“Ugh, I have three away games, one of which is at St. George’s; five major commitments, with two tests on Saturday; three club meetings; one quartet rehearsal; two Circle Voice articles; and zero free periods this week. I’m screwed.”
“Yeah, man. This week’s gonna be a killer for me too. The Groton Grind, am I right?”
We have all partaken in an interaction like this at least once during our Groton careers. In the midst of Winter Term, it seems as if these conversations pile on quicker than the incoming snow. But this is one aspect of Groton that needs to end.
Now, I am not saying that this problem is unique to Groton; you might find similar phenomena at many universities, high schools, and workplaces all around the country. When so many talented, gifted, and hardworking students are concentrated in one place, each individual’s achievements are not recognized as much as they would be in a different environment. So in order to compensate, students try to cautiously reveal their accomplishments. From Second Form to Sixth Form, we all complain about the amount and difficulty of our work. Groton and many schools like it are rooted in this culture of complaining. Worse than humble-bragging, our particular style of complaining does two things:
First, it is a way for us to subtly bring to light our own accomplishments. Attempting to avoid coming across as condescending or ostentatious, we prefer to reveal our achievements alongside a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
It’s funny, we complain to validate what we do, often using hyperbole to really make sure that our efforts are recognized. If you really did stay up till 4 a.m. studying for that “juggernaut of a test,” then I am sorry for you. Your time would have been better spent sleeping. But that particular example is emblematic of our school’s culture.
We are trapped in a perennial Texas Standoff, where we want our accomplishments to be known but do not want to be those people who brag about their accomplishments. Humility is certainly a valuable virtue, but it is practiced almost mockingly at Groton.
Secondly, an abundance of complaining minimizes the actual problems that plague our community. We forget sometimes that we go to one of the top high schools in the world. We have a say in almost everything we do. Besides Morning Chapel and an afternoon activity, nothing here is completely mandatory. We can take between five and seven classes a term. If you have few free periods, why don’t you drop a class or two?
By constantly complaining about our lives, we marginalize those on the Circle who have real issues. Depression and mental health are almost never discussed here, because the voices of those who need help the most are drowned out in the sea of our common, petty complaints.
Explicitness is not all bad, but neither is our ability to check what we say before we say it. If you have genuine issues, feel free to speak up. A culture void of complaining is just as problematic as one full of it.
However, rather than complain, we should realize that we are all privileged to be here. We should enjoy our unusual experiences and take advantage of the many opportunities available to us. We do not have to participate in every activity, but we should definitely try to make an impact in at least one or two.
High school is one of the most unique periods of our lives. Let’s enjoy it.