by Sophie Lewis, Managing Editor
There’s a great deal to mourn with Newton’s lackluster first semester of the school year. Personally, I’m lamenting my inability to perfect my habit of eavesdropping (yes, I admitted it), one that has proved incredibly beneficial to my role as a student journalist: if I ever interviewed you for a Roar article over the past four years, thank you, and I probably reached out because of something I overheard you say in a crowded hallway or amidst the excited chatter before the start of class. At the same time, however, some of what I’ve overheard has painted a less-than-flattering image of the student body in my eyes.
Freshman year, class elections were a source of excitement, the first opportunity for members of the class of 2021 to make a name for themselves. In class one day, I remember listening in as one student made the case for their election bid: “Well,” they said, “I’m going to run because it would look great on my college application.”
I was shocked. I’d been a high schooler for less than a month, so how could my peers already be worried about college? That morning, I promised myself I would never get involved with something just for the sake of including it on a college application I wouldn’t start until years into the future. Come junior year, sticking to this promise became increasingly difficult with the daunting, high-stakes reality of college competition in full display at South, including a growing obsession with Naviance scattergrams.
But ever since pandemic-era disruptions became a normal part of life, I’ve been able to take stock in what matters most to me, let go of anything I was involved with for superficial reasons and try out new things that make me happy (I hope Marie Kondo would be proud). Through self-reflection, I’ve aimed to renew this promise to my freshman-year self.
In April, I wrote an iteration of this column about finding time for new hobbies over quarantine, and I’m proud to say that some of these have evolved into passions. After gym closures led me to invest in a new pair of sneakers and to adopt Coach Bennett of the Nike Run Club app as my personal trainer, I discovered a love for running. Whenever my brain took me spiraling into a place of fear and loneliness over the course of the pandemic, getting out into the chilly morning air was the perfect way to clear my head. There were no races to train for, but I settled into a running routine, the certainty of my shoes hitting against the pavement, joining the rhythm of my breath and of early-2000s Spotify pop tunes blasting in my ears, grounding me in a time where the plans around me changed by the minute.
Come this fall, I was elated to find out that cross country was one of few extracurricular activities offered in-person at South. I gave myself the gift of spending two hours after school, fully disconnected from Zoom, with an incredible team who inspired me to never give up on myself. Each warm up, each lydiard, each workout, each meet helped me feel stronger and more confident in myself.
Self care shouldn’t be newsworthy, but as someone used to a culture of comparison and competition, it was refreshing to choose a supportive environment for myself, welcomed by a team that felt like a family, even though I just joined that year. Sure, I ran at meets each Saturday, but I found joy in laughing during warm-ups, cheering for my teammates, appreciating the beauty of fall in Massachusetts on incredible race courses, rather than hitting a particular mile time.
This year, I’m missing out on a lot more than eavesdropping. My South career will feel incomplete without skipping the D block before break to sing Christmas and holiday carols around the school or kissing the Seasholes Auditorium stage to roaring applause on closing night of the musical. But my newfound sense of fulfilment has been an undeniable silver lining.
It’s an understatement to say that everything’s changed this year. Yet it’s felt freeing and restorative to realize that I can also change things about myself. To me, this meant reevaluating how I spent my time; to others, it might have been reconnecting with old friends or succumbing to boxed hair dye and Brad Mondo’s bangs tutorial. I’ve never tried ski racing before, but this winter, you can catch me joining the Alpine ski team.