Tidying Up: A Big Red Inventory

Like many of us stuck in quarantine, I have resorted to reorganizing my childhood bedroom as a source of entertainment.

Like many of us stuck in quarantine, I have resorted to reorganizing my childhood bedroom as a source of entertainment. I first began with my desk, where I spend most of my waking hours these days. I cleared out old sticky note reminders, junk mail, and frayed cords with ease. "Does this dead triple-A battery spark joy? No? Scrap it." I could practically hear tidying-expert Marie Kondo clapping as I lugged trashbags full of things to the garage. I was watching minimalist lifestyle vlogs on YouTube, entertaining the idea of living in a tiny house, and was feeling pleased with my progress. I thought to myself, "This isn't too bad, I'll do my closet next." I hit the ground running, immediately emptying all my clothes onto my bed. Too skinny skinny jeans, faded cargo shorts, and old Gold Toe dad socks started filling up the donation bins. As I toiled, images from Avatar: The Last Airbender filled my mind-each tossed item a step closer to freeing myself from the fetters of the physical realm. Chakras were flying open, and I was cruising at 95 miles per hour on the road to a clutter-free life. Then, I hit a short-sleeved spike strip that brought me to a grinding halt: the T-shirts.

For context, my house is home to three Lawrentians: my older brother, Andreas Vandris '14, my twin brother, Panos Vandris '17, and me. From 2011 to 2017-for seven years straight-there had been at least one Vandris brother under Big Red jurisdiction. And as the old saying goes: With a great Harkness education comes a ton of T-shirts. Since our graduation, my closet had become home to all of them. We had it all. House Olympics shirts from the Kennedy, Cleve, and Dickinson Houses. In yellow, six Ropes Course Instructor (RCI) shirts, a Hot Karl's shirt and-not to flex too hard, but-two neon "Effort Award" shirts from my days with the Cleve House Football squad. In grey, Big Red Race T-shirts from every year and a seemingly infinite supply of standard issue Lawrenceville Athletics, Tour Guide, and Crew apparel. In red and white, shirts from the annual leadership conference, Freshman Orientation panels, the Big Red Dog Pound, and Hill Days. Amongst the sea of recognizable classics were relics from Periwig shows, Spring Dance Concert (SDC) performances, programming clubs, the Purple Cow Ice Cream shop, and various volunteering events. And it didn't end there. Lawrenceville sweatshirts, jackets, and hats further hindered my cleaning spree. All in all, I was looking at 50 items, give or take.

I put them all in a pile to my left and began my sorting process as per the Kondo creed. I would stack things I wanted to keep on my right and put anything I wanted to donate on my chair.

"Does this spark joy? Yes."

"Does this spark joy? Yes."

"Does this spark joy? Yes."

After sorting all of them, I counted up the pile on my right: there were none that I could afford giving away. My chair remained empty. It became clear to me in that moment that Marie Kondo had failed to take into account the power of a Lawrenceville experience. The friends, stories, and memories I made while wearing those dozens of Lawrenceville T-shirts are the reason I'll never be a minimalist. And to the Class of 2020, I hope the same is true for you.

I'm sure you have heard every possible combination of apology, condolence, and sympathy regarding the circumstances under which your Lawrenceville journey is coming to a close. I extend similar sentiments to you all but would like to also offer some advice for the future. As many of you head off to dresscode-less colleges next fall (in person I hope), T-shirts are going to become more of an option for you. You with your Lawrenceville T-shirts will attend massive lectures, make new friends, and continue to grow as students and leaders. While wearing your favorite House Olympics shirt in class, you may be forced to explain what a house is and struggle to properly articulate how much that bond meant to you. While running errands in your Lawrenceville Athletics T-shirt, you may bump into an unfamiliar Lawrenceville alumni at your university and exchange fond memories. While on a freshman orientation camping trip in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, you may encounter a Lawrenceville alumni from the Class of 1975 and share pork chops over a campfire as you reminisce about both having Mr. Atlee for English. I can almost guarantee you'll have all but one of these encounters. But, alas, that is the power of a Lawrenceville T-shirt in college.

Inevitably, your new college friends will catch on to this pattern-onto the countless T-shirts and the pictures on your walls and your endless stories and your ability to do your own laundry. They'll look at your wardrobe and say,"You really peaked in high school, huh?"

When this happens (and trust me, it will), I want you to look at them and say, "Damn right, I did." Feel free to acknowledge the good times you had at Lawrenceville, to miss your friends, and to be grateful for all that you learned along the way. Wear your T-shirts with pride. There's nothing wrong with peaking in high school as long as you acknowledge your time at Lawrenceville as a local maximum. It's been a minute since I've taken a Calculus class (shout-out to Mr. Ferguson), so bear with me here. If we were to view our educations and lives as functions on a graph, we would see hills and valleys representing the highs and lows we've been through. And for me, Lawrenceville was, on a grand scale, a hill-an experience that in its own context was a high point. However, that is not to say that I, or any of us, should idolize our time at Lawrenceville as a global maximum, as an absolute peak-there is always room for growth and improvement. With a Lawrenceville diploma and a bright collegiate future ahead of you, you should all have the tools necessary to reach much greater heights.

Since my graduation, I have acquired new T-shirts from my university and other organizations. I have made new memories and achieved higher local maxima in academic and extracurricular accomplishments. I wear my Big Red T-shirts less often, and my high school high seems relatively smaller now. But, while I may look different on the outside, I keep all my Lawrenceville T-shirts close by. I keep in touch with fellow Lawrentians, exchange phone calls and emails with teachers and mentors, and get together with former classmates whenever possible. So, sorry Marie Kondo, but these T-shirts all spark joy, and I'm not getting rid of them any time soon.


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