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A Secret Life At Deerfield
Margaret McGraw '15 Contributing Writer
November 12, 2014
Margaret McGraw '15
Margaret McGraw ’15

My experience at Deerfield can be summed up into four years of failing math and French tests—and crying in every building on campus (yes, even Johnson-Doubleday). Life at Deerfield is difficult.

Once I received my acceptance letter to DA, I was pulled into a different world. I was the star at middle school, acing every test and working the hardest. But the second I unlocked my room on Mather II in 2011, I was no longer the best. I had to repeat Algebra I freshman year, something that remained a constant reminder for the rest of the year that I wasn’t as smart as I’d thought I was. I started using makeup my freshman year. I was forced into a culture in which I couldn’t be the real me. I felt inferior to the people I passed on the sidewalk every single day. I wasn’t the prettiest, the coolest or the smartest. I was just me.

Thoughts of leaving school have drifted in and out of my mind as I navigate the challenges that weigh down my shoulders every day. I have been obsessed with my appearance, my grades, whether a boy liked me, and who my friends are. There is a culture here that demands that we always act like we all have everything together. As Deerfield students, we’re not allowed to have flaws.

Every time I break down, shame swells inside of me. People will tell me that I’m not alone, but it’s hard to believe when you don’t see it anywhere else. I don’t know if everyone else is stronger than me or if I’m just overly sensitive. It takes merely a prick for tears to rush down my face and my breath to shorten.

Each time this happens, I feel lonely, even though words of support echo in my ears. I don’t have anything together, and last year showed me that I had allowed external forces at this school to tear me apart. This school has made me feel ashamed of who I am and the amount of times that I have fallen apart. Trust me, it sucks when you start crying in the middle of a math test and everyone just stares at you like you’re crazy.

Deerfield has this ability to confine one to a corner if one doesn’t adhere to its image of an ideal student, the kid who has everything together—Cum Laude, community service hours, proctor, peer counselor, DC member, captain, etc. And if you fit that mold, you are expected to be on top of your game and to never show emotions—sadness, anger, jealousy, and the rest.

If you tell someone how you feel, you are ostracized, and the blame is placed upon you for feeling that way. There is no room for openness. Sometimes it feels almost like the school motto is not “Be worthy of your heritage,” but “Don’t tell me how you really feel.” Although there are the select few members of the community who will take the time to hear you out, expressing your emotions is like a cardinal sin . . . not allowed. It’s looked down upon to say that you’re going to meet with Dr. Bicknell or Dr. Fritz because people think that you’re dealing with way too many issues, or that you’re weaker than everyone else. You’re seen as a basket case or a drama queen. Nobody thinks for a second that, maybe, you just needed someone to really listen to you without judgment.

I like to be open. Crying in every building on campus is something of an accomplishment, and I know, in the end, I must not be the only one who feels so lonely here sometimes. Rather than hiding behind a cloak of emotional invisibility, we here at Deerfield need to start telling people how we really feel.

At moments, I have allowed my frustrations to come to a point of eruption, and when it gets to that point, those emotions are hard to deal with.

The community should be accepting of every member; it shouldn’t force students to hide their true selves. Everyone should feel like they can express how they feel without being considered weak. Being unafraid to admit when you need help, when you’re having a hard time, is not cowardice. Sometimes, it’s even the braver thing to do.