As I have been told by friends and family, I am not a very romantic person. Sentimentality is something I typically shy away from — feelings just are not my thing. I know what you must be expecting me to say — that Andover was at first difficult and I hated it, but that I adjusted, mastered the school, grew to love it and now can not bear to leave, cliché, cliché, etc., etc.… I do not like to admit it, but this is actually somewhat true.
What I will miss are the things that made Andover bearable: my friends and all that I have learned about myself. If nothing else, Andover helped me grow up. I learned to love myself and to embrace both the happiness and depression which so brazenly coexist on this campus. I have learned to take things one step at a time.
Had I been writing this article one year ago, it would have been very different, however. My Upper year experience was in many ways very similar to that of the rest of my peers, marked by stress and a lack of sleep. I did not realize just how unhappy, insecure or hesitant I was at the time. No one ever reached out to me — not when I got a bad grade or passed out from exhaustion at 1 p.m. on a GW couch; no one ever asked how I was really doing. There was a stern reprimand from my House Counselor or an angry call from my parents, but all I could do in response was self-medicate and binge sleep. I looked for validation in things rather than in myself, and I continued to feel utterly alone.
So why is this article not a totally depressing good-riddance letter? Somewhere along the line, I decided to stop caring. I stopped caring about fitting some kind of Andover “mold,” which I am no longer sure even exists. I gave up on the expectations of my conservative, preppy Southern home town. I stopped worrying about what other people thought, and I started paying more attention to what I wanted in life, not what my parents, friends or teachers wanted for me. When you stop trying to be someone you are not, life suddenly seems a lot more liveable. I am grateful that I have finally arrived at this realization, but I certainly wish it had come sooner.
I cannot forgive Andover for its failure to care about my mental health. Yes, I visited Graham House, but these visits were not very helpful. I do not have enough fingers on my two hands to count the number of girls I know with an eating disorder. Everyone here constantly acknowledges that the Andover environment encourages unhealthy habits; Isham says students do not sleep enough; The Phillipian’s “State of the Academy” survey indicates, year after year, that students self-harm. But nothing ever seemed to be done to actually address these issues. Furthermore, many school-sponsored events only seem to exacerbate the issue of mental illness on campus, though I am sure saying so will not win me any popularity points.
I know that many of my peers have loved this school for all four years that they have lived here; my experiences are just as valid, however, and I am not afraid to admit that it has been a rocky ride, and I am honestly not sure I would do it over again if I had the chance. Of course I would come back for the friends I have made and the hilarious times we have had, for the beauty of the campus and for the stellar academics, which have truly been a privilege. But the competition, the pressure, the stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere and the lack of attention these issues receive from the administration are all major deterrents, to say the least.
With no “Andover days” ahead, I will admit that part of me is sad to graduate. I will miss traipsing around campus with friends late at night, trekking downtown far more often than we should have and lying beneath the heat of the weak New England sun on the Great Lawn. I am immeasurably grateful for the education I have received. I look forward to being an alumna, and I know I will cry as I wave goodbye to my wonderful House Counselors and teachers at graduation. But I am nonetheless ready to leave.
Andover can truly be a wonderful place, and at times, I have known it as such. This school, however, could do so much more to foster an environment marked by health, safety and fulfillment. Head of School John Palfrey and the new student body representatives seem to be putting mental health as a focus, which is a step in the right direction. I have come to love Andover, but it pains me to think of the countless younger students who will undoubtedly face the same challenges I once did. Something must be done to address mental illness at this school — only then will Andover be a place I can wholly miss.
_Katia Lezine is a three-year Senior from Winston-Salem, NC, and a Commentary Editor for _The Phillipian_ Volume CXXXVI._