We’re Not Talking About Anything

By Thomas Hochman

Last year, OES was a mess. This year, the nation stepped up and decided it could do even worse.

Approaching the 2016-2017 school year, all that was on anyone’s minds was making it through smoothly — avoiding unnecessary drama, disciplinary issues, and any other problems that might throw a wrench in what seemed to be the groundwork for a successful nine months.

What we weren’t prepared for was the nastiness of the election process, and the destruction that its result left behind. Regardless of ideology, there’s no denying that there were a lot of people hurting. 

2016 has been comically tragic. One celebrity death came on the heels of the last: Prince, Bowie, Cohen, Rickman — it all seemed like a bit of a blur. The number of cultural icons that passed away in the last twelve months has been nothing short of preposterous, each one taking their own morsel of sanity that they provided the world with them.

Florence Henderson played the mom, Carol, on The Brady Bunch, the eight hundred year old sitcom that for some reason was the only TV show I got to watch as a kid before my parents inevitably wrenched me away from the couch to pursue the fruitless activity of trudging through the sub-arctic temperatures that January in New England brings, or, “playing outside,” as they called it.

So when I read — in a short article that I had almost missed under the seventeen CNN stories covering our impending doom — that Florence had died, it was all I could do but throw my hands up and ask, “Why?” It was as if even the woman who never did anything more immoral than burning the occasional hash brown on her cooking show couldn’t avoid the all-consuming mess that we had gotten ourselves into.

And everyone knows that this year has been bad. There have been plenty of memes circulating around the internet ruing 2016, some of which are far too accurate.

And I think that the general sentiment around this year (or, “F**k 2016” as John Oliver most aptly put it), has, in some ways, been reflected by the way our student body has conducted itself.

Everyone seems to have retreated into what is comfortable, which, at OES, is putting our nose to the grindstone.

The school year so far has been notably undramatic on the disciplinary front, which is, unquestionably, a good thing. But I think that this self-defense mechanism of sticking our heads in the sand has also manifested itself by delineating our interest solely into the reliable, which in our case is school and extracurriculars. It’s as if, in this shell-shocked state we’ve found ourselves in, no one wants to hear about anything else.

Last year, people asked for an update on OES’s decision for the interim Head of Upper School on a daily basis. But while the search committee for our new Head of Upper School closes in on a decision this year, no one seems to care. It’s rarely even brought up.

Another sign is that readership on the Dig, too, has pretty much plateaued after its exponential rise in 2015. Now, granted, my Refill Wednesday articles aren’t for everyone (or anyone who has something more important to do, like staring blankly out the window), but there have been important articles published this year, and people aren’t rushing to read them.

If it doesn’t directly concern us, we don’t want to know. And that’s natural, and that’s human, but that’s also not great.

I don’t have a solution, or even much of a suggestion for what we should be doing. I want to plug my ears and wait out the next few weeks until New Years’ just as much as everyone else does, but also recognize that we can only be idle for so long.

None of us are quite sure how to make heads or tails of 2016. It is, without a doubt, a very strange time to be alive in the world. I just hope that come January 1, we’ll be ready to look 2017 squarely in the face.

Until next time.