Beer foams up and over the glass, cascading onto my hands and arms before dripping to the floor for the hundredth time. It’s fair to say that life has changed a bit since graduating from Deerfield.
I began work as a bartender on my gap year expecting the job to be easy, but after my first week I’d spilled more drinks than I’d sold, made countless mistakes with the tills and broken several glasses.
And I admit my failure came as a surprise. By Deerfield standards, my grades, college prospects and (admittedly single) varsity letter made me out to be the most qualified person on staff; however, my boss, possessing none of the above, was infinitely more valuable behind the bar, pulling two pints at a time while chatting with customers and never spilling a drop.
The difference between the image of success at Deerfield and in the “real world” strikes me every time I wash beer off my 2013 class ring.
The ring shows that I belong to the wonderfully talented group of Deerfield alumni, and that I jumped through the necessary hoops to gain a prized diploma. But every day the puddle of beer on the floor reminds me that a prep school education in itself is not a guarantee of success.
That is not to say that pouring the perfect pint is a universal benchmark for success either (in fact, given my past performance behind the bar, I sincerely hope it’s not), but it is a measure I hadn’t previously considered, and one that I must now face every day.
I took a year off before university to explore, shake off seven years of boarding school, and find a way to measure myself and my life against a different standard than the one school had given me.
I love Deerfield and the high expectations to which it holds us, but it becomes too easy to measure success exclusively against common goals–A+, Varsity, Semi date, Ivy League– and tell ourselves we don’t have time for anything else.
It turns out the world is a lot bigger than that; I’ve found it full of people with unique ideas of what success looks like. From founding a start-up to managing pubs, or launching an acting career, they have chosen their own goals and challenges.
For the first time in my life, there is no single aspiration for me and everyone else around me, and I’m starting back at the beginning.
The freedom is frightening; I’ve found life outside the bubble to be hard and humbling. But most of all, it’s hopeful.