After surviving a cold and bitter winter, one would expect Andover students to cheerfully embrace the oncoming spring. So why then had I spent the warmest day of the year thus far, huddled in the mailroom nervously tapping my fingers for four straight hours? Simple: the results of the prefect process were soon to be announced via letters in the mailbox, compelling throngs of Lowers to keep me company on the lower level of George Washington Hall — accompanying the prospective prefects were waves of anxiety and legitimate mental breakdowns.
As I paced back and forth, my peers, meanwhile, were crumbling to the floor in fear, head in hands; I was surprised to find myself quite accustomed (perhaps jaded) to this level of anxiety since coming to Andover. This panic in the mailroom is only exemplary of a greater fear of failure pervasive on campus.
When I first received my Andover acceptance letter, I was of course excited to learn and to gain knowledge from great teachers and great students. At a certain point in my Andover career, however, my Junior-year ambition and energy was gradually supplanted by anxiety over bad test scores as my primary motivation. My focus shifted away from the questions I got wrong to the scribbled number on the top of the page. I stopped reading notes from teachers. I began drawing boxes in my planner, making my homework appear to be a checklist I couldn’t wait to complete. I just wanted the learning part to be over so I could, what, stress out more? Stress began to fill the holes left by my declining enthusiasm.
The mailroom proved to be rather cathartic for me: as I watched my peers break down around me, I began to reevaluate my purpose for coming here. If all I really wanted was a perfect GPA, then there were plenty of schools I could have attended. But I didn’t. I wanted the best education, so that is why I am here. At Andover, it is easy to get caught up in board turnovers and class curves, but ultimately we have to remember that the quality—not any measurable quantities—of our learning comes first.
Then finally, the letters were deposited in our respective mailboxes, and I witnessed something incredible: students seeing their peers, not as competitors for leadership positions or grades or college spots, but as friends. One girl gathered all us hopeful prefects together in a prayer circle and bolstered our spirits with kind words that I believe should be the true spirit of Andover. “You are all beautiful, no matter what is in that envelope,” she began. “You put your heart into this and worked your [butt] off, so no matter what, you win.” And one by one, we opened our envelope. I was ecstatic when I discovered I was to be a Prefect for next year, but, no matter the results, everyone left the mailroom with a smile.