Relegated to Mediocrity

On a campus full of such brilliance and high achievement, it seems nearly impossible to stand out. We all held the belief that we were something special…until we came to Andover, where the truth that we are not so great hit us like a 300-pound linebacker carrying a panda bear. By placing students from the top tier of all pillars of achievement into a relatively small area and asking them to compete for grade-point averages, positions on sports teams, roles in plays, and ultimately, spots in colleges, this school has created an environment where the excellence we are used to is equated to mediocrity. This can be depressing; once the starter on your hometown basketball team, you are now lucky enough just to warm the bench as you watch your peers out on the court. This kind of atmosphere, while encouraging excellence, can also become a breeding ground for betrayal, stress, and insecurity. Of course, It doesn’t help that we are constantly encouraged to pursue the impossible goal of being the best, which we need to be in order to get into the colleges we want and forge bright futures for ourselves. The administration constantly encourages us to broaden our horizons and to try new things. They also suggested that we maintain our grades, play competitive sports, try out for drama productions, become involved in clubs, participate in community service, write for publications, take advantage of speakers and presentations, sign up for clubs, play an instrument, sing in chorus, run for a leadership position, etc. Yes, these possibilities are all offered so we can become enlightened individuals. But the college pool is getting so competitive that one can feel overwhelmed. Students always worry: “Am I involved in enough activities to look good?” Immeasurably high standards are placed upon our shoulders before we even set foot into the social scene of the Andover campus. There is a feeling of competition that lingers in the air in Commons, the library, the dorm, Starbucks, the classroom, downtown, anywhere social interactions exist. It is hard to overlook the fact that the people sitting next to us, our friends, are the people we are competing with. It is nearly impossible to completely embody the principle of ‘non-sibi.’ We have to fend for ourselves. With so much pressure, we have little energy left after homework, practice, rehearsal, and work to devote to friendships. But somehow, we manage. The tension still exists, pulling us taut from every direction. Eventually, something has to give. Most teenagers will put friendships first, grades second, and sports or hobbies last. The students need an outlet for all this tension. Sometimes, it leaks into our relationships. Sometimes our grades slip. Sometimes we get into trouble, and the DC committee descends upon us with their full wrath. It is true that the school would lose its appeal once the pressure cooker is turned off, and that we’ll constantly always be daunted by the ‘ultra-individual’ who is prefect at everything he or she does. But it’s important to remember that it is impossible to maintain our current pace of life and keep everything in balance unless we take a step back and understand that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all that important, anyways. This school has serious issues about its intense environment, and it is obvious that we all need to “chill.” Is it really such a big deal if you fail one math test or if you don’t make the Varsity squad? Is it worth giving yourself an aneurism? We have one week left in Winter Term. We’ve made it this far, and it’s amazing that we can still function, with or without the assistance of adrenaline or drugs. Relax. 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