Big Nate, Big Autri, Big Summer Dreams

Autri Basu ’23 (Editor-in-Chief, 142nd Board) in Editorials | September 9, 2022

As a child, one of my favorite comic strips was Big Nate. Nate was nothing like me—he enjoyed going to the beach, neglected his schoolwork, and constantly made trouble with everyone around him—and yet, I found his stories to be oddly relatable. One scene in particular remains etched in my mind: Nate is sitting in a classroom, lamenting his miserable school life, when all of a sudden, the bell rings. He runs out, dumps all of his papers into the garbage, goes outside, and exclaims something to the effect of “Summer is here!”

For all of our differences, my younger self did have one thing in common with Nate: I did absolutely nothing productive during my summers. While many of my friends were shipped off to camps or were forced to attend tutoring sessions, I would sit at home, waking up at noon each day to play video games and eat ice cream. 

As I got older, however, I slowly started noticing a profound shift—not in my peers, or even in my parents, but in myself. My thoughts moved from “Look at those suckers, wasting  their only time off,” to “Why am I the only one who’s doing nothing?” When I asked my peers about their summers, my intent changed from hearing about vacations to scouting out vocations. And when I came to Lawrenceville, the pressure only got worse— my classmates’ fast-food jobs and summer camps evolved into research internships and service trips, and no matter how much I did, I always felt like I was falling behind.

We Lawrentians already work hard enough; our six-day weeks and 12-hour days would probably destroy the majority of students our age, and yet, we go through this grueling routine for years on end as if it is nothing. By junior year, even my Saturday nights lost their sacred status as “no-work hours”; I wrote Lawrence articles and TFA applications during my winter and spring breaks, and filled my Sundays with rehearsals and club work. So why is it that when I finally got a chance to pull myself out of the competitive, high-pressure Lawrenceville environment for an extended period of time, I came crawling back just a few weeks later?

It would be a stretch to call my summer 2022 a “break.” For all the fun I had browsing the Bunn Library archives or putting on a show in Edinburgh, my endeavors were still, in essence, work: I had deadlines to meet and routines to follow no matter how hard I tried to bend them. Yet when I’d come back home for my brief interludes between programs, I’d find myself at a loss: I was bored. Waking up late and playing video games no longer sufficed as entertainment; even going out with friends got old quickly. 

I began to think that for all my complaints about tiredness and burnout, I needed work. I needed structure, I needed stress to keep me going. It almost felt like an epiphany. No wonder I’d feel so lost whenever I’d finish my homework early to “give myself a stress-free evening”; my stress-free night would mean having time, time during which I would be forced to confront the void I had created by solely dedicating myself to work. For all of the worries that came with classes and extracurriculars, I began looking forward to the school year as a way to finally give me back that structure I so desperately thought I craved.

Today is Tuesday, September 6; I have completed three days of my senior year. Today is also the third day in a row after which I’ve gone home early, sat down to do my homework, and immediately fallen asleep. I guess I did get the structure and stress I was looking for—but maybe a little too much of it.

So when I look back on those summer days—not just the scattered empty ones of this past break, but the countless ones of years before—I won’t think about “wasted opportunities” or “unproductivity.” I won’t think about the sheer boredom that I often found myself buried in. Sure, it might feel annoying in the moment—but you’re always looking for what you don’t have. 

Next summer, try to intentionally find yourself in one of those moments of boredom. You may wish you were somewhere else at the time, but someday, you’ll be aching to go back, even if you’ve forgotten that it had happened in the first place. We’re lucky enough for Lawrenceville to give us three-month-long summer breaks—let’s put them to good use.