During my freshman year, I fell in love with Chapman’s campus. I studied outside, even if it was unproductive, because the slight breeze tickling the blades of grass around my ankles was a welcoming sensation. At night, I’d go on walks simply to blur my eyes and drift off into the colorful glow of the Attallah Piazza fountain.
Yet between the Patriot Front stickers and the general stresses of sophomore year, the walk to main campus became slightly heavier over the past couple of months. The birds didn’t chirp as loudly in the mornings. The sky didn’t look quite as blue. The buildings didn’t beckon as warmly. My mental health was still intact, but dangling by a thread off my blue jacket when I walked into the Sandhu Residence and Conference Center on Oct. 25.
Quickly, I assessed that my clothing choice was rather poor for this Chapman Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony, because around 500 people swiveled their impeccably-groomed, tuxedoed bodies and feasted their eyes upon my well-worn blue hoodie and shorts. Locating a seat at a Chapman-spirit-bedazzled table in the back of the room, I slinked away from sight in embarrassment. But there was an air of sheer joy in this room that made me involuntarily smile, even when the jokes were cheesy, even though I was here to work. Five alumni were honored as extraordinary athletes in Chapman history.
In turn, I began to remember what I love so much about Chapman and why I came here in the first place: community. Chapman is not a sports school. Heck, our own athletics mission statement establishes that academics are exponentially more important than any extracurriculars. But this ceremony was a lesson on the deep history that lies within the programs here, with athletes that aren’t playing for scholarship money – just a simple love for the game. I appreciate that.
I pondered over all this while sipping an iced tea provided at the event. Gradually, I forgot about being severely underdressed or worrying about my elevated stress levels. Instead, I focused on the celebration in front of me. Before the first speech of the night, the audience stood for an ovation, which followed each speaker thereafter. With each individual rise and fall, my appreciation for the athletic community at Chapman grew.
One of the earliest memories I have of meeting my best friends at Chapman was born from the stands of a women’s soccer game on Wilson Field. There is a common saying: “Sports bring people together.” This is certainly true at Chapman. Athletics are a conduit to enhance the great things about the university and a safety blanket when times get rough. When I walked home that night, I felt the cool fall air, heard the crickets chirping and saw an awoken campus. Life, in total, was more vivid.