Junior Year - The Third 500

Ethan Markel '21
As study hall winds down, the Kennedy House is quiet for the night, with some traces of music and a commotion coming from down the hall. However, it is not Second Form fall where three classes are pass-fail, nor is it Third Form fall when the course load is still somewhat manageable. For the Fourth Former, there is still much work to be done. 

There are several factors, not just the academic course load, that make Fourth Form year so tough. I would like to compare a Lawrentian’s journey to rowing, a newfound passion for me since coming to Lawrenceville. Rowing, I believe, offers a perfect analogy to the Fourth Form year at Lawrenceville. 

Around three or four times each spring during crew season, all rowers will do a 2,000 meter piece (a 2K). This workout is the ultimate indicator for a rower’s overall physical strength, endurance, and most importantly, mental fortitude. Do not be deceived by its seemingly short distance, because it is 2,000 meters of all-out fury on the rowing machine. When I started my rowing career at Lawrenceville as a Second Former, I will say without a doubt that the 2K was the most physically demanding thing I had ever done in my life. While there is no part of the 2K that is not painful, in my opinion, the most painful part comes just after the 1,000 meter mark as you enter the third 500. What makes it so difficult is the mental aspect - you only just completed half the piece, and you’re in a lot of pain, but you have to keep going. It’s hard to describe this feeling in words, but I will say that it is unlike anything one will ever feel. In the last 500 of the 2K, one “empties the tank,” in other words sprinting with all you have left. By this point, you are so exhausted that you can’t make the conscious thought about pain like in the third 500. At the end of the 2K, you feel as if your soul has been sucked out of you, but at the same time there is a satisfying and rewarding feeling that you’ve just accomplished an amazing feat. 

How does this exactly relate to Fourth Form year at Lawrenceville? I sometimes compare the four years at Lawrenceville to a 2K: Second Form year the first 500, Third Form is the second, and Fourth Form is the third - the toughest one. My greatest Form Form challenge has been the academic workload. More difficult courses require a greater volume of work - and that work is more time consuming. Fourth Formers also begin thinking about the college process, most notably preparing for the upcoming standardized tests. They are also beginning to assume leadership roles both in the classroom and in extracurricular commitments.

Though this is a tough time and a tough year in general, one can have a positive, rather than pessimistic outlook. Going back to the 2K analogy, a mindset of anxiety and doubt will creat a mental block that will never allow for success. For me, success comes when I fully become one with the rowing machine, not thinking about the pain. I know this may sound simple and cheesy, but it really works. Plus, this mindset applies to the general challenges of Fourth Form year at Lawrenceville, not just rowing. Thinking about how tough the year is going to be as a whole is mentally exhausting and can overwhelm one very quickly. The key to success for all four years at Lawrenceville is to approach each day with the attitude of doing the absolute best, take things step by step, and embrace each challenge as it comes.

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