Choosing to Suffer

It is true that affliction and anguish do not know class lines. Members of society’s more privileged classes can suffer from the loss of a loved one just as much as someone in Haiti can suffer from the loss of a family member. The rich are also capable of experiencing loss, grief and disappointment. They can also feel lonely, sad, depressed and even suicidal. As Julianna Meagher ’11 suggested in her February 12th Letter to the Editor, suffering is not “limited to a lack of purchasable opportunities or necessities.” However, it would be thoughtless to suggest that financial security does not shield us from certain kinds of suffering and grief. Similarly, it would be imprudent not to note the difference between the suffering felt by students at Andover and that felt by those in Haiti. I, too, know many people who choose not to eat or to run for the bathroom after every meal. I know people who choose to finish their papers rather than get a decent amount of sleep. These choices are destructive and foolish. In fact, I can confidently call them horrible mistakes. However, they are our choices and our mistakes to make. That is what differentiates our suffering from that of the less privileged. If an individual at Andover chooses not to eat, they can suffer from malnutrition just like someone who doesn’t have access to food. A student who chooses not to sleep can be as run-down and tired as someone who doesn’t have a place to rest. But they suffer as a result of their poor decision-making and not as a result of helplessness and poverty. Financial security will not protect you from experiencing loss. It will neither protect you from feeling disappointed when you fail the biology test you stayed up studying for, nor grant you immunity to feelings such as hunger, pain and anguish. Despite our privileged backgrounds, students at Andover can experience these emotions just as acutely as a person in destitution. However, financial stability does prevent a mother from seeing her child starve before her eyes. If I refuse to eat, my mother will probably whack me over the head, drag me to a psychiatrist and then cook my favorite meal. But what can a mother in eastern Congo do when there is no food or clean water to give to her starving child? I agree that the problems and the suffering of the students on this campus are not to be trivialized. They are very real and very important issues. However, I believe that, because pain and suffering are relative, the travails of the students on this campus should not be compared to the suffering of those in Haiti. I cannot help but point out that we all chose to come to this school, or at least I hope we did. While we might be ambitious teenagers that do not know our limits, I sincerely hope that every student here knows that health is far more important than studying for a test or finishing a paper. And while the school is responsible for our health, it also expects us to be mature enough to care about our own health as well as the health of others. As students here, we will all experience pain and suffering of some kind in our lives, and it is outside of our power to change that. We are the privileged few who can control and determine the causes of our suffering. It is within our power to keep ourselves from getting stressed out about tests, schoolwork and leadership positions. We make the choice between being overcommitted and carrying a reasonable workload. Our problems are not trivial. Andover is tough, but it’s not tough because it’s out to get us. It’s only as tough as we allow it to be. Tia Baheri is a new Lower from Plano, TX.