Commentary: Double Effect-ing Myself

was pinned down by the fear of joining clubs before even arriving on campus. I had been a part of many clubs at my previous school, and with time, I had been able to work my way to the top. Yet, those leadership roles were simply handed down in order of seniority; applications were unneeded. Connections, too, were unneeded. At Andover, they were. I didn’t think myself to be the most outgoing or ambitious person. How would I be able to climb the social ladder? I couldn’t stop myself from repeatedly dragging up this thought and mulling it over, growing increasingly panicked.

The start of school came and went, propelling me into a club-free first month. I found myself grappling with the idea of “big” clubs and “small” clubs. A nagging voice in the back of my mind continuously tried to push me to join notable clubs so I could “grab the title of ‘Co-Head’ for the college resume,” as the voice bluntly put it. The days kept passing, the voice grew more persistent, and I was swallowed by a new wave of panic.

I knew this was not the right motivation by any means. I believed I already knew the consequences that would arise from committing to the endeavor of joining clubs solely to build an impressive resume: I would struggle with devoting so much time to something I had little passion for, the more important things like grades would suffer, I would suffer, and nobody would be merrier in the end. As the Fall Club Rally neared, this self-conflict continued to progress.

On the night of the Club Rally, I entered the Cage to find the entire floor covered with different the stations of clubs all trying to lure me in with candy and energetic self-promotion. To the right was Asian Society, to the left was Math Club, across was Philomathean Society, and farther ahead was The Phillipian. Slightly overwhelmed but filled with a new confidence, I decided to set a crazy goal for myself: to sign up for as many clubs as possible as a new means of “climbing to the top.” Before I had the chance to second-guess my thoughts, I threw myself into the fast-flowing line of people, eagerly writing my name down on the sign-up sheet of virtually every club.

In philosophy, there is something called the “principle of double effect.” Italian priest Thomas Aquinas, to whom the principle is credited to, first introduced it in the context of self defense. Though Aquinas’s proposed situation was far more extreme—that killing one’s assailant was permissible, if one did not intend to kill him—the core meaning of the principle seemed applicable to my own situation. It states that achieving a good outcome that comes with a negative side effect is okay, as long as the net gain is positive, and the negative side effect was relatively unintentional. I didn’t realize then, but I had essentially “double effect”-ed myself. I had known that the more clubs I joined, the more time I would lose from schoolwork, sleep, and personal time, but I had forced myself to be okay with that fact, because I thought being able to involve myself on campus was of greater importance. As a student who has always been on the shy side, I had been advised by countless teachers throughout my years of school to push myself to immerse in the campus community. Over the years, that advice stuck with me, and I had morphed it into something more acute.

Only when I had to start dropping clubs left and right did I notice something was off. Sometimes having to attend three clubs in a row on the weekends, I found myself having to stay up late to catch up on time finishing schoolwork. Despite having anticipated this, I hadn’t expected that I would start loosening my club commitments in order to find more time.

At first, I led myself to believe that the reason behind my skipping club meetings and being “too busy” was because I wasn’t managing my time well, and that I couldn’t even dream to become a leader on campus if I couldn’t even keep up with my schoolwork after joining a few clubs. However, the more I observed the way the members of the clubs had such an easy presence about them, and how genuinely happy they were, the more I discovered that I had distorted what the meaning of being a part of these clubs was. In many of the clubs I had once thought to be smaller and therefore less important, I met so many new people, and uncovered passions I didn’t even know I had. I came to realize that, as much as taking on leadership roles within clubs is excellent training for the future, making friends and meeting people is equally important, not to mention being able to relax.

With only two months left in school, I stuck to less than a fourth of the clubs I originally signed up for, only remaining a part of Philo, Photon, K-Pop, and The Phillipian, but I have been able to settle with that fact. I know that it is okay not to be so tense all the time—that it is okay to keep the clubs that not only stimulate me intellectually, but also serve as a time for me to truly enjoy myself. Every once in a while, I remind myself that I’ll only get to experience Andover once, so I shouldn’t spend my three years here drowning in stress and self-inflicted turmoil, and instead slow down and find some fun for myself while I’m still here.