I’m sorry. Please understand.
“People like winning. They like feeling happy,” says Keanne Chang (‘19) when she explains the appeal of Field Day to me. I am not “people.” I could not care less about how my class does during Field Day: I dress up out of a sense of obligation to my grade level. Otherwise, I participate as little as I can.
In the gym, as all around me people are screaming, I feel nothing. I cannot get worked up. I hate the loud noise. A physically uncoordinated person incapable of using a jump rope or catching a bean bag properly, I feel guilty for failing my adviser group. Each outdoor game is a struggle. When students trash talk other grades or argue over the legitimacy of a game result, I cannot share their aggression or competitiveness. I am only anxious about how hateful people can become.
“During dodgeball, if someone is first out, people from the bleachers would usually blame them or be like, ‘What the heck?’” says Keanne. “I’m sure most of the people yelling are friends with the player, but it can come off a little harsh.”
I am only anxious about how hateful people can become.
Some interpret my antipathy towards Field Day and Spirit Week as an indication that I lack school spirit. I understand, even if I disagree. Students in StuGov and ClassGov put so much time and effort into organizing these events to offer a break from classes and a release from academic stress. “I dislike the fact that people are so unenthusiastic about Field Day…There are always those who seem like they don’t want to be part of the class at all,” says Emily Tai (‘19). “I get that some people just aren’t really into the whole cheering thing, but at least have positive body language, because it’s actually quite insulting.”
Field Day and Spirit Week are class efforts, so when a portion of the student body does not participate to the fullest, students who do participate can feel disheartened. Keanne says, “Not everyone is going to like Field Day, but those people who purposely refuse to dress up or show at least a little bit of spirit really make it a lot less enjoyable for the people who enjoy it.”
On this day more than any other, I see how other people have a deeply different emotional experience from my own, and how that difference can inadvertently hurt others’ feelings. I see how people like me are stigmatized and misunderstood by other students and by authority figures. I do not behave the way I do during Field Day and Spirit Week out of disrespect or laziness, and certainly not out of a lack of school spirit.
I may be useless at cheering, but there are other ways to feel part of the student body.
We do not have to define school spirit in such a narrow and exclusionary way. It does not have to mean wearing face paint and hair spray, or waving a flag. It can mean contributing to the school community in any way you can: running a club, speaking during a Socratic seminar, or even writing for the school newspaper. I may be useless at cheering, but there are other ways to feel part of the student body.
“Well, just don’t look super grumpy!” Emily tells me after I admit to disliking Field Day. To those who enjoy Field Day, I am sorry that I hate it, and that sometimes I cannot help but show that. You cannot fully understand exactly how I feel. But at least when you notice me not having a good time, you can try to empathize with and forgive me, in the same way that I try my best to empathize with you.
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