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"The Wake Up Call: Facing the Truth"
audrey cho 11 opinioneditorial editor volume 85
May 26, 2011

When someone asks you to write a reflection on the past four years at Deerfield, you can only laugh. What could I possibly write that’s meaningful, that’s a testimony to the four years I’ve spent here? Where do I start— with another truth yet cliché about my eye-opening classes or life-long friendships?

No, instead, this is for those who want the truth, that unintelligible truth beneath the intelligible lie. This is for those who have felt misplaced, humiliated, miserable, and simply unhappy—what we are not supposed to feel at our new “home.”

I wish I could say I loved Deerfield. But as the previous Op/Ed editor who sought and demanded truth, it’s my turn to present my truth.

Let’s start from the beginning. It’s hard to remember small details from freshman year, except the funniest ones such as the time when Rose handle-barred me into the rose bushes in front of the MSB, or when Mrs. Heise called Ted’s voice “sultry,” and we burst into laughter after he looked up the definition in Webster’s. Funny moments intertwine and uplift my memories of freshman year, but frankly it was a time when I felt awkward, estranged, and miserable.

My parents taught me to love myself, that I was special. I believed in this, but I wasn’t from Greenwich, CT. I wasn’t white, I was a day student, and I couldn’t dare to stray from J. Crew or Ralph Lauren. I believed in myself, but I needed to conform. I pretended I loved the Greer nightlife (because clearly everyone else did), and I pretended I loved spending all hours in Ashley instead of cooking dinner with my family. All because I needed to fit in, because I needed to belong.

What was wrong with me? Everyone around me was praising us for being the smartest kids, and everyone around me seemed to unite under their love for Deerfield and the motto, “Be worthy of your heritage.” It seemed as if everyone was happy; why couldn’t I be the same? Why did I need to pretend happiness?

But it wasn’t just me. I saw my friends, too, frantically order Jack Rogers online, complain about the Greer, and fear walking alone, lest they look like loners.

My wake-up call came from the strangest source. My sister, then a senior, told me an “absurd” comment that her music teacher, Mr. Pandolfi, had made. She said he was worried that I, at his lunch table, rarely ate. I laughed with my sister (because everyone in my family knows how much I adore food), but I realized then that the twisting feeling in my stomach during study hall was hunger—hunger for food, hunger for acceptance, but most of all, hunger for happiness.

The stress of not being, but trying my hardest to be, the white, preppy, beautiful Deerfield Girl was stopping me from being happy.

But sophomore, then junior year came. Little by little, I was happy, not because I fit in, but because I relished the 45 minutes when The Awakening’s relevancy to today’s double standard hit me, or because I genuinely laughed and sang songs from Glee during Scroll layout. It was the little moments, interspersed throughout the day—whether class discussions or a smile from a stranger—that excited me and inspired me. It was time to let go of that desire to fit in, for perfection, and to enjoy the brief yet blissful moments.

So this is for all those who’ve felt scared, out of place, unappreciated, awkward, or any other tumultuous emotion you can feel here at Deerfield.

Let’s face the truth: it’s hard to feel as if you always belong here. But what I’ve learned, what I can pass down, is that it’s about each moment, these few, fleeting seconds and minutes when you’re really happy: making friends with that shy boy at the library, gossiping on the way to sixth period with a girl on your crew team, or sharing fro-yo with the boy from Euro class. The way to enjoy Deerfield is to let go of that arduous task of trying to fit in, of trying to always wear pearls and Lilly, or trying to sport the “flow” or high socks. The way to live is to enjoy little bits of laughter each day, and cherish it.

According to all of the alumni I have talked to, I will miss Deerfield by the time college rolls around. Well, I’ll be honest: I don’t miss Deerfield yet. But I have a feeling they’re going to be right.

Audrey Cho was the 2010-2011 Opinion/Editorial editor of The Deerfield Scroll.