Plea for a Less Balanced Summer

This is the last piece I will ever write for the Fourcast. It is the most recent in a long line of lasts, preceded by the last Hockaday éclair, the last Winter Formal, my last chance to stand—arms outstretched—like Kate Winslet on the edge of the ARC roof or have meaningful conversations with all the teachers who have made my time at Hockaday worthwhile.

In light of this, it is difficult not to be swept up in the almost palpable wave of apathy that saturates every corner of the senior hallway around this time of year. Homework? Who does that nowadays? Tomorrow is ages away—of course there’s time to watch Dirty Dancing again…and, what the heck, again. For the first time since 7:00 curfew, sleep comes first.

But this is not a lecture on how to remain focused on schoolwork in the midst of a pandemic outbreak of indifference. That is the last thing we need. If this is to be my last article, my last chance to ignite a spark in the Hockaday student body, then let me get straight to the root of my grievance against this school.

The truth is, I love Hockaday, and regardless of what they say, I think the majority of the students here love it just as much as I do. But there is a balancing point that we haven’t quite struck yet, and until we do, the Hockaday experience won’t be all that it could be.

We approach athletics with the view that everyone can and should be able to find an outlet that doesn’t feel like exercise.

Those who find running to be stressful, for example, are encouraged to branch out and find other means of fitness. And for the person with a natural lack of endurance, perhaps another, less physically taxing sport like golf would serve as a more appropriate outlet.

But we approach academics from an entirely different mindset. Instead of encouraging students to forgo those activities that do not agree with their genetic or physiological predisposition and instead take up those that do, we are addicted to the ubiquitous philosophy of “well-roundedness.”

A student who naturally excels at English, for example, is customarily encouraged to work hardest at math or science, and vice versa. Work always feels like work, and when it doesn’t—when we begin to enjoy what we are doing—too often we take it as an indication that we aren’t working hard enough.

The results make themselves evident in every discipline. So much of the work we do feels manufactured, born out of a sense of obligation rather than genuine interest or care. What’s worse, this is the kind of work for which we are rewarded.

For some of us, the approach works—we emerge from Hockaday with open minds and all the opportunities of the world at our fingertips. But for others, this kind of thinking takes the passion out of education. We are forced to sacrifice those things we love for a more “balanced” schedule.

And maybe that’s just the nature of school. But after a while, the Hockaday philosophy becomes a way of life, and this is when it becomes dangerous. So much of what we do is out of obligation that free time becomes a curse rather than a blessing. In the rut of the routine, we forget how to have fun, how to be spontaneous and try new things.

High school is the time to strike out and make bad decisions. It is through mistakes that we learn who we are and where our limits lie. But this requires motivation, that spark of action that starts a fire. Hockaday can teach you technicalities, but it can’t teach you to be inspired.

Pick up a new instrument or read that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for the past two years. Write a novel. Take a walk. Build an airplane. Start something, anything, and welcome failure, because in the end, it’s passion that defines a person, not the number of A’s on her report card.