The Road Less Traveled

When I arrived at Andover as a Junior, I found myself amazed by student leaders who debated what I deemed, at the time, “adult” issues, such as economics, foreign policy and politics. Not knowing much about any of these three, I accepted these celebrities as the ideal Andover students, and thus role models for myself. My reasoning seemed sound: Andover students are supposed to be the world’s future leaders, after all. Thus I—along with many others—signed up for clubs like Model United Nations, Andover Economics Society and Phillips Academy Republican Society, all with the hope of one day becoming this supposed Andover ideal. I was mystified by the seemingly boundless knowledge older students held of distant places, complicated laws and age-old conflicts. One cannot overestimate how much incoming Juniors look up to their older peers, just like one cannot overestimate the disappointment I felt as my role models were torn down piece by piece in front of me. Economics Society encouraged trading stocks with fictitious money, thus reducing a field of reason and human behavior to a mere computer game. Model United Nations, if lucky enough to pass a resolution, advocated policies with zero applicability to the real world. Republican Society seemed to talk about apparel at every other meeting. What my supposed role models lacked was authenticity. During my Lower year, my disillusion led me to shun these clubs in favor of pursuing a six-course load. At least I knew my teachers were not involved with their fields simply to boost a college application. In the meantime, I continued my search for authenticity, and at times doubted it could exist at a school this wealthy and prestigious. Perhaps a prefect? Maybe The Phillipian? There had to exist a small corner at this school for me. Yet, wherever I turned, nowhere seemed right. I lost all desire to join The Phillipian when asked during my interview which board member I would “hook up with.” Although a policy change later forbade this question from future interviews, the damage had already been done for me. I felt embarrassed by my struggle with the cliché teenage problem of finding myself. The chorus of adults recalling their teenage years had gotten one thing right: being a teenager is indeed hard. It has taken me far too long to admit it. My message to the younger students is not a reiteration of the advice I myself was far too stubborn to accept. Rather, I hope to set one thing straight: the name on the front of the jersey is in fact not more important than the name on back. Andover is not what defines you. You are what defines Andover. Unfortunately, it has taken me until fall of my Upper year to figure that out. Do not change yourself to fit the molds that this school presents, even if those charismatic upperclassmen who epitomize the molds seem to know it all. Eventually I did find authenticity—but in places I did not expect: on a crew boat, at the Science Study Center, in my dorm, shouting for kids to buy ice cream at Quad Day, in my classes and most importantly—though everyone will call it the cheesiest and most overused statement ever—in myself. There should be no rush to pledge allegiance to a single side or found a movement to change the world. For those who are passionate about an issue, of course, pursue it; however, I recommend actually learning about your interests rather than merely claiming you do. For those who are not ready to join these “adult” debates, do not feel pressured. You have plenty of time to find your way. Today we’re just students, and I’d like to keep it that way for now.