Ulemj “Lenny” Enkhbold: Always a Reason to Smile
“The OC has taught me so much about wilderness survival, how to use gear, what gear to use, how to lead, how to communicate, and all of that good stuff. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to smile.”
When I was a wee little freshman, I walked into the Pavilion on my first day being here. It was lit. It was amazing. It was everything I had ever dreamed of. Not really, but kind of. It was Appalachian Adventure. Watching all of the zany yee-whos who were our trip leaders interact was the most amazing feeling – I had never felt more comfortable before. Finally! People who get it!
Luckily a week or so before this, I had gotten an email alerting me that James Dick was my work study supervisor. Our first conversation went so:
Me: “Uhm.. hello Mr. Di—“
James: “You can call me James.”
Me, coming from a very strict Mongolian background: (Wow, how could I possibly call this man by his first name? That’s so disrespectful.) “Oh, okay, Mr. Jam—“
James: “Just James is fine.”
I was hooked. Whatever this mythical beast called the Outing Club (OC) was, I wanted to do with every part of it. People who get together to go hiking, kayaking, underground, moongazing?? And they would be willing to wake up at 2 a.m. to drive an hour to hike for three hours to catch a sunrise? From the same sun that we would have seen had we just watched it out of our window? Everything about the OC just felt natural. There is no effort involved. Just be yourself – and smile.
I am lucky to have been randomly placed to work under James in the OC barn, this role has led to me understand how the club works from every angle: participants, equipment, food rations, leaders, and coordination between the club and the location of the trip. Having this inside position, I pretty much laughed myself into the Trip Leader and Key Staff roles. Little did the OC know that every move I’ve made was precisely calculated so that I could drive the OC van around. I mean, come on. Have you ever seen that sweet piece of van? It wasn’t so much about taking people outside as it was about driving that van. That I have probably spent weeks of my total life in. (James, if you are reading this, I miss the old dually *cough*).
All joking aside, the opportunities the Outing Club has provided for me are tremendous. Last year, I worked as an ambassador for Merrell and got to promote their brand in exchange for a direct connection into the outdoor industry. This led to a position this year as an ambassador for the National Park Service. Both of these positions are, of course, impossible without Outdoor Nation, which is a non-profit that works to reconnect millennials with nature. My job, quite literally, was to make people enjoy the outdoors. What an amazing gig!
The OC has taught me so much about wilderness survival, how to use gear, what gear to use, how to lead, how to communicate, and all of that good stuff. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to smile. As wise philosopher Anderson .Paak once said, “We all want the best of life, so let’s celebrate – while we still can.” My only hope is that I’ve been able to pass the buck forward and have inspired people the same way the OC has inspired me.
I mean, as long as we can smile, we should smile. And if we are smiling, then it cannot be all that bad. And if it is all that bad, try smiling. It works. I guarantee it.
Would you like to nominate a student for a My W&L profile? Email your nomination to Gabrielle Tremo in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.