As the scent of pollen and virulent stress emanating from students wafts across campus and onto our doorsteps, we can be assured of one thing—summer has arrived. Warm weather means lawning, sipping cool drinks on hot days, flowers in bloom, and of course, that Abbot residents are, on average, about 40 percent less miserable on their daily hike to school. But as spring swings into summer, there’s likely a lot more than fun in the sun on our minds. Seniors are graduating, the last finals season of the year is upon us, and summer plans—whether that be work, rest, or holiday—are coming into focus.
At Andover and among the cultures of many an “elite” private school, the productivity imperative pervades. Understandably underscoring most of the school year, it is something we expect to lessen after finals week crests and we let loose for the summer. Yet it clings to us even as we’re catching up on sleep or pulling late, television-fueled nights. The constant din of hustle culture whispers in our ear to sign up for summer programs, find an internship, get a job, get ahead on schoolwork, read, work—simply to mindlessly, ceaselessly produce. It is often that these pressures encourage us not to view summer as a space divorced from Andover’s “grindset,” but saturated and in service of it.
Moreover, this framing of summer as territory to populate with “productivity” denies us time to recharge. Often, towards the end of the school year, we begin viewing our terms as marathons—with cries of “you’re almost at the finish line,” “just one more week left,” or “I’m going to crash so hard after this.” These encouragements are empowering and invigorating, but when this mindset is combined with a culture that demands summer productivity, we may easily be left burnt out not in spite of, but because of summer.
To address the faults of this productivity imperative, we must also address the aspects of students’ lives and summers this imperative leaves out. For instance, the activities often associated with summer productivity are often inaccessible to lower-income students who may not be able to pay exorbitant application fees, travel for Instagrammable holidays, or must work to support themselves and their families. Universal ideas of things to “do” or “accomplish” over summer often neglect these points, furthering the socioeconomic inequalities we seek to dismantle and challenge.
So, in the face of this productivity imperative, and acknowledging that everyone’s summer will and should look different, here are some guiding principles to take with you as you pack up your room and head home after a long year:
ONE—Reflect, but don’t force it. Summer is the prime time to look back on your year—all that you did, all you didn’t do, and all the things you’ve experienced. This year has been so much for all of us. Allow yourself to settle into that comfortable mood of thinking-but-not-thinking, when you go through the day in a soft haze, but every so often, one of those sharp insights comes to the surface and things slot together more clearly. Savour those moments, but don’t force them. You have time.
TWO—Languish. As the summer heat builds and the texts with friends start to dwindle, there’s a point in the summer where things begin to feel a little lonely and empty. All the excitement has gone. But this may be the best point in summer to have time for yourself. The school year is a time of growth, sometimes painfully, and over summer, having space to settle into who you’ve become is immeasurably valuable. Change is inevitable, and this is a chance to embrace it before it rocks us. So take those few days of loneliness and use them well—get to know yourself in the absence of others. Who are you outside of school? What do you love? Who can you be? Summer may be the best time to grapple with these questions—the school year is a hard place to process pain.
THREE—Dream. Get excited about things—art house films, a new show to binge, a cup of tea the next morning, your future. Let your imagination run wild. On campus, it may feel that we are so committed and that our paths are set. At home, distanced from these tracks, is a golden opportunity to think up other options, whether you pursue them or not. Explore your future in “what ifs” rather than “musts,” see your life as paths untrodden rather than paths laid. Hope is a fire we must keep kindling within ourselves.
P.S. Enjoy the sun. You’ll want it back when winter rolls around.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXLV.