The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The 14 Year Experience

An Unexpected, Unwanted Return: A Reflection on Parker
The+14+Year+Experience
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Well, well, well. Wow, wow, wow. Dilly, Dilly. 

Look who’s back. My super senior arc has come to fruition. I would assume there was a visceral, national reaction when the school learned of my unexpected, unwanted return. Maybe a little standing ovation at MX? A moment of silence during student government? A poster of my head in the cafeteria?

I’m only joking. As I sit here writing this, I can use my college skills and analytical mindset to create a hypothesis that states that “The Weekly” readers can be sectioned into three distinct demeanors when they learned of my return. The first include those who were excited to see “The 14 Year Experience” reappear in “The Parker Weekly.” For example, when I texted Benjamin Kagan and asked if I could write once more, he replied with an enthusiastic “probably.” The second are those who gasped in horror and alarm when they saw my name. I know that there are a plethora of poor Parker people who have PTSD when they see my name. Whether it was from the “Impractical Jokers” May Term I was a part of or the traumatizing 12 Days timeline, I’ve made enemies. To all of you who had a little heart attack when you saw this column once again, I can only quote Michael Jordan: “I’m Back.” And the third are those who have no idea who I am. The poor little freshman (not sure if they can read) and any new teachers. To all of you, I am about to introduce myself, so you should probably keep reading. 

My name is Ben Rachel, Parker class of 2023. My senior year I had a column in “The Weekly” titled “The 14 Year Experience.” All my past articles are still online on the website; might want to check them out. I am currently enrolled at Tufts University, I have fallen down the same flight of stairs seven times, and I was “The Weekly’s” Most Eligible Bachelor for a bit. 

Now, you may be wondering why I am writing this article. Two reasons: firstly, I wanted to make a cheeky, little plug to my new column here at Tufts. It’s called “A Jumbo’s Journey” and it’s practically this but about college. You can find it by looking up Ben Rachel or the aforementioned title on the Google. Secondly, I wanted to write about how Parker affects an alum in college. I may not have the most extensive knowledge as I’ve only been here for a semester, but Parker has already had a definite impact on my college experience. I’ll lay out the perils and the benefits with my long winded anecdotes and my barely tangential rants. Let’s begin. 

College is by far the weirdest thing ever. If someone says that they have had a smooth transition into college, they are lying. To my own dismay (and probably yours as well), I can’t describe the switch. One day you walk the very familiar stroll to the kitchen in a bathrobe, thick glasses, and appalling bed hair and then the next day you find yourself in a strange room with the worst lighting imaginable staring at a random person who will be sleeping three feet away from you. There is no gradual transition. There are no dim lights. No. There is darkness and then hospital lights. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s college. There was still an entire summer between leaving high school and going to college. Graduation – what a moment. It was a day full of excitement, anxiety, happiness, and sadness. It’s such a grandiose moment that it doesn’t hit you until a random Wednesday night. When you are on that stage, cap and gown, it doesn’t feel real. I personally don’t remember walking the stage. The second my name was called, I blacked out. I don’t remember walking, grabbing my diploma, posing for a picture, nor going back to my seat. 14 years of work led to that moment. No wonder why I (and a lot of my previous classmates) don’t remember it. The moment was so powerful and monumental that it overwhelmed me. 

Graduating is so strange. I didn’t cry, but I had to hold back some tears. I mean, it is sad. Everything I knew was Parker. There was no life without Parker. And, leaving my friends and community was sad. No doubt about it. I would say live in the moment, but that’s impossible. There will still be a scent of denial when you stand on the stage. A part of you that doesn’t believe it is real; a part that believes you will be back in a year. But, unfortunately, that piece of you is false. When you throw your cap in the air, your time at Parker is over. And that’s that.

As I said though, the realization doesn’t hit you until some random night. I still remember my moment of realization. I was getting ready for bed and I saw my Parker hoodie on my desk chair. It hit me that I no longer “go to Parker.” I’m not a high-school student anymore. So much would change in the next two months and there is no stopping it. “Winter is coming” whether you like it or not. And, my only advice to you all is to embrace it. You will feel sad and anxious about leaving Parker. When that moment comes, you should totally immerse yourself in it. Listen to sad music in the shower, eat some ice cream, or go stand in the summer’s breeze. But after all of that, “just keep swimming.” Life moves on, and you will have to let go. Embrace the sadness, but also embrace the change that will happen. 

Now, onto college: to be succinct, I love it here. I know that it is so cheesy to say, but no matter where you all end up, you’ll love it. For those of you who know me, you know that my college application process was nothing less than tenuous, harrowing, and rewarding. As I look back, though there was so much pain and anxiety, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love it here at Tufts. And I bet pretty much everyone else loves their respective colleges and lives past Parker. And I know that all of you seniors are thinking “if this guy says it’s gonna be okay I’m gonna kill him.” But, it is going to be okay. Only after you get beaten down to one knee. It will only be okay after you are inches away from giving up. So, initially no it will not be okay. But then, after a long and abhorrent process, it will be okay. And, that moment of ‘okayness’ will be amazing. If anyone is thinking about Tufts, please don’t hesitate to reach out <3. 

There are two types of realizations that I have made about Parker once I left: the first is how useful the curriculum was and the second is how stupid Parker is in general (I say that in a quasi-loving way). 

In the beginning of my tenure as a columnist for “The Weekly,” I wrote a publication criticizing Parker’s curriculum. I can now admit that many of my points were false. However, I do stand with my AP rant. Here at college some kids have enough credits to be sophomores. But, I digress. Nonetheless, Parker passes us off with a solid foundation of knowledge. The classes they offer, while not extensive, curates students’ knowledge in a way that I can only describe as creatively practical. 

Parker’s curriculum allows and forces students to be both creative in their learning but always practical. I’ve noticed how imperative these skills are to have in college. Most collegiate students can only fit into just one of those two sections: either practical or creative. And, unfortunately, when you grow up not being exposed to both, you are siphoned off from the opposite skill and forced to grow in the respective one you grew up in. Now, you don’t have to believe me, but after spending about four months at Tufts which is a small liberal arts college with a separate campus just for art students I have seen a lot. 

Parker students end up having an amalgamation of those two skill sets. And, it gives us a leg up. Our ability to critically think and think outside of the box sets us apart. Again, just like Parker taught us, even in the most technical math class, we can use our repertoire of skills and think differently – and oftentimes more effectively and cured than others – to solve problems. Not sure why I used us since I kinda just forced that onto all Parker alums, but I believe it’s true. 

Now, Parker’s staple ideology: the ability to write. Oh my god. I am so so so so grateful that Parker taught me how to write well (now that I wrote that there are going to be some heinous grammatical errors in this article). It is probably the most defining skill in college. Everyone is going to have to write at some point or another. I’m so glad Parker mandated four years of English class and enforced the inordinate amount of essays. There is an old adage that practically says those who write well are respected and those who can not are ostracized. And, I never realized how poor some people’s writing abilities are until I peer-read some essays. Even writing in a conversational tone such as this column is hard for them. 

That is probably the most important skill Parker has given me. The ability to write has set me apart from the pack and has given me opportunities that would’ve been nonviable if I couldn’t write. So, current Parker students, I know that those essays sometimes seem futile, but embrace them. You’ll be grateful later in life when an essay with no rewrites is worth 100% of your grade in a compulsory class. 

Overall, Parker sets you up academically very well. There isn’t a singular class that you won’t be able to succeed in. Parker doesn’t have the most extensive class selection, but the classes it does offer will mold your brain and your thinking abilities in a way that allows you to thrive in any environment. So, for that (and of course much else), I thank you, Parker. Thank you for putting me in a spot where I can achieve success and flourish in my future. 

The second aspect of Parker I want to talk about is the culture. Now, I would like to preface this by saying that I loved my class and my senior year. As I said, I wouldn’t change a thing. But still, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t glaring and ingrained issues with the culture of my grade and the culture of the overall school that I feel obligated to write about. And, for those of you who are unfortunately suffering from these structural problems, I feel compelled to tell you that college culture is nothing like Parker’s. 

Saying Parker is very cliquey is an understatement. From the youngest of ages, we started forming cliques and staying in those respective cliques until graduation. Now I’m not saying that I didn’t participate in it, but in all fairness, it’s hard not to. And, I’m not sure why, but it seemed like those cliques were set in stone until senior year when the barriers started to crack a bit. I don’t want to say it was like “Mean Girls,” but it very much was like “Mean Girls.” 

Not surprisingly, these cliques generated problems. I’ve heard stories about how some people were ostracized for not having enough money, for talking with the wrong person, and for even going through mental health issues. In the end, these cliques were more harmful than not. Even in my own Parker clique, I love them to death, but we still suffered and partook in the culture. Unfortunately, that philosophy and custom is not going to change. It stems from being together for 14 years and having such a small class size. It’s impenetrable and unalterable. 

Fortunately, for those who have a disdain for these cliques, that “Mean Girls” culture isn’t prevalent in college. Of course there are friend groups, but from what I’ve experienced, everyone is so kind and open that making friends is beyond easy. Unlike Parker, making your way into a friend group or branching out and meeting new people is very effortless and simple. There is no “popular group” and there is no ostracization. 

In economics, the efficient money hypothesis states that there is readily available information for everyone which leads to all assets being properly evaluated. The second rooted concern with the culture is just how abundantly available information is about everyone’s lives. Again, this derives from growing up and going through puberty together. But gossip is rampant. And, in this scenario, the clique walls don’t hold. Every weekend it seems like there is some new juicy gossip or hot drama that makes its way around the ears of Parker. For someone who is a leaning introvert and a guarded person such as myself, this threat of gossip was worrying. Anything I (or anyone for that matter) did could and would spread across the entire grade within minutes. Sometimes even the entire high school. 

This readily available information of course leads to more serious issues than just gossip. You know what they say, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. However, words may hurt you when they place you in an unwanted persona or image. This readily available information would make people have these facades that are based on gossip and rumors. Oftentimes it was really bad gossip too. After a gossip cycle, it often just stays with the person or people it was about sometimes until graduation. One of my best friends was known as “the Bud Knight” for undisclosed reasons. His persona was relatively harmless. However, it penetrated its way into the classroom and Instagram comments and it eventually just became who people knew him as. And, again, his was relatively innocuous and he, for the most part, enjoyed it. But other people were known for being heavily addicted to certain substances, being someone who “gets around” and unfaithful, or having serious mental health concerns. And, after 14 years, you knew them first as their persona then their name. Everyone had their personas including myself. I remember mine. I did a respectable job of staying under the radar for the majority of my tenure until one time when I came back from an expedition and was propelled into the position of first consort. 

It’s hard not to get a persona. You hook up with someone, you make a mistake, or you do something stupid at a party; that is who you become for years. My favorite thing was when someone would be like “oh I can’t say, it’s a secret” or when someone says “I’m the only one who knows.” Two biggest lies at Parker. Nothing is ever a secret for more than a day and if you tell one person, you tell everyone. Fortunately, in college, this culture is nonexistent. No one cares. And, if you want, you could surround yourself with complete strangers. 

Lastly, I want to talk about a problem that is less prevalent, but still apparent and obtrusive. People at Parker are self-absorbed and that introversion often bleeds outwards and harms others. Everyone’s a little egotistical, myself included. However, there are some people who are willing to push others down to advance their own social status or academic success. Some people want to be the most popular in the grade, the most attractive, or the smartest. And the people who want these things often push others down to achieve them. This could be through manipulation, gaslighting, or just downright blackballing. This also just stems back to how people just care too much. Too interested in what others are doing. But again, this isn’t as prevailing as the other two.

Well, I failed. My two goals for this article were to be brief and outweigh the pros of Parker with the cons. To be honest, brevity was never my strong suit. Those who know me understand how much I love yapping and going on tangential rants. Even though I wrote more about the systemic issues with Parker than how beneficial it is, I love Parker. I miss it. I miss my friends, the teachers, the ambiance; walking up the crowded stairwell trying to hold a conversation about the test you just bombed; sitting in the library pretending to do work while secretly eating; sweating profusely in the gym playing basketball before a gym class starts; going from Parker to a house party with the same exact people; and, surprisingly, MX. 

Parker was truly amazing. Currently the best 14 years of my life. Of course, there are problems with the school as with every other school, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I wasn’t always the most cheerful about Parker, but looking back, I can confidently say that I love the school. But, I also love college. I miss Parker, but at the same time, I don’t. I want to go back but I don’t want to leave college. Some days I completely forget about Parker while others I lay in bed and reminisce. Parker is a staple of my life that will never leave. I have so many memories that will never leave me. But, I can recognize that I have so many memories to be made. To quote a very intelligent and handsome man, he once wrote “this is only my second chapter of a long memoir” (Ben Rachel). 

As you move through your Parker career, enjoy it. I know it’s cheesy, but four years does go by in the blink of an eye. Sooner or later you’re no longer going to be able to say you “go to Parker” but rather that you “went to Parker.” Enjoy it, be grateful for it, love it because like it or not, Parker is who you are forever and ever.

 

Reminiscently,  

Ben Rachel

 

PS read “A Jumbo’s Journey” in the Tufts Daily!!

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About the Contributor
Ben Rachel, Columnist
Ben Rachel is a senior going in his third year writing for "The Weekly." After coming off a stint as a brief writer, he plans to expand his writing portfolio with his column, "The 14 Year Experience." Outside of "The Weekly," Ben is the captain of Parker's Cross Country and Baseball teams and is an engaged academic. He is excited for another year writing for "The Weekly!"