Why it’s Cool to Care


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Throughout middle school, the phrase “try-hard” was thrown around like a curse word and stamped on my classmates’ foreheads as our own coded Scarlet Letter. Created a 75-term Quizlet for your Spanish vocabulary test? Try-hard. Dressed in a skirt to school even though all your friends were sporting black leggings? Try-hard. Created a club you hoped to eventually save the world with? Super, super, try-hard. 

The intention is clear: to put others down for straying the fray, for vocalizing their passions and acting on them. If you are unfamiliar with these memories, imagining someone delivering the phrase try hard as a gut punch rather than high praise might be confusing. Don’t we most reward those who go the extra mile? Those who stand up for what they believe in? Doesn’t Parker pride itself on cultivating changemakers, our future presidents, lawyers, and supreme court justices?

Maybe within the walls of our Revolutions classes, Moot Courts, and Calculus finals, where gold stars are awarded and getting extra credit problems correct is deemed supernatural. But I can’t help but wonder, have we cultivated a social culture of putting down those who care? 

When I think of my senior year at Parker I think of standing inside a law firm downtown debating supreme court cases amongst my classmates, I wince at memories of watching hours of AP Calculus videos only to be incredibly let down by my test score, I think of underlining Joan Didion’s prose and attempting to craft my own within creative nonfiction essays. All try-hard moments that were (in the case of Calculus maybe not) rewarded within walls brimming with quotations, essays, optical illusions, and yellowing textbooks — typical Parker classrooms.

But I also think of The Weekly. I can picture the Ed Board’s collective glee when one of us runs down to the mail room and grabs a wobbly stack of grey print to haul to the fourth floor and I still can feel my palpable excitement when I was told I would be an editor in chief at the end of junior year. 

This was a responsibility I never took lightly. Yet memories that creep in after those involve my peers–my classmates and friends. Come October, I found myself knee-deep in a debate about pub office “rules”: who could use the room, when it was appropriate, and how one might respect it. At first, I allowed for a lot of freedom. Requesting only that those who eat lunch in the room dispose of their trash and leave a window open if necessary, asking that the room be evacuated for publication-related meetings. I was quickly made fun of for reminding students to clean up and making pleas for their respect. 

The conversation surrounding the room escalated throughout the year, but what off-put me most had nothing to do with the room itself. Frankly, I was not too bothered by the frequent lunch crowding and occasional poker games. It was the reaction I received when asking for cardboard lunch boxes and greasy chicken tenders to please be thrown away off of the floor for the fourth day in a row.

Melodies of “Why do you care so much?” and “Nobody reads The Weekly anyways,” dominated all conversation around the pub office and left me feeling like a devil’s advocate for defending my most prized Parker experience. I resented that I felt shame for going to bat for a space I so proudly belonged to, not to mention, spent copious hours of work engrossed within. 

I worry that we are quick to insult each other’s niches and passions when we feel defensive. While the literal term try-hard has been weeded out of our sentences and plucked from Snapchat stories since 8th grade, I wonder if the meaning has crept back into our best insults and clever comebacks. 

Voicing your mind and immersing yourself in spaces you value are good things. They always have been. So is respect. I hope that as another September rolls around at 330 W. Webster without me in it, this sentiment can be relearned and appreciated.