Lydia Smeltz

I was recruited to Duke to be a student-athlete on the field hockey team. The moment I heard my name announced as I stood at the fifty yard line wearing “Duke” across my chest was the moment I realized I had achieved my dream.  Being a Division I field hockey goalkeeper allowed me to travel all over the country, represent something larger than myself, and constantly challenge myself to be better, faster, stronger.  I quit the team two seasons later.

In the past year I have continually grappled with the question of “Am I an athlete or was I an athlete?”  In high school, my primary identity was “smart math girl” and in retrospect, I realized that my aversion towards this being my sole identity is what motivated me to put everything I had into earning a spot on one of the best field hockey programs in the country.  The self-discipline and drive I developed during this journey are two of the most prominent parts of my personality and traits I will always be thankful for.  Upon starting at Duke, I experienced an insurmountable pressure to align myself with one endpoint of the “student-athlete” dichotomy.  I had come to Duke believing that this was a place where I did not have to choose and I could just be Lydia, but that was ultimately not my experience.  

Why do I tell this story on my Baldwin biography?  Because Baldwin does not force me to choose between “Am I an athlete or was I an athlete?”  Baldwin is the only sphere I have ever been a part of that does not only allow me to embrace all my various identities but encourages the simultaneous celebration of all that I am.  Being a Baldwin has taught me that it is okay to not know the answer and that you do not have to apologize for taking the time to figure it out.  Ladies, let me repeat that: NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR WHO YOU ARE. 

So who am I?  I am a chemist and a sociologist.  I am a sister and a friend.  I am an ally.  I am enthusiastic and motivated.  I am driven and disciplined.  I am passionate about the kids at Duke Children’s.  I am learning and I am failing and I am getting right back up and trying again.  I am a fan of slow running and going to bed early.  I am going to have at least three dogs in the future.  I am going to be a doctor and a darn good one.  I am going to increase access to healthcare for people with disabilities.  I am discovering who I am more and more every day and I am not stopping.  I am a Baldwin. 

I am not just one of these things, but all of them at once.  I will be any new identity I choose to embrace tomorrow.  Figuring out who I am has been a process but I am going to get there at my own pace and in my own way.  I seek comfort in knowing that there are 71 other Baldwins cheering me on in my journey.  I will be there for them as well. 

I am going to be Lydia and all that she is.

photo of Lydia Smeltz