I would never call myself lazy. Frankly, when other people call themselves lazy, I don’t really know how to react. When I first came to Andover, pride in taking time to relax seemed like pride in mediocrity, which bewildered me. It seemed like self proclaimed lazy people were proud that they did the minimum, and therefore had all this extra time to enjoy themselves. Everyone I have met at Andover has been the complete antithesis of a lazy slacker; the most motivated, smartest, hardworking students in the country. My first year at Andover, I constantly tried to check the boxes in my mental to-do list of how I want to live my life as I went through my day. The idea of slacking was both unfamiliar and unfavorable to me. But I forgot that I am supposed to enjoy myself and enjoy spending time with my peers. At a school in which we are all focused on our future, we often forget to enjoy the present, and in doing so, treat our happiness as secondary to completing our work.
Like many of us, at my old school, I was always the first one to raise my hand. I was fourth grade class president, and I did Math Club for a stint in 6th grade (there are pictures on the deep dark reaches of educational instagrams to prove it). I was the overachiever, and I never felt lazy, or like I was slacking off.
As my parents drove me back from my tour at Andover, my mom said to me, “That place seems like a pressure cooker.” We have all heard things like this before: that silent study plants seeds of anxiety and stress and makes the sound of the clock ticking towards an upcoming history paper deadline deafening. As we progress through Andover, we hear other students say that “Chemistry will crush you” or that “you better know what you want to write about for your History 300 paper before you take the course.” Everyone has their future and their lives planned out to the second, and the not knowing, the mystery of life, is our worst fear.
I remember my first conversation with my prefect freshman year. She talked about how she was on the Phillipian, was part of what seemed to be 150 of the 300 clubs on campus, did this sport and that sport, and so many other things that I cannot even begin to count. That level of commitment seemed utterly unattainable to me. I would talk to kids in my grade who were going out and doing all of these amazing things: interning here, applying there, getting recruited there, and in the midst of it all, still maintaining a 6.0 GPA. I was confused, and for months, whenever I wasn’t eating in a tent out of a green box, I just sat in my room thinking about how I had become the slacker I used to look down upon. I didn’t do anything, I had no extracurriculars, and I was the worst on the sports team. It was all just one great pity party. I was in a rut. I was the number one slacker, or at least it felt like I was.
I know I am not alone in feeling this way. Almost everyone I have talked to on this campus has said something along the lines of, “I don’t think I’m doing enough, I need to round out my extracurriculars, I need to stand out.” This insecurity and sense of inadequacy exists in the same place where people are on the verge of curing cancer and are writing history papers that break down the fabric of our society. Even the kids doing those amazing things still feel like they are not enough and will never be enough. Kids are brought in freshman year as recruits for sports I barely knew existed. Constantly comparing myself to my peers who were achieving at the highest possible level and presenting the best of themselves became crushing. I realized that letting go, even for just a second, was so relieving. I popped my anxiety bubble for the first time. For once, I did not want to put all of my energy into the perfect homework assignment, because I didn’t want to burn out so quickly.
I woke up one morning last spring, and I thought to myself, I need to start a club. Why? Why, at 7:30 in the morning, my freshman year of high school, was I thinking about how starting a club would look on my college application? The answer? I didn’t think that my character, soul, or mind were good enough on their own. Focusing on yourself, and spending enough time on the things you enjoy allows us all to be more in tune with our own hopes and needs.
My desire to do everything perfectly and to fill up my resume with a million extracurriculars actually prevented me from putting my whole being, my whole passion into one thing I truly care about. Because all of my energy has been thrown into so many different buckets, everything seems pretty unfulfilling.
I want to start slacking off. I want to do less things and focus on the things I truly care about and want to do, and Andover’s culture should change to encourage other students to do the same. I want to prioritize my happiness, and stop comparing myself to others or holding myself up to unattainable standards. I want to think carefully about what steps I will take tomorrow. If we don’t actively fight against a culture that encourages constantly pushing ourselves to the maximum, we run the risk of pushing ourselves too far and falling over the edge.
Next time I have twenty minutes of free time, will I decide to enjoy it or spend it cramming for my quiz? I know the answer we are trained to give, that studying comes before anything and everything else. That no matter what, we have to do our work on time, and perfectly. But, I want to know that I spent my time doing things I love when I’m older and look back on my high school experience, even if that means ‘slacking off” and relaxing a little bit more.