When the Lines Disappear

Opinions  /  by Anna Heckler '14  /  April 11, 2014

Along Interstate 95, immediately after the George Washington Bridge, there comes a segment of road where the lane-lines seem to dissolve from the pavement. As drivers are left wondering at the sudden disappearance of modern road regulation, their cars hover precariously in a no-man’s-land of unpainted concrete. Maybe, I mused, the New York City road authorities had run short of funding to paint that section of asphalt. Or maybe the problem was simply one of overuse--so many cars had traversed that section of the road that the lines had worn away. Either way, the unpainted pavement proved an opportune space for the oh-so-diplomatic New York drivers to swerve violently between lanes. The conditions were so dangerous that my father even suggested that someone insert ski-slalom-gates to better facilitate the 70mph dodging practice.

 

As I held my breath, waiting for the white-hashed lines to reappear, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dejá vu. Senior spring, I realized, feels kind of like that section of the road where the lines fade away. Sure, housemasters send unsympathetic emails every once and a while reminding the senior class to lead by example. Teachers, too, threaten to prescribe detentions to anyone who gets a bit overexcited at the prospect of senior spring. But despite the ever-imposing presence of authorities, senioritis manages to deteriorate our near-sacred boarding school regulations into what can only be compared to preschool mandates for nap-time. The hostile emails from teachers, after all, are only words; the lines on the road are only paint. But in these words and in this paint, we imbue the power to regulate a lifetime--and only when we near the end of the road do we realize that it is our perspective, not any imposing structures, that define the limits of our freedom.

 

Some might say that this very observation just goes to show the dangers of senioritis. As the senior class divests itself of any loyalty to school rules, the administration fears that senioritis will infect us with the recklessness of those New York drivers who weave so haphazardly between lanes. But unlike most words ending in i-t-i-s, and unlike most NYC-born operators of motor vehicles, the disease is not as deadly as it is reputed to be. In fact (and I might reveal myself to be the minority in saying this), I feel more motivated now than I ever did in my past eleven terms at Lawrenceville. Now, I’m learning because I want to, not because I feel threatened by low grades. Now, I’m investing energy into sports because I want to see how far I can push myself, not because I feel bound to any athletic requirements. While the freedom of senior spring might bring with it fears of anarchy, this unlined road also has the potential to spark unrealized passions in an overly-structured student body.

 

Even beyond such connotations of liberation, that stretch of asphalt along I-95 bears a resemblance to another cliché element of senior spring. While my father cursed at the drivers racing around us on either side, all I could do was trust that the white lines would return to anchor us into one of the two respective lanes before we ended up in an accident. As we hovered in limbo, in a realm without traffic lanes or speed limits, we were forced to take a leap of faith while we hoped that the white paint would return.

 

We seniors, and anyone else who has gone through a transition from one community into the next, are going through a similar trust-fall at the moment. Many of us have lived in this isolated bubble of our Lawrenceville world for up to four years. And in about five months, we will be told to start from scratch--find new friends, identify new niches, fight our ways onto new sports teams. Just as the GW bridge and the comfort of its traffic lanes faded behind me, Lawrenceville is fading behind the senior class. And just as I trusted that the lines along the road would begin again in a few seconds, we must trust that we are ready to graduate into the world of double majors and D1 sports teams.

While senior spring invites many of us to direct our eyes towards the future, we also must recognize the more immediate opportunity for self-realization. Like driving on the unpainted section of I-95, senior spring can be used either to justify irresponsibility or measure our integrity. And often, what we chose to do with the power of that choice says more about our character than how we act when burdened by rules.

 

The unlined road, like senior spring, is both a warning and an invitation. To some, this time of year carries with it the connotation of being mildly dangerous. Others might interpret senior spring as a nerve-racking time of transition. Still more take advantage of the moment as an opportunity to savor the quickly-fading glories of high school. But more than anything, senior spring is a time when, as the lines disappear from the pavement, you learn to hold on tight and brace yourself for the ride.