Who We Are and What We Love

in Editorials | September 29, 2023

          Imagine an hourglass, the sand inside fine and delicate. Now, envision turning the glass over and watching the grains funnel from one end to the next. Over and over again, see one side empty and the other become full. The sand must go where gravity commands and can do nothing but feel itself be pulled down by a more significant entity. 

          For many, the Lawrenceville experience is a kind of hourglass. We start our high school careers full of sand—individual interests and hobbies. As children, we use these passions—the books we love, the sports we play, the music we listen to—as reference points for determining who we are. We define ourselves by the things we love. Maybe this definition is merely a child’s attempt at understanding herself, but it does create a sense of self that allows us to start interacting with the world as individuals, with thoughts and minds of our own.

          As II Formers, we had ample time and freedom to develop these hobbies outside our classes. We loved writing, so we spent evenings crafting tall tales and poems. Maybe we cooked delicious meals for our families each night or devoted entire afternoons trying to juggle a soccer ball 100 times in a row. For many, these unique interests are what landed us admission into Lawrenceville in the first place. 

          However, from the very second we become Lawrentians, we begin learning how to capitalize on these hobbies. 

          This moment is when the hourglass tips. 

          We love to write, so we sign up for as many publications as possible, hoping to one day become an editor. We audition for the orchestra, so that maybe one day, we could be the first-seat cellist. Over and over again, our sand tips from our own side of the hourglass into the School’s collection of talent and prestige. Arguably and inevitably, we will continue pursuing our passions as upperclassmen, especially at a place like Lawrenceville, which is dripping with resources. This means that while the School provides the resources allowing us to develop our hobbies and gain real experience in the fields where we could foresee ourselves making a living, being the best is the only way to achieve this experience. Only the best writers become Editors-in-Chief, the best cellist’s the first seat, and what was once an enjoyable pastime becomes a pressure cooker in which only the most talented survive. Joy might still exist in the simple action of these activities, but the underlying need to succeed leads us to wherever we go.

          What happens to the hobbies on which we cannot capitalize? For many, they become the forgotten joys of our childhoods. Our cookbooks are replaced with textbooks, and our novels are left on the shelves collecting dust. Where we were once individuals with exciting passions and interests, we now all take on the burden of a Lawrentian. There simply is not enough time in the day to simultaneously be a Lawrenceville student and someone who exists outside the parameters of school. If something we love to do cannot be used to make us a more successful Lawrentian, then why not just leave it behind entirely? 
Time and time again, we see the sand slip further from our end of the hourglass and lose the things that once made us who we were. We are no longer defined by what we love but by how accomplished we are at our passions and interests.

          We will only be Lawrentians for a few years of our lives; a mere fraction of all that we will see and accomplish happens in high school, but this mentality might follow us well after our graduation. How will we define ourselves when our definitions are no longer outlined by Lawrenceville’s standards? Will we ever relearn how to paint for enjoyment, read for relaxation, or play the cello simply for fun? 
All hope is not lost. Juniors still play on JV even though they might never make the varsity team, some students show up to club meetings and social events simply for a good time, and other students pour hours of their time into performing, because the joy of theatre is well worth the late nights of tech week. We can find ways to steal some of our sand back into our own halves to restore our pots to what they once were. So that when we leave this place behind, we can still remember who we are and what we love.