Editorial: Confronting "Complain Culture"

Scrutinizing Screen Sports,” the title of last week’s editorial, emerged from a board debrief filled with clashing voices, awkward pauses, and flashes of genius.

Scrutinizing Screen Sports,” the title of last week’s editorial, emerged from a board debrief filled with clashing voices, awkward pauses, and flashes of genius. Week after week, we always seem to have an updated version of what’s wrong with Lawrenceville, and thanks to our Harkness training, our ability to gather information and find flaws is second to none. Not a week goes by where we do not fret about our undue stress and heavy workload and, guilty as charged, contribute to the toxicity of our “complain culture,” even coining terms such as “hellville.” But as we seek to make the most of our Lawrenceville experience, perhaps we should begin to balance this criticism with gratitude and better appreciate our boarding school journey.

In a year of unusual circumstances, we managed to return to school in the fall, yet all we could handle were a few days of excitement and some shoutouts to some faculty members before returning to our critical old selves. Rather than protesting about in-House restrictions and dining hall distancing, perhaps we should take a moment to remind ourselves of what we are grateful for. In the midst of a global pandemic, our administration managed to lease an entire hotel for some senior boarders in order to dedensify campus. Amazing? Most definitely. As common spaces in the form of tents scattered campus, Main Street remained open for a stack of cookies from The Gingered Peach, and arguably the most crucial part of the Lawrenceville experience—we were still able to sprint across the muddy circle, making it just in time for a Harkness discussion in Mem. Looming by the tennis courts, the temporary trailers reminded us to show up for our weekly Covid-19 tests, keep our masks on, and remain socially distanced. But, aside from those restrictions, we conversed, laughed, and engaged with our peers both in and out of the classroom. Ironically, we can thank our own education for the critical perspectives we hold, but it doesn’t hurt to step back and take in all the good that surrounds us.

At Lawrenceville, we often find ourselves using language such as “I’m so tired” or “I have so much work” as conversation fillers, failing to realize the negative energy these phrases carry. Before arriving at Lawrenceville, we were well-aware of the school’s demanding schedule and rigorous workload. Ultimately, we chose to be Lawrentians and embrace the challenges that come with this unique opportunity and its accompanying rigor. By harping on how many major assignments we have, how stressed we are, or what little sleep we got the previous night, we fail to acknowledge the innumerable privileges of being a student at Lawrenceville, further ingraining “complain culture” into our community.

Perhaps each time we feel compelled to use “I’m so stressed” or “I have so much homework” as conversation starters, we can, instead, make a conscious effort to avoid dwelling on negative subjects and reinforcing a pessimistic mindset. Studies show that positive and negative words affect us on a deep psychological level and impact our outlook on life, as negative words release stress and anxiety-inducing hormones into our bodies. As a collective, we must recognize that for every fault we find, there is also something to be grateful for, particularly the small moments that make up our day-to-day lives at Lawrenceville: early-morning study sessions at Starbucks; last-minute ICAPS review sessions with a Duty Associate; Harkness discussions that challenge our thinking in more ways than we could imagine; one-of-a-kind elective sources, from “Noble Pulitzer National Booker” to “Russia: History and Memory”; and even three years of two-hour study halls, with doors open and no phones. That last one might be slightly controversial, but whether we care to admit it or not, those two hours of pin-drop silence sans cell phones, our biggest distraction, were a blessing in disguise.

Ultimately, it’s the simple moments—even those that may be associated with sources of stress—that shape us into the individuals we are today. While it’s important to acknowledge our struggles and seek help when necessary, solely focusing on the negative inhibits our ability to appreciate the good and only causes us to become even more stressed. As we prepare for our return to campus next month, we must keep in mind the invaluable moments we missed out on last spring and this winter, especially when we are inclined to fall into the trap of “complain culture.” This spring, let’s channel our energy into making the most of our time on campus and expressing gratitude for the simple day-to-day moments—the good and the bad—that ultimately make Lawrenceville feel like home.

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