Your Bell Tower

The first thing I think of when people ask me to describe my school is the first time I saw the bell tower. Young and nervous, I had just driven across the country to be interviewed when my car peaked over that last hill and there it was. Perfectly lined up to be visible from the road below, its unshakable design gave me a sense of calm.

Now every year I return to campus after summer break, the bell tower acts as both a finish and a starting line. It marks the end of a ten-hour car ride and the beginning of another nine-month grind.

And what a grind it can be. After a three-month weekend I’m definitely not firing on all cylinders academically, but I know I am expected to be. Homework starts piling up fast and the pace gets quicker and quicker. Welcome to Andover.

Not to mention how hard leaving home can be. It’s easy for older students to overlook this one. After a few years in the show, living on our own becomes more natural. People forget that not so long ago they were in the same shoes the Class of 2015, most of whom have never been on their own for any real amount of time. Without parents around to look out for them, freshmen are forced to grow up fast and take responsibility for themselves. A daunting task for anyone, let alone a thirteen year old.

That sounds pretty tough, so why even bother? Because that bell tower, for me, stands out in my mind not just for it’s architecture, but also because it reminds me of a time in my life when I was full of both the anxiousness that comes with doing something entirely outside of my comfort zone and the promise of just how incredible my time at Andover could be. I stumbled my way through those early months bright-eyed and awestruck until this plot of land in Andover, Massachusetts felt as much like home as my brick and mortar one in Pennsylvania did.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to struggle to adjust as much as I did. Adjusting to the classroom was only part of the struggle—I wrangled more with the change outside the confines of Sam Phil and Morse than I did inside. By the time I’d finally figured Andover out, I had also figured out myself.

Mrs. Chase tells us to pick a guardian angel in the chapel to remind us of this idea of a new frontier. She wants us to have something tangible to remember that moment of being on the precipice, about to dive into a brand new world. I picked the bell tower instead.

Will there be days when you want to pack it in and head for home? Absolutely. But rarely is the right thing to do that easy. On your hardest days, find your place on campus that calms you down, makes you feel safe. Or join me in front of the bell tower.

Zach Merchant is a three-year Upper from Lebanon, PA and an Associate Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.