To a friar

To+a+friar

Jack Marchesani

The sentimental ramblings of a nostalgic senior who thinks he’s learned something (but might not have, I don’t know). Read at your own risk.

Jack
Jack Marchesani

I’ve come a long way. Four years is a lot of time. A lot changes. You become a very different person. It’s funny. One of my best friends recently said “We have to refer to ‘New Jack’ and ‘Old Jack’ like they’re two different people.”

If anyone remembers freshman year me (and I know my friends do, because they won’t let me live it down), I was a different young man. Roughly the shape of a human meatball, I faced the normal problems of a 9th grader. School. Family. Fitting in. Missing freshman football equipment day and being referred to as ‘no pads’ for the first few months of school. I did a good job of amplifying all that by isolating myself and doing nothing but studying in an attempt to overcompensate.

And I know. I know. There’s tons of freshman and sophomores and even juniors who face those same problems at Malvern. And that is most definitely part of it. Growing up is about hitting these walls and overcoming.

I saw a tweet recently: “I wish I could tell my freshman year self that things would work out just fine.”

And while I think emotional tweeting is ridiculous and a desperate waste of your time, that did speak to me a little bit. For so long, I sought stability. Stability from my tumultuous home life. Stability in my mind, which bounced back and forth between different ideals so often. Stability at school, which for so long felt like the enemy.

That tweet is true. I wish I could tell myself it’d be ok. Better than okay. It’d be damn good. And not because it feels good, but because you know it will with time. But I can’t. Lanetti hasn’t built a time machine (yet). Plus, I already grew up. Sort of.

The best I can do is give some advice to any friar struggling with being a man at Malvern. Which is all of them. And, believe me, I don’t intend to generalize problems.

Frankly, I wouldn’t change anything about my experience. My struggles have taught me everything I know about myself. But I do know that you won’t really listen to this advice, because my intended reader is, by nature, pretty thick headed. So, the most this can do is serve as an “I Told You So.”

Dear Freshman Jack,

First of all, take a breath. I spent so much time getting worked up and caught up in the moment. Take a breath. Whatever else you’re doing can wait. That’s an idea for life in general. I so often got washed away in the tides of the current moment that I couldn’t see big picture. And don’t tell me that that’s a part of growing up. Being a nervous wreck is not okay, because it’s preventable. Being a nervous wreck is the opposite of understanding that it’ll all workout. That was a big issue for me freshman year, and that’s what I mean when I say I’ve learned from my mistakes.

That brings me to my next point. It’s not necessarily proven, but it hasn’t failed yet. It does work out. It might not be today. Tomorrow. Next month. Hell, it might not be in high school. It might not even be in this life. But at some point in the future, things will not suck as much as they do in this moment, if you happen to be in a particularly sucky moment. Things might even be tolerable. Enjoyable even! That would be such a ridiculous idea for me to hear as a freshman or sophomore because I hated my life so much. Which was dumb. My life is/was pretty great, I just wasn’t looking in the right places.

And oh look. A nice transition into my next point. Writing devices! Things in your life will hold you back. People in your life will hold you back. You have got to fight with all your strength to focus on the things that build you up. It’s hard. Failure and self pity are so attractive, because they allow you to go with the tide. They allow you to be the victim. I spent so much time feeling sorry for myself, but it’s a choice you make to “always look on the bright side of life” that gets you away from that. Malvern is part of the bright side of life. I chose for two years to hate Malvern and my life wasn’t great. I spent the last two years loving it, and I became the man I am today.

Straying from the existential, I have to show a little bit of love to my fellow nerds. Schoolwork is a tricky subject. It can be a shortcoming. Whether you work too hard or don’t work hard enough, you fall short in some way or another early on. I worked too hard. Way too hard. I was only motivated by college, and the words “college preparatory school” to me, meant “Princeton acceptance machine.” I got denied from Princeton. I’m proud of that though. It shows that after four years, I am a lot more human than I was. If you’re only motivation is to escape, then you’re doing it wrong. Trust me, building friendships and loving others is so much more important than getting a 104% on Mrs. Geider’s Freshman Bio, Biochem test. People will resent you for it. I don’t encourage that. Enjoy these next four years with the people around you. I envy the time you have left.

Be thankful. Malvern is such a magical place, but only because of the people around you. I had so many members of the Classes of 2014 and 2015 look out for me for so long, and I got such fulfilling relationships from that. Mr. Roper basically made sure I didn’t join the Peace Corps after senior year out of stress, and pushed me to go to college. Father Flynn loves you more than you know. Those are just examples. There’s so many people on this campus that do so much for us, students and teachers alike. Thank ‘em.

Hmm what else. Oh. As bad as it gets, it’s worse for someone else. You’ll figure that out in a very acute way here at Malvern. And there’s nothing you can do to fix that. You can improve yourself though. 1. Complain less. I speak from experience. People don’t want to hear your complaints, especially when they’ve got their own burdens. 2. Reach out. Oh, this is so important. There are so many people who just need a hand to pull them up. Be that hand. So many high school students just need a friend, and need to keep a friend. Would it kill you to let the nerdy kid hangout with you on a Friday night? I’m serious. He might open up and be pretty fun (this is supposed to be a reference to me opening up and being cool, but you might not think I’m cool so I get that).

On the homefront, love your family. I’ve fallen short in that area. My parents split and weren’t the most caring people. I was angry. I’m still angry. But I understand. Now, leaving for college in less than 3 months, I am plagued with guilt that I haven’t given them enough time. Forgive your parents for what you think they’ve done. They are human. They were 14, 15, 16, 17 once too. That’s a mature way of looking at it, but you’ll get there.

Best advice I can give? Forgive yourself. I am the textbook definition of self-loathing. Students hold themselves to such high standards. Teenage boys hold themselves to such high standards. I hold myself to such high standards. When I fell short, I would spiral into a pit of despair and self hatred. This applies to academics, athletics, the arts, and social life.

In the past few months I had a falling out with a lot of friends. Because of various reasons, they walked out of my life. I sunk lower than I ever could have imagined. I wasn’t myself. I turned to some darker outlets to try and avoid the feeling of abandonment.

I had to focus with all my strength on the good that I’d done, rather than the bad in order to pull myself out. I forgave my friends for walking out of my life, but I also forgave myself for setting myself up for it to happen in the first place. I let go. And I think God wanted that to happen to me so that I could learn a little bit about myself and the people I was friends with. The thing was, those that walked out of my life were my friends. Those that stayed were my true brothers.

Brother. That’s a funny word. Say it 100x and it starts to lose it’s meaning. Embody 100x, embody it 1000x. It never loses its meaning. What does being a brother mean? It’s a lot more than being a lacrosse-playing, Vineyard Vines-wearing, Edgely-going, Natty-drinking Malvern student. Being a brother is about sacrifice. That’s the way I see it. A brother is one who sacrifices for his fellow brother. Brotherhood is sacrifice for the common good. It is giving up something, whether it’s your pride, what you want, or even your reputation, because you are sworn to work for the betterment of your brother. I gave up a girl I thought I loved for the sake of a brother. I gave up my reputation because I thought that I was doing what was right for a fellow brother, and I lost friends over it. I understood that. Being called to brotherhood is a challenge.

Someone said in a group text I was once in that there is “no social contract to brotherhood.” What a false statement. Damn right there’s a social contract to brotherhood. You have a duty in the four years at Malvern and every year beyond that. Go beyond what you think is “cool,” and “acceptable” and fight for the sake of those around you. It won’t be easy. I’ve failed at it so many times. And I think it’s hard because often times there’s no recognition for brotherhood. We’re rewarded for mob-mentality and acting within the pack, which, especially in the early years of high school, is often in the trend of being an ass.

Stand by your brothers at their lowest. Stand by your brothers when they hurt you. Stand by your brothers when you think you hate them. That is putting their needs before your own. As much as you might not believe it, every member of the class needs every other member of the class. Everyone fills a role. Everyone sacrifices a little bit of themselves for everyone else. Sacrifice is the greatest gift we can give. Human beings are by our very nature self-centered, but as long as in your heart you can love your neighbor like you love yourself, then you’re upholding the name of brotherhood and the name of Malvern prep.

Take my advice with a grain of salt. If you found this potentially narcissistic banter a bit pretentious, well good. I’m a bit pretentious. If only one person reads this and gets a little inspired, then the days I spent mulling over this were well worth it. If not, crap.

Closing words. At my core, I believe 3 things. (1) It will all work out. (2) We are on this Earth to help our fellow man (a’la brotherhood). (3) Destiny is very real. Brothers, you were born to be a member of the Malvern Prep community. It was willed at the beginning of time. Hand selected. That’s how I see it at least. This whole thing? This whole idea of truth, unity, and love as your duty? It’s important. Act like it.

Until the wheels come off, Malvern,
Jack Marchesani