How old are you?
I am 16 years old, almost 16 and a half, so on June 20th it is totally acceptable to bring me half a birthday cake and we’ll celebrate.
Where do you live?
It feels like I live practically in the middle of nowhere, in a super small town in north central Massachusetts called Lunenburg. It’s actually only about 40 miles west of Boston. I am honestly just grateful I don’t live any farther west in Massachusetts, because I need to be near some kind of civilization. I like big cities.
How many church members go to your high school?
In my town (because we are so small) I go to a middle-high school with grades 6-12. There are about 600 students in total, and it is just me, my sister (who is graduating on Saturday), and my younger brother who is in sixth grade who are members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But next year we will have two more LDS kids who have moved into the area.
What are some of your hobbies?
I honestly feel like I don’t have many hobbies, just because the ones I have are so time consuming. But I love baking cookies for myself and other people (so if you ever want some cookies I can make you some) and I love listening to music and dancing. During the school week and on some weekends, I do crew, which is rowing in those long boats. That pretty much takes up all the free time I have, but when I happen to scrape up some free time I am usually at a church dance or playing ‘just dance’, or having a dance party in my kitchen or something. You can also find me on Instagram: @emilymwhitcomb
What do you like about rowing?
I like all the people that I meet. I grow so close to my team members because I spend roughly 20 hours each week with them, (that doesn’t even include weekend regattas) so the relationships that we form are just so awesome. As for the sport, I like how I don’t have to run for a race, except for when we go on a warm up run. But I love race days when we are next to other boats and competing against them and you can see the other boats out of the corner of your eye so you give it all your energy to try to pass them, that is such a great feeling.
What’s the hardest thing about rowing?
Convincing yourself that you can do it, to me, is the biggest challenge. Rowing is more of a mental sport, but don’t get me wrong–it is extremely hard physically. Just telling yourself you can do it is really hard; especially when I am on the rowing machine inside, we can be on the machines for such long periods of time and we are supposed to be pushing ourselves as hard as we can for what feels like forever. So many times I just want to stop and make up an excuse for my coach and tell her I am about to throw up (when really I’m not), but you just have to tell yourself that you are almost done and soon the pain will end, so I just keep rowing.
Heck yes, I honestly contemplate it every time I am at practice, there are a lot of highs and lows in the sport. And the lows are really low just because it is such a mentally taxing sport and it takes up so much of my time. I stress over how to balance rowing and homework so much, and I don’t get very much sleep during the season. Over all you have to be 100% committed to rowing if you want to do it.
What keeps you going when you have those thoughts?
I tell myself that I’m almost done with the race, or the piece, and that when I finish I can feel good about myself and it is just such a rewarding feeling. I also like tracking my progress, and seeing how I improve each season.
Do you have a favorite Young Women value and why?
I would say my favorite value is divine nature just because I love that everyone is so different and has different talents that make each person who they are. I know that our Heavenly Father makes all of us with specific talents and skill sets and we can use those to benefit others and I love that.
How does understanding your divine nature help you when you row (or in your life generally)?
I interact with so many different kinds of people from so many different backgrounds and places, I have come to see that everyone has a unique personality. I am grateful for that because some people’s strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa and we can help each other out. Helping each other get through hard days, and cheering when someone has awesome days helps me to understand that we are all in this together–not just rowing, but life. We have a divine creator and Father in Heaven in common, and He wants us all to help and cheer for others.
I’ve learned a lot in the young woman organization, but the thing that stands out most is the importance of being humble. I’ve watched older girls and leaders set the example for me, and also our Savior Jesus Christ was full of humility and He is the perfect example that we learn about.
How do you work on strengthening yourself spiritually?
I try to surround myself with people who share the same standards as me and by doing the basic things like studying my scriptures, praying daily, attending seminary, and going to church meetings. But one of my most favorite things to do is to attend the temple as often as possible. This past fall of 2016 I was able to participate in the Hartford Temple Youth Cultural Celebration and feel the spirit that the 1200 youth brought to the event. The temple is such a great place to be and I try to attend it as often as possible because whenever I go I feel so peaceful. I am fortunate to live near both the Boston and Hartford temples.