Commentary

Analyze the Transition

Everyone’s asked themselves what they’ll do after they’ve gotten out of Andover and “grown up.” Even when we were little there was an answer, no matter how far-fetched. But even with all the discussion of the “real world” that so engages Andover students, and all the stories we’ve read in our English classes about “coming of age,” we tend to spend little time actually thinking about the journey to adulthood, the journey that is unfolding now. We ignore the things we’ll have to accept and the innocence we have to sacrifice to become full-fledged members of society. We are frightened of, and therefore reject, the idea of change. And when we wake up ten years later and actually look at what’s become of our lives, we’ll realize, too late, that the change we denied has taken charge without our input. We’ll have had no input because there was no recognition. For the past two years, I’ve been so focused on surviving Andover that I haven’t really thought much about how boarding school has altered the rest of my life. Then, as an Upper, I started hearing from every adult, whether I knew them or not, about how important this year is to college, to my future. And, even though it took me a while to figure out, I realized that it’s not just the grades and the extracurriculars that are going to define me as a person. It’s the change and the maturity I’m supposed to garner in an “independent boarding school” experience. At first, I spurned the idea that Andover would change me, but my encounters here really have affected me as a person. Things like being treated as an individual, intelligent being and having to deal with unanticipated problems have begun to initiate me into adulthood. I went through my first two years of Andover refusing to invest the emotional effort in understanding these changes. I just figured that it would all work out in the end. Honestly, the idea of morphing into an adult, with all the responsibilities and expectations, still scares me. Everyone more or less expects the change, but when your life, which was always partially controlled by parents and teachers, is made exclusively yours to cultivate or destroy, it’s easy to balk at the challenge. But at some point we can’t ignore that we aren’t growing up at some indefinite point “later.” It’s happening right now. That notion of change is so frightening. I’ve managed to almost completely ignore the alterations of my character that have put me that much closer to “woman,” and that much farther from “girl.” That is, until I go home and my friends comment on how different I am now. I’m forced to realize that there’s no way for me to relate to them like I used to, that I have concretely and irreversibly changed. Now I live with a person that I’ve not only denied existence of, but who I don’t really understand. And I’m stuck with her, because it is myself, my own subconsciously developed persona, and there’s no way to go back to the way I used to be. By editing out the things that have affected me, I’ve missed out on a lot. I know that it’s time to acknowledge the effects that Andover life has had on my developing character, even if I don’t like who I think I’m growing into. And if I understand what’s happening to myself now, my past self will have a greater influence on who I will be in the future. I will be happier and more comfortable when I fully identify myself as an adult. This is a challenge to myself, and to all the other Andover students who have been trying to avoid the hassle of an identity evaluation (and, potentially, crisis) because of that history paper that needs to be written, or tomorrow morning’s math test. High school is a time of lost innocence, but this is something to be celebrated as well as feared. We’re moving onto a new chapter of our lives. We will graduate as people very different from those we were when we matriculated. We’re losing a part of ourselves, too. But it doesn’t have to be forgotten. We can fear the change, but the most dangerous thing is to ignore it. If we don’t seek to understand what’s happening to us, we lose our past, and with it the understanding of where we’ve come from. By not analyzing our transition into adulthood, by not admitting that change is happening, we surrender all control to outside forces. And since when have Andover students surrendered to anything? Cat Cleveland is a three-year Upper from Waterford, Virginia. ccleveland1@andover.edu