With too much coffee in my system and too little sleep behind me, the first day of Senior Fall began much like the rest of the days that term would. By a twist of fortune, I found back myself in Bulfinch 210, Mr. Bardo’s classroom. Three years earlier, I had had Mr. Bardo for English 100, and now I was taking his Senior elective on American Identity, “Rosebud.”
Mr. Bardo was fluttering around the classroom passing out syllabi and chatting with us about our summers. The bell rang. We sat. We introduced ourselves, but everyone knew each other already — at least we thought we did. Then he dropped the first assignment on us. “For Friday, you should write, in fewer than 650 words, an ‘anti-college essay’ – what you wouldn’t want colleges to know about you.”
Throughout our time on campus, teachers and Heads of School, alumni and speakers preach the value of taking intellectual risks. They talk about taking advantage of Andover’s opportunities. They talked about finding a rock (or cherub) to get you through the tough times. We are repeatedly told to try new things and not be afraid to speak what we thought. What people never say is to speak what we feel.
That first assignment set the tone for the entire Fall Term, wherein my English class would do just that — speak what we thought. Through our discussion of movies, books and essays, we learned intense compassion — we discovered that there was so much more to each one of us than anyone could have imagined at the outset. We peeled away the masks we all wear to hide our innermost thoughts and feelings.
It is very easy to pass through Andover without ever really feeling. In fact, I spent much of my time here suppressing my emotions — I would worry about the important questions in life after finishing that paper or taking that test. To reflect takes time, something I thought I did not have. In reality, I had the time, but I was just afraid to be honest with myself. I was afraid to let myself be emotionally vulnerable, because there is something really scary in talking about feelings.
Mr. Bardo’s class forced me to look inwards. I often waited until late at night, after everyone in my dorm was asleep, to complete my assignments for the course. Sometimes as I wrote, I cried (and listened to Taylor Swift) — not tears of desperation or sadness or joy, but tears of overwhelming, pure emotion. Writing clearly and succinctly about how you feel is hard. At times, however, it is the only way forward.
In many ways, Andover’s culture is not one that encourages reflection. We see looking back as a waste of time, an obstacle to progress. We feel as though we cannot slow down and care about each other or ourselves because we are too busy trying to move faster. We lie to ourselves and put off reflection and the deeper questions until later.
The most important thing I learned at Andover, I learned in Mr. Bardo’s class — that there is something beautifully liberating in the process of simply feeling how we feel. Whether through writing or conversation, we all need an opportunity to be heard and to hear others. It may be painful, but, in the end, it is worth it; that is just the rose and thorn of reflection.
_Greg Hosono is a four-year Senior from Palo Alto, CA, and an Online Editor for _The Phillipian_ Volume CXXXVI._