Rapid Roll

Anita Yan Chen - Senegal


January 13, 2016

Upon our arrival in Dakar back in September, the Senegal fellows and I were all issued cellphones. These babies were OG Nokias – the indestructible, would-survive-the-apocalypse type. Besides being useful for texting messages to our fellow fellows, (letter by letter on the numeric keypad) things like:

“ok u wouldn’t believe where i just found an earworm”,

“bike chain fell off 14 times on the way home”,

“bowel movements today, tres bien”,
and also more encouraging messages –

these things had games!

My favorite one has got to be “Rapid Roll”. In this game, you are a little red ball that must keep rolling from platform to platform to stay alive. The screen constantly scrolls upward, bringing the platforms and everything on it up too. There are three ways you can lose:

(1) if you jump and fall into THE ABYSS,

(2) if you land on a fatally spiky platform,

(3) if you make contact with the spiky upper ceiling

In order to progress further into the game, you must keep moving, you’ve got to  jump – sometimes before you can see whether or not there is solid ground that will catch you. Jumping is vital to the game, if you don’t do it you lose. But in real life, there are less consequences to staying complacent. Because most of the time, staying put means familiarity and comfort. Staying is easier. Whether it’s physically staying in a place or staying in a singular state of mind, or becoming stagnant in personal growth.

A big lesson this place has been teaching me over and over is that if I want to improve I’ve got to keep moving. This year, I want to continue to challenge myself – to challenge my beliefs, my body, my perception of what I am capable of. I think a lot of times, I fail because I’d rather be comfortable. But to level up, it takes stepping out of what is familiar and what is easy. I want to challenge myself to do the things I think I cannot do. To do things because they are difficult. To not be afraid of discomfort, but to see it as a required and essential part of growth.

I have learned in my time here that the beautiful things come hand-in-hand with the hard things. They are not sold separately. I will radiate and ache simultaneously, I will hope with all I have and put my soul into things, and the universe may turn a blind eye. But this is how it is. All that is good, is meticulously intertwined and inseparable from the things that hurt us, make our bones and our spirit sore. Sweltering heat, crippling homesickness, being gnawed at by mosquitoes, and gastrointestinal issues, are the things that come along with big belly laughs, waterfalls, dance parties with little siblings, and smiles that spread wide from cheek to cheek.

A year from now, I have absolutely no clue where I will be or what I’ll be doing. But I’m learning to be patient with the way the world reveals itself to me. I trust that the platforms know something I don’t. They have been placed by the hand that has written it all – to steal a phrase from Coelho. It is a game of Rapid Roll, unpredictable and ever-moving. They are leading me in the right direction, all I have to do is jump – and trust that I will land. Aching, stumbling, undone – I will land.

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”

-Alexander McCandless

 

Anita Yan Chen