Caution: Tread Lightly

By Davis Jones

Like me, you probably covered most of campus last week. Like mine, your calves probably took on the size of something between a navel orange and a professional softball.

This might be real in your case. My legs are wonderfully average, thank you. But I don’t think I’m alone in walking back to my dorm at the end of the day and comparing the striations in my leg muscles to those of a racehorse, all sleek and sinewy and held back by my skin like police at a rally. The feeling’s hard to ignore when most of your campus is A) outside (there’s good reason to walk a lot); B) one long strip of hot pavement that never changes direction, which is easy to look past until you notice it is C) hot pavement that never seems to come back down after going uphill. Some spots are downright terrifying. Like the valley stairs.

The valley stairs strike the fear of God deep down — both in your heart and in your glutes. Any strategy for climbing them just turns into a morale-killer. Do I have to look up to know I have 7,489,372 more steps to go? Few man-made structures force you so literally into a position of submission — eyes downcast; collapsed at the waist; feet trudging; sweat forming in little beads around your upper lip. And calves burning. Move the handrails closer together and you’d have the model for those infinity stair-steppers at the gym. The fatigue gets to you by the end of a long week.

And we get used to it.

We all do. One of the unifying moves here at USD is how we pull one big NIKE regarding the stairs here and Just Do It, sucking in a collective breath and pushing a well-here-goes-nothing effort all the way to the top. Many students comment on how climbing the stairs never gets any easier. This is false. You’ve proven that they’re easier to handle by the sheer fact of admitting their difficulty, an acceptance many new students consider a weakness by the way they try to keep their faces emotionless and their lips pursed tight even when their lungs are banging against their ribcages like two starved animals. When students comment on the steepness, they often turn this ‘weakness’ into a way to cope by helping them sort of laugh on up. What are you gonna do, you know? I’d like to think most of us are looking past the inevitable and are looking for the optimism.

Hence, the calf thing. USD has solid calves.

I wish our Torero Cards had a freshman / senior shot of our calf muscles right under our photo. People would think it was identity theft. Seriously. We’re solid in the calf department. Every step is well-earned. The exhaustion is worth it.

For what, though? Big legs? Isn’t that what we like from our chickens? It’s a little disturbing we prize a body part that for every other species puts you on a menu? Frogs don’t have calf raise machines. Lambs don’t chug protein shakes to get swoll.

There’re also larger implications. Think of it. ‘Mass gaining sessions’ are a real thing in the United States. No other country can afford that luxury. While our biggest concern is whether or not to order an extra burger patty, some third world peoples barely scrounge together enough rice to make it through the night. I know I work my diet in tandem with how I exercise. It’s natural the two are related. It’s troubling when the two are cause and effect.

But we’re unified in this, remember? Let’s conquer the stairs with pure motives. Let’s get a move on.

Because even when the exhaustion from a hard-day’s walk kicks in — when we bank on catching the tram for class and lose, when our quads take on that tingling sensation of a punctured balloon and a weird infection — after all of that, we have the satisfaction of walking across the graduation podium when this is all over and, in one quick glance below our robes, seeing our itty bitty calves transform into little Changemakers so beautifully muscular they’re almost obscene-looking. We’ll change the world one (stair) step at a time.

Take a bow, USD. You’ve walked far enough not to celebrate it.