THE BLOG
11/21/2014 06:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hiking Beyond Facebook and Xbox

By Alden Boldt

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After reading only the first lines, I found exactly what I needed to defeat Obama. Yes, I'd clobber the candidate that my parents supported. Sprawled on my beanbag in the corner of my room, I opened my laptop, skipped Facebook and rushed to my new first stop --The Week. There it was, the headline: "Fast and Furious."

Within minutes, I enter my AP US Government class as Romney, with a question that will stump the Obama camp. "You lose thousands of weapons to the Mexican cartel! Explain that, Mr President."

All I see are blank, unprepared faces from Team Obama after I share the details from the article about the administration's botched effort on the Mexican border. There are not any surprises from the Obama camp; its ammunition failing to go beyond class discussions. Voters (students outside the class) declare Romney the winner.

Initially, being assigned to Romney's camp in the mock election horrified me. I was falling in love with my new boarding school life, and the engaging teacher in my government class was one reason why. But now I faced a new challenge: battle your beliefs and engage right wing perspectives at a school with a large population of liberals. I would love the challenge and discover a new infatuation -- politics.

Before the election, I wouldn't have looked beyond my distaste for the GOP. It would be unlikely to find me in my room, overlooking Facebook and my Xbox, searching the web for Mitt Romney's speech to a gathering in Iowa. "Corporations are people," he said, defending tax cuts for the wealthy. I cringed. I actually think that cuts should go to the poor to stimulate the economy, allowing those with less money to buy things that they need and have been without. However, now I was on another team, and my competitive conditioning as an athlete transferred into my newfound passion for politics. I embraced Romney's ideas for the moment.

Although my true political views haven't tilted rightward, I enabled myself to challenge my opinions and grow as a writer by penning lines for Romney's speeches, ripping apart my actual beliefs: "Everyone is entitled to life from the moment of conception and government should not enable killing the innocent!"

I was partially and inadvertently groomed for the challenge by a two-week hiking trip in New Hampshire at age 16. I had never spent more than a few days away from my parents. I was livid with them for forcing the trip on me. On the first morning, I could barely even lift myself with the 60-pound pack strapped onto my back. Each night we shared our highs and lows of that day around a campfire. Further into the trip, I had trouble thinking of any lows. The group began to feel like a family. I stopped missing home and loved hiking. On the final day, I was elected to be our group leader. After the three weeks, my parents pulled up to the hikers' tent where we were waiting in our last moment together. I felt the same way I had when my parents forced me out of the car on the first day: I didn't want to leave.

I had a similar feeling at the end of the campaign. Fortunately, my interests in politics continue in and out of class. The next class project focused on a Supreme Court case. I was now Justice Alito, absorbing myself in his life and the Court in the same way I embraced Romney.

Now, my interest in hiking and politics are wedded into my life at Berkshire. I begin many days before the sun comes up, with early morning hikes before class. I share my love of sports with a new passion in politics. Bypassing Facebook for The Week and other political sites is my new normal.

Alden Boldt, a 2014 graduate of the Berkshire School, is now a freshman at Union College.