“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”

“The world is changed.  I feel it in the water.  I feel it in the earth.  I smell it in the air.”

“Russell, why aren’t you wearing jeans?”  It was several days after the Senate announcement about the new dress code.  Walking around the pronto room, sporting my usual khaki pants and polo shirt, I was stopped in my tracks by the question.  Why was I was not wearing jeans?  How could I wear jeans to school on a weekday?  “Well,” I tentatively replied, “for fourteen years I’ve gone to school here and have always been told to never wear jeans except on Fridays.  I’m not suddenly going to change that.”  As I walked away, I pondered the issue and soon came to another subject that has been often passing through my mind recently: Hawken School after I’ve graduated.

I don’t mean this arrogantly, but it’s weird to think about the school continuing to develop after I’ve left.  Fifteen years with an institution is a long time, and our class has certainly watched the place change.  However, the thought of what will come next is difficult to comprehend.  What other rules will be altered in the future?  How will new programs (intensives, humanities, entrepreneurship) continue to change over the years?  What will the new building look like?  Until this year, most discussions about Hawken’s future have ended with, “well, we’ll see how it turns out next year.”  But no more; now my classmates and I will have to hear about life at school from others.  There may be new, exciting things going on at Hawken, but it won’t be our world anymore.

A few weeks ago, I wrote welcome letters to accepted incoming freshmen for Red Key.  As I finished my first letter, I began to jot down the friendly message, “I look forward to seeing you on campus.”  However, I realized that this was a lie: I will hardly ever see next year’s class of freshmen on campus, and, if I do, I’ll mean literally nothing to them, just some random visitor.  And the new teachers that come?  I’ll have even less relevance to them.  Perhaps that’s even harder to cope with than the coming changes: the thought of not being an active, regular member of the Hawken community.  Oh, I’ll absolutely come back and visit, there’s no question about that.  But it won’t quite be the Hawken I remember, I won’t be quite the person the school remembers, and our magnificent fifteen years will clearly be over.

By the time the paper is printed, I will have had my senior meeting with Mr. Looney.  I’m excited for it; I look forward to hearing about some of the plans on the horizon for this place.  However, I’ll admit, I’m also a bit anxious; I’m confident that the proposed ideas will generally be in the spirit of the Hawken tradition I know and love, but what if they’re not?  What if someday, be it in five or twenty-five years, I come back to find the school unrecognizable?  I guess that’s the eternal cycle of an institution – people come and go, everything changes over time – but I hope it doesn’t fully happen.  I hope that, when I return for a reunion or just a stroll, my Hawken isn’t totally gone, but simply adjusted.  And I’ll try to remember to take the opportunity to wear jeans.

“The world is changed.  I feel it in the water.  I feel it in the earth.  I smell it in the air.”