Sink or Swim (or Squash)

During my freshman year at Andover, my dad kept promising me that suddenly it would be Senior Spring and four years would have slipped through my fingers. At the time, I rolled my eyes in disbelief that the long, homesick months would ever come to an end.

And yet, here I am, Senior Spring, and in some ways, my dad was right. Some days it feels like I woke up suddenly a Senior, not knowing where all the time went. But when I think more closely about my time at Andover and how this place changed me, I realize that my dad was wrong.

Along the way there have been many times when my Andover experience felt like a never-ending process. Andover seemed to know what I thought my limits were and then proceeded to push me well beyond those limits.

I remember crying in Coach Elliott’s hotel room in the middle of the night during squash nationals my Lower year. I was Varsity Captain, and the pressure of living up to expectations – both my team’s and my own – unleashed itself in that moment. We were only half way through the tournament and I was not even half way through my Andover career – in that moment, I felt alone and out of place.

What kept me going was Ms. Elliott’s support. She told me about the importance of taking care of myself and reminded me that just as when I succeed, I do not stumble in a vacuum. Over time, I came to realize that stumbling would always be a part of my Andover experience. But I also learned that I could lean on those around me; in fact, it is impossible to survive this school without great friends and supportive teachers.

In squash, I began to see my teammates not as a measure of success that I had to surpass, but as family that drove me crazy, inspired me and brought out the best in me. By Senior year, I felt comfortable enough in my leadership position to express the goofier, less put-together and more vulnerable side of me that I had thought I had to hide in order to be a strong and effective Captain.

I had a very similar experience as a Prefect during my Upper year. I went into the position thinking I always had to know what I was doing, or at the very least, look as though I did. Within the first week, terrified that I was in way over my head, I frantically called an old Prefect of mine, Shelby Carpenter ’12. Her advice, to follow my gut and, when in doubt, use those around me for support, proved extremely valuable.

On many occasions, I would be simultaneously dealing with a prefectee’s problem, attempting to catch up on SAT studying and working on a major assignment looming over my head. In these moments, I would stop what I was doing and walk down the stairs of Hale and into the room of my best friend and fellow Prefect, Casey Durant. At first, these moments made me feel like I had failed as a prefect. I would quickly realize that Casey, too, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Some days we solved each others problems, but more than anything, we came to rely on each other for laughter.

As the year progressed, these emotional, stressful moments increased in frequency, but so did the laughter. I loved being a prefect for many reasons – I became very close with my freshman, and came to know the joy of being part of somebody else’s support system. Most of all, however, I loved how being a prefect strengthened my relationships with amazing individuals like Casey and Ms. Elliot, who helped me trust and believe in myself.

I would have thought that by now, I would have everything figured out, but I have never stopped learning here. I still make mistakes, and I still find myself in situations of confusion and loneliness. But now, I know that I can always reach out to others.

Whether it is sitting in Ms. Elliott’s kitchen at 12 a.m. drinking teaand talking about boys, flopping on Rev’s coach to watch football after church service or lying on my floor with Casey, laughing so much that our stomachs hurt, I have finally learned how to make the most of my time at Andover. The people really do make the place, and I will be forever grateful for that.

_Adèle Bernhard is a four-year Senior from Brooklyn, NY._