Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Art of the Real Hustle by Victoria Wetmore

Author Victoria Wetmore with Hammad Imran

Imagine yourself as a fish thrown into a new pond for the first time. You’re unfamiliar with your surroundings, things begin to feel uncomfortable, and you’re not sure where you can and cannot swim. College is the same type of atmosphere, Hofstra included. Starting a new life at college is difficult, but it is that type of ablution that exposes us to unusual places and opportunities, both academically and recreationally. When Hofstra University’s academics become demanding, it isn’t a bad idea to seek recreational activities, such as club billiards, to lessen one’s stress, create new friendships and offer unexpected opportunities that once seemed impossible.

No matter what major that one declares, there is a certain workload that comes along with each one. When work becomes difficult and our brains become exhausted, there is this period of time where relaxation is required in order to function properly again. Some individuals will choose to watch television shows or a movie, and others choose food as a way to reboot after working hard. Personally, I take a trip out of my dorm room, into the Student Center, and down the stairs to the game room. In this space, I am able to play pool with my friends and fellow classmates. There is something about the sound produced from the contact of each ball, and the sound of breaking the rack up that is soothing and satisfying to me. This environment is a little loud, but nothing to be scared of diving into. Kelsey Picciano states, “Homeostasis, the tendency of a system or a person to maintain internal stability and resist change, can get easily upset, especially in the change from high school to college” (Picciano, par. 1). Being in the game room may be something different and scary, but doing something with others tends to make someone happier. If that happens to be playing games, then this is the place to be. Not into billiards? Take a look around the rest of the room and one will find a wide variety of gaming consoles, air hockey, ping pong, pinball, and even foosball. No matter what one’s preference is, I would still recommend billiards to anyone that walks through the automatic doors. Everybody downstairs is cordial and willing to help teach someone the basics, like the concept of angles or lining up different shots, in order to keep playing. Most of the time, members from the Hofstra Billiards Club are playing games and honing their skills for competitions, so do not hesitate to ask them to teach you something. This beneficial relaxation activity is how I get through assignments that prove to be stressful, while creating new bonds at the same time.

When I first came to Hofstra, I knew that I was having issues making new friends and didn’t feel as though I fit in with the rest of my peers. However, the moment I was approached in the game room by one of the players from the billiards club, I was introduced to a whole new world of friendship. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable being the only female in the room. Then I realized that I had to drop my protective walls and comprehend the opportunity I was given when I agreed to join this club. I had become immersed in so many different ethnicities that I was missing a chance to interact with people from all over the world because I felt insecure. The moment my anxiety subsided, I was able to make conversations with students from Pakistan, Kenya, and more of the Middle East. I also have the opportunity to talk to commuters, and others from the same state as I. Not only are there various ethnicities to learn, but one becomes accustomed to this world of billiards that differs from normal life. Billiards can teach someone both ways of making friends and various cognitive life tools. For example, pool is a problem-solving sport that allows one to look at the lay of the table and read what the next shot should be. Parallel to life, one must learn how to look at what they have and figure out what to do and where to go next. “Learning of the upmost importance occurs within our one-on-one experience, and it is the heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye conversations with our equals that provide us with life lessons that will extend further beyond our schooling years” (Picciano, par. 6).

I had the opportunity to get the personal scoop on the coach of Hofstra’s Billiards Club. Hammad Imran is not only the coach of the school’s team, but he is the captain for the American Pool Association (APA) team at Hofstra; a team that competes against other adult teams in Nassau County on Sunday nights. He is in the process of completing his Masters of Science in Finance here at Hofstra University. Hammad brings his talents, garnered from over five years of play, to the other students downstairs. If pool skills isn’t what one wants to learn from him, go on over to the ping pong table---after all, he is ranked number one in the area. From talking to him, Hammad explains billiards as, “an opportunity to play competitively with a variety of different players on and off campus” (Imran). That’s the best part, too! One does not have to be nervous when playing for the first time because there are so many players of different levels. Translated, that means that someone who is super good does not have to play a beginner. Even if one is to play someone of a higher level, they have a chance to learn something they did not know before. Again, everyone is amenable and caring downstairs, almost like a little family, and is willing to show and teach some tricks and shots that will help mold others into better players.    

Now, this idea of talking to anyone does not just apply to ethnicity, but also to gender. The game room happens to be a man-led territory. For women at Hofstra, it is a good way to immerse oneself into this community of men that share a common interest. This is also a beneficial way to break out of one’s comfort zone if one has an issue talking to people of the opposite sex. One can also see the game room as a way to stay in one's happy place and keep one's internal homeostasis intact. For someone like me, I am completely fine spending my time with a group of guys because that's what my household is like and mostly what my friend group back home consists of. On a campus where every other place puts anxiety on my comfort level, it is nice to know that I have a place to escape to that I am accepted in, even if I am the only girl down there. Don’t get me wrong; guys feel the stress of trying to fit in, too, but they just do a better job of hiding it. So, let it be known that the other men down in the game room are super cool and willing to open up and hang out. It is a healthy environment for friendship. I promise.

With friendship and techniques comes unexpected opportunities. Developing fresh and useful skills for the future is something a lot of college kids are worried about. In essence, billiards becomes the perfect trifecta for improving one’s health, meeting brand-new people, and learning something exciting to apply to something else. The act of dialogue that can occur when playing pool with someone builds communication skills that can be utilized in the future. Even when one lines up a shot, the critical thinking section of the brain fires up. Also, playing billiards against someone else can help us pick up on visual cues and read the body language of others around them. These skills become assets for students for when they are in job interviews or meeting with important people. Instead of pool following Paulo Freire’s “Banking Concept of Education,” in which, “ the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (Freire, par. 5), one can receive, understand, and employ these critical thinking abilities, learned through playing pool, and apply them to situations in the future. People should know that they can physically learn, live, and experience things instead of robotically spewing back information.

In just seven weeks of being consumed by this environment, I have already done something I never thought I would do. At the age of eighteen, I am in bars on Sunday nights for fun. It is fair to add that I am on the APA Hofstra Billiards Team captained by Hammad, and they allow me to compete against the other adults in the area. I may not win every game I play, but I get the opportunity to not only put my newfound prowess to the test, but also meet many characters from around here. One of my favorite people I have met so far is a man named Jesse who is actually an alumni of Hofstra. Throughout the games, he talked to our group about possibly starting an alumni tournament at the university, which I thought would be a cool way to integrate the graduates and the current students in a friendly game. So, no, I guess I am not doing something everyone else does, but instead, I am gaining maturity and tools for the future.

By now, I have probably played pool for a combination of thirty hours since starting this assignment. I have learned to expand my little fish fins and swim to this territory of comfort to learn some techniques from my friends. I encourage other students to explore the game room a little more, and find something they like to do. Like I said, a lot of interesting people are down there and are willing to pull anyone into this fun and electric environment of crazy antics and inside jokes that keeps us laughing for hours. Even if one may think they aren’t good at something, don’t worry! Picciano told us not to worry about that and just embrace it. Learning how to deal with stress, making new friends, and building skills/ opening new doors is the true meaning to growing up, so don’t worry about it and just have fun while you can.

Works Cited

Corbett, Bob. “PAULO FREIRE: CHAPTER 2 OF PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED.” Philosophy of Education -- Chapter 2: Pedagogy of the Oppressed, faculty.webster.edu/corbetre/philosophy/education/freire/freire-2.html.

Imran, Hammad. Personal Interview. 11 Oct. 2017.

Weber, Deanna. “Leaping out of the Cave and into the Light,” Taking Giant Steps. N.p., 20 Oct. 2017. Web.

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