Where do I begin…
I still remember that day in March of 2010: My Prep contingent mates and I standing around a table, arms locked, and our futures in front of us. It was a day like no other; my life would change forever based on the contents of a rectangular paper container. How? I didn’t know, but I knew it would be different. Now I sit here as a four-year Senior with an opportunity to attend college. It’s amazing to think about how my life has transcended since that day I got my acceptance to Andover.
_I never thought it was going to be easy…_
I remember that first day on campus; the sun’s rays made the buildings glow. I could feel the energy and excitement, literally: my ear drums were hurting from the shrill of teenagers yelling at my mom with energy and excitement to honk her horn. I entered George Washington Hall to see more smiling faces who pointed me in the direction of another face who smiled and in turn asked me to do the same as took my photo and received my official acceptance in the form of a blue piece of plastic with a face whose smile was identical to mine. I was to live with seven other boys and two who were our pseudo big brothers. They helped us move in and remained with us that entire year.
I walked around those first few days at Andover as if I knew what I was doing; I wasn’t being presumptuous, it just felt so natural to be here. It felt easy. It went like that for half the year until one day, I found myself sitting on the patio of the library, my head heavy, my hands physically representing my mind as they trembled. I was confused, I was upset, and I was alone.
_I became complacent…_
I remember that day very clearly. I had just finished my Freshman year at Andover. I was going to miss it. I had learned so much about myself and my capacity to overcome challenges on my own. A completely different environment from my home in the Bronx, I had to adapt in more ways than living independently; it became home to me. I couldn’t wait to share everything I did with my mom and show her that I was making the most out of my opportunity. I remember driving down that familiar block, parking in front of that familiar building number and opening the door to that familiar apartment. I remember calling that familiar phone number; wait time for delivery was 20 minutes. 20 minutes later I went down that familiar staircase to greet the delivery man, paid the familiar amount of $10.00, received as change $5.00 as I had so many times.
I opened the front door of the apartment building as I’ve done for years and stepped inside and waited for the sound of it slamming shut, but that sound never came. In its place was a foot that disrupted the natural order and a voice that I’ve never known before. I turned to see a stranger. That stranger wanted what I had and was prepared to take it. I gave him what he wanted, my money and bag of food in my right hand, because I didn’t know what he would do to me; I just wanted to get away. But he wanted more. Noticing the keys in my left hand, he lunged forward, yelling “Give me that!” I was unwilling. Whatever he had planned to do, he’d have to kill me before I let anything happen to my mother. It was the first time I’ve ever been robbed.
_I was reminded…_
I remember that afternoon of Lower year sitting in the Blue Room in Paresky Commons. Mr. Marzluft, my PACE teacher, announced that we were going to talk about decision-making and moral dilemmas. I realized that the disparity between my experience and the members of my classroom was a microcosm of my daily life and interactions in the greater Andover community.
My moral dilemma was not the choice between getting the iPhone or which color Patagonia sweater to wear the next day; mine was fight or flight. Unbeknownst to me, some of my friends back at home were involved with gangs, and I got caught in the middle. One day, my friend brought one of their gang friends to the park with us. They got into a fight with another kid. That kid called 40 other kids. One of my friends got away, but another was knocked unconscious: I did not know him, but I felt every kick, every punch as he was savagely beaten by 40 other kids. Mind you, this is in a park full of adults more than capable of intervening. I didn’t know what to do: I was in complete shock. I knew that my story was one that most of my peers would see as “terrible” or, in the back of their minds, “typical”; I didn’t want to scare my classmates or affirm any preconceived notions they already had about my life. That day in PACE was the first time I felt isolated at Andover.
_I found me…_
I chose these moments because these were the most significant times of my four years. They are more important to me than any achievement, than any award, than any compliment. They made me. That day Junior year, when I sat broken and lame, allowed me to be there for one of my Freshmen at a time when he thought nobody could feel his pain, but I could. That day in PACE made me PACE Senior, so that one who feels like they’re the stranger in the room knows they have another stranger by their side.
That day I got robbed was one of the most important days of my life because it gave me my perspective. After my first year at Andover, I thought that I had found a better life. When it first happened, all could think about was, “Why? Why on my first day back home from school? Why at the front door of my home?” Three years down the line I know why. It was a reminder that my life at Andover was only temporary. I was absorbed in the idea that Andover was my new life that I lost connection with my true reality. That day taught me to stay diligent, but to always remember where I came from.
And now, as I sit here alone in the Addison Gallery, the sun’s rays shine bright again at the finish line. I know where I began, and now…
_I am here._
_Rob Rush is a four-year Senior from Bronx, NY, and the Abbot Cluster President._