Dare to Reinvent Yourself

I believe that, deep down, every Phillips Academy student is an alpha male or female. If we were not vice presidents of our middle schools, then many of us were at the tops of our classes. Many of us were accomplished athletes, artists or humanitarians. Each of us desired success and the many connotations of that amorphous concept. Our ambitions ranged—some may have desired world domination, and others, just the expanse of opportunity that comes with a great education—but we all knew that being at the cutting edge was the best place to be. But after being situated at a prestigious academic institution, many of us lose our voracity. In the struggle to maintain grades and to work towards club leadership positions, many of us lose the sense of adventure that before had set us apart from the masses of other applicants to Andover. This is because you can easily get away with mapping out your Andover career in the first few weeks of school. You choose a select number of extracurricular activities at the first club rally, you choose your dining hall in Commons and you make your best friends. Pretty quickly, you carve out your niche and begin to nestle down. The problem is, when we are 14- or 15-years-old, most of us do not yet know enough about ourselves to make sustainable decisions; just because you played the violin in middle school, that does not mean that you are going to find the time to practice regularly once you come here. It is only as we mature that we realize what we are really interested in and what we are just good at. The challenge this reality presents us with is how to balance what we are used to with what tests us. The antidote to complacency is adventurousness. I arrived at this epiphany a little while ago. After two years of staying within my “comfort zone,” dabbling only when I thought I had the time, I decided this year that I wanted to try new things. I had changed, after all; one catalyst was the shift of my television obsession from House, M.D. to The West Wing that occurred last summer. Suddenly, I wanted to know less about infectious diseases, and more about politics. Cynicism captured me less than did annihilating an opponent in a debate. When I got back to school in September, I resolved to focus on my newfound priorities. I did not do anything drastic, setting myself in the right direction by joining Model United Nations. Though I was, in fact, too scared of my new club to venture into Sam Phil for the first four meetings, I eventually forced myself to join the students that mill about on the white steps every Wednesday evening. And I am grateful I did. With pretty much one small alteration, I regenerated the spark of ingenuity that had been dampened by hours of studying and attendance at some activities that would go better on a college application than with my personality. A student’s struggle to maintain his or her integrity is tough in Andover’s competitive atmosphere. It is easy to satisfy yourself with the knowledge that there is always some other student playing star quarterback while you are focusing on your academics. But it is important to be brave, because high school is the time to discover. Even though others seem to have their clubs staked out from the time they see their first “Honk if you love Andover” sign, remember that this school chose you because of your extraordinariness and you chose it because of its extraordinariness. Many of us start out as I did, coming to Andover as a ninth grader with no foreknowledge of what we are going to do here. I knew I would take classes and I knew I would have a lot of homework, but that was about it. I did not even realize until midway through fall term that dorm rooms are more exciting when you decorate them. We graduate as well-informed and well-rounded Seniors only by taking advantage of what this school has to offer. If you have accumulated knowledge and acquired new interests in your time here, it is not too late to explore them. If the Backstreet Boys can make a comeback, then so can you. Do not be afraid to reinvent yourself.