Life at Deerfield moves at the speed of light, and sometimes it feels as if you’ve been left in the dark. At some point, everyone here feels extremely lonely. This feeling is all too familiar for many Deerfield students–not just in the sense of not having many friends, but also in the sense of feeling alone in one’s struggles. You look around and see perfection. There are tri-varsity athletes who are Ivy–bound on academic scholarships and also taking AP art classes. Everyone else is somehow able to carry the weight of the world on his or her shoulders and you can hardly stand up straight, only carrying the weight of your own fragile heart. And it sucks. There’s nothing poetic about feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of superiority. But please, please realize something you’ve probably been told 1000 times over: you are not alone.
Every single kid around you is dealing with his or her own problems, and every one of those problems is significant. Think of all the times you’ve kept your struggles to yourself, the times you didn’t want to burden anyone else by asking for help, the times when you kept everything you were dealing with stuffed inside, praying it wouldn’t all spill out. Now realize this: everyone else has done the same. Everyone here feels like they need to achieve the perfection they’ve been assigned to aspire to when, in reality, that’s impossible. So why do we have all these lonely souls dressed up and holding their heads up high like they’ve been trained to do? Because we don’t talk about this problem.
All of us have stayed up until ungodly hours, best friends packed into one room, tears flowing along with secrets we’ve never before told anyone. We’ve walked into someone’s room after a long day with a shaky voice and the need for a hug. But these rare moments don’t defeat the stigma around imperfection at Deerfield. All of this honesty is expressed behind closed doors. Instead, we should recognize that we’re in this together. The next time the boy who doesn’t talk in your math class bumps into you, don’t roll your eyes at him when he apologizes; smile graciously and tell him it’s fine. Or when the girl who has been mean to you since freshmen year is crying alone on the Hess steps, ask her what’s wrong, and remember to actually listen.
We’ve all accepted this seemingly never-ending stress by choosing to become a part of Deerfield’s incredibly rigorous environment. Once you start focusing on all the work you have to do, and what GPA you have to reach to be on the top, and how the girl who sits next to you in French doesn’t even do work but understands the material more than you do, you run into a toxic cycle. It becomes easy to see your years here as tests and quizzes and essays only to move on to another (harder) four years of tests and quizzes and essays; but please stop and look beyond this. Drop the act that declares you can always handle your over-packed full plate. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t think that just because one of your friends is taking three APs means that you can as well. Maybe you can handle only one–or even none. That’s okay. Challenge yourself, but know the difference between treading water and nearly sinking.
I’ll leave you with this: Deerfield constitutes at most four years of your life. In the grand scheme of things, that’s microscopic. But please make those years count. Forget about all the pressure you’ve put yourself under and just breathe. Look at all the beauty that surrounds you. Listen to your best friend’s laugh. Read your favorite book over and over again. Go outside and play your favorite sport. Realize the incredible community you’re a part of, and know that you never have to struggle alone.
All the Best,