While admiring the hammock set up on the lawn of Young Commons, Charlotte Williams noticed the tightrope at the very beginning of her day. After going through her daily routine and passing it back and forth, Williams said she finally worked up the courage to attempt it.
“I got on and I'm like, ‘Oh I need help. I need somebody to lean on.’ And at first, I didn't want to say it, but I knew I'm gonna need a little help to get that first footing. And so I did, and it was rough,” Williams said. “I immediately had that muscle memory of ‘Oh, I've been here before and I've been at a time where I could do this,’ but I haven't been intentionally working on that. And so I just had to give myself grace. Like, ‘It's OK. What you did before, it's not where you are now.’”
Williams, associate director of campus recreation and wellness for student wellness, said she was able to take a mental step back and remind herself that operating a full-time job, managing a family and working through a doctoral program were valid reasons for not upholding a strict, fitness regimen.
“It was a good reminder for me of what's going on on the inside. A lot of times we just look at the outward — we might look at and compare ourselves to other people,” Williams said. “There's plenty of things that I can do the quote-on-quote ‘tightrope on’ and excel at and master, but for this particular thing, yeah, I wasn't able to do that, and it's okay. If I want to do it, I've got to be intentional and work on it. But at least I was curious, tried and … I have to decide, ‘Do I want to do this, or am I just gonna put my energy somewhere else?’”
The tightrope was one of many activities set up around campus at Elon’s first annual HealthEU Day on March 21 in order to emphasize the HealthEU initiative and discuss concrete practices surrounding wellness.
Williams said her experience with the tightrope mirrored that of what campus recreation and wellness tried to embody through HealthEU Day, along with starting conversations and raising awareness about wellbeing.
“All of these things are real, everyday, practical things that we're living through. It's not some far off theory, it applies to our everyday life,” Williams said. “I really liked hearing the overlap of conversation and real life application. Making it practical.”
According to Williams, HealthEU Day also tried to embody holistic awareness of all dimensions of wellbeing. While physical health is one of the most well-known aspects, this also includes community, social, emotional, financial and purpose wellbeing.
Williams said she particularly loved hearing the discussions, activities and prize opportunities around financial wellbeing, as it is a crucial dimension of wellness for college students.
“It's okay to talk about the reality that, yeah, it takes money to live, and am I going to do that by tapping into my purpose and making sure that I align with the job that I choose and enjoy it?” Williams said. “Or am I going to do something just to get a paycheck?”
In addition to providing good visibility around the HealthEU initiative, Williams said HealthEU Day also highlighted the resources that Elon already has on campus.
“Some of it is just what we're already doing, but it's a more intentional way of having a conversation,” Williams said. “It's not this new thing I have to go out and do. It's what I'm already doing, but how can I be more intentional or how can I enhance where I already am?”
Senior Peyton Pesavento ran a booth at the wellness fair as a Koury operations manager. Set up in Young Commons, Pesavento said he had conversations with students, faculty and staff about what HealthEU meant to them.
“Having an actual physical HealthEU day outside with all these resources, where people could just walk up, get a bite of food, meet some new people, get some resources and win some free stuff was really awesome,” Pesavento said. “It's not just about making grades and being involved, it’s about being your best self and whatever that looks like to you.”
Though he will be graduating at the end of the spring semester, Pesavento said he is looking forward to seeing how the Elon community builds upon HealthEU Day in the following years.
“Even if you don't get too much out of it, other than some free food and a little wind-down time and some free merch, I think that is what they're about,” Pesavento said. “It doesn't have to be a holistic transformation in your life. It can be little things that just brighten your day, brighten your mood, just a little bit, to show that Elon is being intentional in that effort.”
According to Pesavento, HealthEU Day was a great initial step in raising awareness. In the future, he said he would like to see more engagement and suggested that Elon host more pop-up HealthEU events throughout the year to increase exposure.
Based on feedback from students, faculty and vendors, Williams said she is working on opening HealthEU Day to the surrounding Elon, Burlington and Alamance communities for next year. The committee that planned and organized HealthEU Day, to which Williams is a member, will be meeting in the next few weeks to debrief the event’s feedback and begin planning for next year.
Williams also encouraged students, faculty and staff to be vocal and share their HealthEU Day experiences by emailing their thoughts to HealthEU@elon.edu. She also suggested that students follow the HealthEU newsletter every Wednesday and checkout HealthEU’s homepage.
For Williams, trying to cross that tightrope reminded her of the validity of her personal health goals and allowed her to reevaluate her wellness priorities. She also emphasized the importance of fostering an environment that allows people to feel comfortable and supported in doing so.
“We can all be going through things on the inside and no one really knows that necessarily, unless we share it, unless we feel safe to disclose it or unless we get deeper into a conversation,” Williams said. “Wellbeing has a lot to do with identity. You can't have a conversation about wellbeing without talking about identity and where people see themselves in the picture. Do I see myself as part of HealthEU? Do I feel like I belong in this conversation? Do I belong in the greater Elon conversation? That's what it represents and means to me in terms of how I think about student wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.”