I got a fever from getting too cold in the tent and felt too weak to move. All the times I had a breakdown because how was I supposed to do homework in the tent while my fingers were going numb? All the times I wanted to give up but eleven other people bleakly told me it would be worth it.
I learned that seeing people at their worst brings people together. There was that one night, you other tenters will surely remember, when we had tent checks at 2am, 4am and 6am. And it was pouring rain. Just as I was dozing off, I was startled awake by the obnoxious sound of the bullhorn calling me to check in with the line monitors to prove that I in fact had been sleeping in the tent as told. After being thoroughly soaked, I sunk back into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep again, only to be awoken once more. And then two hours later for a third time. I didn’t get any sleep that night. (And I cursed the line monitors the entire walk to check in. All three times. There and back. And I am not ashamed to say that.) But throughout that terrible night, I saw my eleven friends at their worst. They were tired, frustrated, angry, disappointed, confused, and half asleep. But when I sunk back into my sleeping bag after the last check, I laughed. I laughed because I realized I was insane. That my friends were, too. That this entire experience was insane. But that I loved it. I loved knowing that no matter what, we weren’t going to give up. That no matter what, we had each other’s backs. I loved knowing that my best friend would shake me awake to make sure I didn’t miss a tent check, that my friends weren’t afraid to drag our drunk friend to the check if that’s what it meant for him to be counted present, that even in the rain and even during the third check, we could do this. And we did.
It might seem insane, and since tenting made me insane, maybe it is. But this whole tenting experience made me feel like a parent looking after a newborn. My entire life revolved around the tent, around making sure the tent was okay, that there was a plan for the tent, that other people could care for the tent when I couldn’t. And making this metaphor is when I realized I had learned the biggest lesson of all: that in no activity in my entire life had I ever allowed one commitment to have my full and undivided attention. In no activity in my entire life had I constantly poured myself into making sure it could be the best it could be, that the task would be completed. Except for tenting.
So it got me thinking. What would this campus be like if we poured ourselves into every activity the way we pour ourselves into tenting? Well, first, it wouldn’t be possible. We can’t be involved in everything and do all of these things perfectly (See, like, all my previous blog posts.) But if each of us chose one or two extracurriculars and centered our life around these activities, how would this campus change? For the better, that’s for sure. There’d be no more last minute emails, or rushed meetings, or missing deadlines or breakdowns about being overcommitted. There’d be a greater sense of accomplishment, of dedication, of pride and joy at the completion of a task.
I think I know why Duke lets this whole tenting thing happen year after year. Because, really, it’s all about teaching us so many lessons, not just about how to survive in 25 degree weather, but how to be more devoted, more committed, more dedicated, and how to love your friends amidst shitty—I mean reallllllly shitty—circumstances.