My Measure of Success

Welcome to Andover. Forgive me if I choose not to immediately wax poetic about the absolutely stupendous academic and athletic opportunities we have here in the 01810. I just don’t see the point in redundancy. You probably have gotten a sizeable helping of such enthusiasm from admissions officers and Blue Keys. It is true that Andover is a wonderful school and an even better home. I do not wish to imply otherwise. But, as an environment, Phillips Academy is also an indescribably powerful catalyst in the creation of something else. It is something that you can either use to your advantage, or allow to degrade your self-esteem into non-existence. More than academic success, Andover fosters competitiveness. I’m sure that somewhere in our lovely admissions catalog, right next to the colorful picture of a smiling student and a sympathetic teacher, there is a lengthy, self-serving description of the skills the students of this school possess. A community of diverse talent is, without question, a valuable asset to any institution. Furthermore, such talent encourages mutual, beneficial competition. However, a genuine problem arises when members of that community define themselves by the accomplishments of others. The goal of a student ceases to be being happy with what one has accomplished. Instead, we constantly compare our achievements to those of our peers. My numbers are 2050, 34 and 597. What are yours? Did I beat you? What would Harvard think? Once you adopt this outlook, satisfaction is a luxury you can’t afford. It is impossible to be confident in your own achievements because, as is the case in Andover and the world, someone is always better than you. Through this lense, everything is a failure. After your career at Andover is finished, you will be convinced that you have perfected failure almost to a science. This mindset did nothing for me but turn a period of time that was supposed to be fun into a rather miserable experience. In my opinion, my record of failure was unmatched. I once got a 1 on an elementary algebra test; I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, for three consecutive years to row at the varsity level; I wasn’t asked to Sadie until my Upper year; and I’ve botched far more than one encounter with the opposite sex. And I’m just getting warmed up. Obviously, these “failures” were utterly insignificant. They only existed in my mind, a product of my determination to compare myself to everyone around me, as opposed to simply striving for success and letting things fall into place. I can guarantee that in your time at Andover, you will go through similar events. It is the way you handle them that determines whether you can survive in the competitive environment that is Andover, MA. It took me three years to understand this. I speak to the freshman class when I say that I hope it only takes you one. Chris Meyer is a four-year Senior from Darien, Connecticut and a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.