The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

Senior Harper Kelsey Reflects on the Importance of Trustfalls

Senior Harper Kelsey attended a show late her sophomore summer and had a blast.

Editor’s Note: This piece is an adaptation of Harper Kelsey’s Chapel Talk given to ninth and tenth grade students on January 29th 2024.

I want to talk about trust falls; not the kind that you did as a kid on the playground when you crossed your arms over your chest and threw yourself backward into your friend (although that’s also a very fun thing to do). I want to talk about the type of trust fall that you take every single day without even necessarily realizing that’s what you’re doing and the way I didn’t used to take enough of them.

My first and biggest trust fall happened the summer between my sophomore and junior year when I was living alone for the first time in my life. I was working in a lab in Philadelphia for IRP (Independent Research Program) and, while I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity and thrilled to conduct research, it was a difficult transition. I had no friends, and being the only person under 30 working at the lab, I was lonely. And so, I looked for punk and hardcore shows near me and found one down the street in the basement of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. While I had been to shows before, it had always been with my uncle who was a former bouncer at CBGB, once the most prolific punk venue in New York. I was nervous to go alone, but I knew I needed to follow through.

The basement of the church was exactly as one would picture a basement of a church to be. It was poorly lit and had no air conditioning despite 90-degree heat with wood-paneled walls, an alphabet rug on the floor of the stage, and the parish kitchen on display.

As the headlining band took the stage, the crowd condensed at the front of the room. A few songs in, someone stage-dived into the crowd. At that moment, I knew it had to be me next. I forced my way through the crowd, climbed up a speaker to get on stage, turned around to face the band, and threw myself into the crowd of people: the ultimate trust fall. The feeling of hands supporting me was euphoric. It had been weeks since I had seen my parents since I had felt any sort of camaraderie, anything. It felt like I was flying. I stage-dove three more times that night, and countless times since.

This first huge trust fall led to a series of smaller, more metaphorical, trust falls across different areas of my life. During my sophomore year of high school Coach Stanek described me as being quiet and kind of reserved. While I wouldn’t describe myself as shy, I was guarded. I was terrified that, in talking to someone, I would say something that would be offbeat, awkward, or weird and somehow mess up my chance of ever talking to them again. I used to think that you had to be close to someone in order to speak with them. I’ve since realized what many of you probably already know: the only way to get close to people is by talking to them, not the other way around. It’s by taking those little trust falls. It’s finding a reason to talk to the person next to you in class and trusting that you’re likable, trusting them not to be critical or judgemental.

Taking a trust fall is different for each person. For some, it’s trusting your mentors: the teachers and coaches who will always be in your corner, hearing their advice and following it, even if it seems counterintuitive at first because that’s what furthers your relationships and your growth. Start a new sport. Join a club that none of your friends are in. Do things that you wouldn’t be expected to do.

For me, a trust fall is talking to people. I went from being the person who always carried a book with them because it felt safer, to the person who gets the joking comment: “Do you know everyone at this tournament?” This change is not because I suddenly got over my fears of being judged or somehow overcame the innate human desire to be liked, but because I stopped allowing my fears to inhibit me. I used to listen to my fear and do what it dictated I should, which was to isolate myself and stay quiet. In reality, the only way to move forward is to do the opposite; it’s to talk to more people, it’s to be more open with your body language, it’s to ask for more things, it’s to fight the instincts that want to make you small.

So my message to all of you is something that I wish I knew earlier in my high school career, which is that nothing happens if you don’t make it happen. This doesn’t just apply to your academic, athletic, or professional goals, the areas that we usually get this advice for; but that applies to your relationships.

In both my literal and metaphorical stage-diving career there have been times when I wasn’t caught so well. But the people around me always made sure to hoist me to my feet before I hit the ground and make sure I was unharmed. Trust me when I say you’re going to be caught much more than you fall, and at the very least you might be surprised by who helps you to your feet. It’s worth it either way.

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