A Tale of Crossing Into the Unknown
for One Lincoln Highschooler
I have experienced many things throughout my life, and Acton has remained most meaningful. I am here to share my story, my growth, and how I have changed for those who are to come.
To begin with, I have explored the academic world my entire life. I have seen many different perspectives on school all with ample opportunities. However, no school quite fit and I didn’t feel seen. Homeschooling left me lonely, and I felt my academic progress couldn’t be compared properly. I struggled socially, felt outcasted, and was consistently frustrated with how underwhelming the learning environment truly was.
One day I was introduced to a new idea. A school that worked with self-paced learning, and individuality while also working together in a tight-knit tribe. It piqued my interest and rekindled a spark of hope for learning that had been gradually fizzing out. Shortly after, I walked through Actons' doors and it became abundantly clear how different this school was. A spacious “studio” with high ceilings holding barely a dozen handpicked people, guided by this overarching idea. This newfound freedom had to be earned, requiring copious amounts of patience and work. I felt completely overwhelmed, convinced a year's worth of work had to be done in a day and my mind was overflowing with new knowledge and responsibility.
However, I knew I wasn’t the only one. The other heroes in the studio were faced with similar challenges and it felt comforting knowing we were learning together. Unfortunately, though, life is never that uncomplicated. How do you navigate through a learning space without adult intervention? What happens when two don’t get along? I never enjoyed being in the foreground, but I felt I was forced to scramble to keep things together. I had meetings upon meetings to come up with strategies on how to handle the situation, but none of their suggestions seemed to take into account the game theory that was running rampant throughout the studio.
Things came and went as the year went by. But soon things crescendoed into suffocating arguments that rang on all day; every fleeting moment would fan the flames of a new problem. Tension grew stronger and every semblance of guidance seemed to fade into the background. I took things into my own hands (or at least tried to). I walked in knowing I would have my part in the tribe, but I wasn’t expecting to lead the charge.
I felt abandoned by the tribe and by the idea. I felt overwhelmed and in desperate need of a quiet space to hide with schooldays filled to the brim with chaos. My mother was the only one who seemed to understand the true extent this was affecting me. Eventually, things subsided for seemingly no reason. The experience pierced a hole in my perception of Acton and the people it holds. It felt like I saw first-hand how a little chaos could crumble a tribe to its knees. I felt immense pressure to be the authority that kept things intact, directly or indirectly, but that’s not who I am. My mindset, deepest desire, and seeming requirement to be the shining light, the guiding star for those in the studio clashed with my temperament.
Acton is a place where you learn how to learn and learn how to live. There will always be fallouts, and places where things just don’t go how you may have planned them to, but what’s important is the ability to brush it off and keep going.
From my time here as a whole, I have changed as a person. But I believe the majority of my change comes from this moment. I chose to lean into the messiness and chaos of the community, something I would’ve never done previously. I chose to deal with the pressure and environment. I seized the opportunity to step into a role I was deeply uncomfortable with and pushed through the difficulties. Now, I have done things I could’ve never previously imagined doing. Read out speeches, fought in discussions, led an exhibition, talked on a radio station, and now wrote this essay. Now, from my newfound deeper knowledge of the flaws in the systems we had created, I worked tirelessly to try to mend them.
I saw how much things depended on the relationships in the studio and fought to try to find solutions. Whether they were successful or not is debatable. But, I can say confidently that now the studio has been evolving into something self-sufficient able to finally hold each other accountable to a standard. It’s a world I may have never imagined seeing after the drama of last year. But it’s here and it’s happened.
And now, my perception of myself and the world has changed. I see myself and my abilities for what they are, and I have grown more confident in myself. Previously, I couldn’t own my accomplishments or be aware of how much hard work I put into something. It is a profound shift in such a small amount of time but I believe it shows how impressive Acton can be.
I consider the most impactful lesson from Acton has been how important this mindset can truly be: there are many ways to view the world but only a handful of them can truly be beneficial. I typically see things in either an abstract or incredibly logical way, but with help from our studies on Growth Mindset, I have now been able to blend things into a mindset that works well for me and my pursuits.
In general, I think this is where the bulk of Acton’s power comes from. Sometimes the ideals can blind people to the reality of how things work. You get what you incentivize for and what you work towards. Tomorrow, my life is not suddenly going to be perfect because I said it would be. It requires effort to create and maintain a tribe, it requires effort to write an essay, and it requires work to mend your mindset. Acton gives me, us, the ability to figure these things out for ourselves. Life is a journey that requires consistent work and dedication, it will not always be a straightforward path. There are times were sacrifices must be made and when you must take a different path. Being taught is not how these things stick, it’s from failure and learning for yourself.
Acton is a place where you learn how to learn and learn how to live. There will always be fallouts, and places where things just don’t go how you may have planned them to, but what’s important is the ability to brush it off and keep going. Again, this is not something that can just be taught. It’s from first-hand hard experience that shows you, you NEED to just keep going. That person you disappointed, that deadline you missed, that job or team you didn’t make, or that sale you lost. It’s a temporary failure that if you let consume you would become much more.
As I have said before, I have done things I could’ve never imagined doing. I went kayaking through a river even though I was terrified and exhausted. I created a business and helped make an escape room. I figured out physics and electricity (tried to at least). Planned an entire trip to Italy. All of these things I probably would’ve never done without Acton.
Acton is about growth: I have changed as a person, and so have my peers. As we learn and grow, it’s a mountain we must climb to reach the peak of our potential. You encompass the vastness of the world and the opportunities associated with it, but sometimes you are blinded by the fear of failure or possibilities. Acton is where you learn to see both sides. You see the beauty around you and the possibilities of something going wrong while learning as you go how to avoid them.
Your curiosity is what fuels the world, what’s important is learning how to control it.