For my culture of wellness project I decided to tackle the slackline in a community setting. My father used to slackline and since I have always found a desire to learn how but have never actually pushed myself to. I think in many scenarios starting something new is half the battle; whether it be starting a new book, deciding to learn the guitar, etc. This definitely applies to slack lining so I was very grateful to have this project as an excuse and a little boost to get myself started. So in some ways it was a combination of convenience and desire that forced me to embark on my slackline journey. I got my mom to ship me my dad’s old slackline mid-September and was eager to get started right away.
The day after receiving the package I took it to the pines on Redstone campus, sloppily set it up and got started. Not to my surprise I was pretty awful at it initially, however to my surprise this new recreational activity attracted a whole new group of peers. Throughout the first day tons of kids hammocking in the area came over and asked to try it out. We talked and laughed as we took turns trying and failing at walking across. After we were done we made plans to slackline again and since then we have made a group chat where we text about where and when to set up the slackline. Every time I go out I meet new people. I truly feel that through recreational activities the strongest bonds form.
Recreation forces you to be vulnerable and creates a common interest – both of which I feel are huge in creating real connection. I feel I have benefited substantially through my new recreational activity. Being a freshman is hard. It can feel exhausting to make small talk, get used to a new workload and stressors, and navigate the feelings of loneliness. Slacklining has in some way or another improved all those aspects. When slacklining with new peers we don’t have to ask the same three questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major? Instead people just join in and we effortlessly talk about strategy, laugh at each other’s failures, cheer on successes, and through it all get to know each other in a less structured format. I’ve also noticed slacklining has become a huge destresser for me. If I’m feeling stressed or like I need a break from school work, slacklining for just 15-20 minutes does wonders for my mental health. It forces me to focus on something besides college and I notice myself feeling much more motivated to get my work done after the needed break. It’s also become a way I can take a break but still feel productive. Slacklining may seem silly and easy but the activity is actually quite exhausting. I’ve noticed many mornings after a day of slacklining my legs, specifically my right leg which I use to boost myself up, aching. It honestly feels very gratifying and rewarding to be sore and is a reminder of my accomplishments. Most importantly slacklining has helped me to form new bonds with peers, find people I have commonalities with, and combate the feelings of loneliness on campus. Who would have thought there was a huge slacklining community at UVM! I also feel this is an activity that is sustainable in my life. I love skiing and snowboarding and the community and bonds that come with the activity, but that only satisfies a few months of the year. Slacklining can be used as a substitute for non-snowy months. I appreciate the challenge of trying a new activity and am super motivated to continue to improve my skills alongside my peers. Further, it is an activity that I can do pretty much anywhere and take back home with me to Alaska. I don’t need a lake, or a mountain, or a boat, or a bike to slackline. I am super excited to continue slacklining at UVM, back home, and wherever life takes me.