Phillipian Commentary: In Pursuit of Perfection

Hobbies go extinct at Andover. Though we all participate in passions—I love orchestra, community engagement, writing, and tech—we sometimes forget to prioritize the journey. At risk of sounding abstract, I’ll say this: mediocrity is one of the most important facets of a fulfilling life. We each claim to prioritize leisure, but many of us have lost an essential aspect of ourselves: the strength of pursuing something purely for its pleasure.

Andover has more than 100 clubs and many are populated only by those who are already proficient in their area of focus. The vital aspect of “beginner-hood”—learning something regardless of mastery—is unfortunately scarce. The world of leisure is being invaded by the pursuit of perfection, and we must strive to prevent this from occurring.

We should try things that pique our interest, reminding ourselves that the courage and conviction this requires of us is vital to a fulfilling life. We should attend clubs we’ve never heard of before; one of my most fulfilling groups is Philo, a historical school debate club that I had no knowledge of prior to attending Andover. All this to say: we must acknowledge the value of the unfamiliar.

Expert knowledge stems from painful mediocrity. If we simply rely on expected patterns, we will never be able to challenge ourselves as much as we could’ve. And although we are quickly approaching the end of this school year, it may be useful to remember that the following years may be very different from this one. As a Junior, my world has grown exponentially in these past months. Yet, I am also cognizant of the fact that there’s still more growing to do. The choice to pursue something new is a conscious one and I must strive to continue to seek new journeys in the future.

Real learning stems from change. From being hopelessly confused, then asking a million questions to get it right; from playing notes successively more in tune until finally they harmonize; from research, trial, and failure. Although this “failure” might initially manifest as pain and uncomfort, it’s the reason why we’re all here: to learn and to grow beyond what we could otherwise.

As we rush headlong into our summer, we must each remember that empty time—long stretches at home, without homework or Canvas announcements or clubs—can lead to epiphanies. Only by trying new things can we break patterns, challenge stereotypes, and maybe even discover new passions. While mastery can be satisfying, we must never forget the allure of the true hobby. Next year, start a new instrument or join a new club. You may be surprised by what you find.