My Experience Trying Out for the Ropes Course Instructor (RCI)

“All a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories. But one, perhaps, would have called that winning the match.” –Albert Camus, The Plague

“I pee in the shower!” bellowed the brash, buoyant senior sitting next to me, an impish grin flashing across his face. Cackles of laughter erupted around the circle as clusters of students rose to exchange seats with each other. Meanwhile, I was welded to my chair. My turn was next.

It was my sophomore year, and I was at my school’s spring Ropes Course Instructor tryout session, competing against fifteen of my peers for a position as a new Ropes Course Instructor (RCI). The primary job of an RCI is to act as a mentor to freshmen, leading them in a series of “ice-breaker” games much like the one we were currently playing, in which people sitting around a circle shout out quirky “facts” about themselves, to which people with that fact in common get up and exchange seats with each other. When I was a freshman, overwhelmed and intimidated by my new high school, the animated RCIs in my orientation group put me at ease. As a sophomore, I felt compelled to apply for the position because I wanted to do the same for the incoming freshmen.

As everyone settled down into a new seat, it came my turn to proclaim my eccentricity. Just as the words “I like to move it move it!” were about to spill from my lips, my body jerking in time with the rhythm, my heart slammed into my ribcage and my gut twisted into knots. What if they think that I’m too weird for the job? I figured it best to play it safe, and so instead I called out, “I love Harry Potter.” The game continued. But a sinking feeling flooded over me: I love Harry Potter? How much more boring can I be? Is there anyone that doesn’t like Harry potter? For the rest of the tryout, I struggled to strike that perfect balance of normalcy and quirk, hoping that the other instructors didn’t find me too strange.

Two weeks later, without surprise, I learned that I did not get the position. When I went to a senior RCI and asked her why the group had turned me down, she told me that I had been too reserved. “We wish that you were more, uh, quirky”. I had lost the job because I was so wrapped up in trying to figure out what the others expected of me, trying to project the image of what I thought they wanted. In doing so, I’d lost sight of who I truly was, and I'd lost the spirit which would have served me well. It was at that moment, however, that the lesson of the experience dawned on me: I may have lost the RCI position, but I certainly had learned a very valuable lesson for the future. I’d learned not to let the fear weaken my spirit, and I’d learned not to lose the sight of the real goal.

It’s impossible to win every race in life, but it is possible to gain knowledge from every defeat. Since that spring tryout, I’ve become more confident and assertive in all aspects of my life. I continue to make mistakes, some small and some big. But I never cease to learn from these mistakes, and I consider my continuous maturation to be the greatest victory. In a situation of loss, there is always a lesson to be learned. For me, losing the RCI position resulted in a greater gain than the position itself could have offered, for I came away with greater conviction in the virtue of always staying true to myself.