In the spring of 2002, I was in the middle of switching custody from my mother to my father so I could go to boarding school in Pebble Beach, California. Stevenson School, to be exact. This would become one of the best decisions I have ever made. Boarding school is far superior than it’s ordinary private or public school counterparts. Here are the reasons why:
1. It was the first place I ever considered home. Having had divorced parents for most of my life, I was used to traveling back and forth from my mother and father’s homes every other weekend. For the longest time, I lived out of a suitcase. At boarding school, I was able to finally unpack my belongings and settle into a place that I could call home.
2. There are no parents. Having had divorced parents that didn’t cooperate well together, it was a blessing to get away from the hustle and bustle of their shenanigans of trying to raise my siblings and I over the telephone. Not to say that I didn’t have parental figures at boarding school, they were just dorm parents who were there to make sure we didn’t get into (too much) trouble.
3. I finally had structure in my life. After growing up with the chaos of going back and forth from one parent to another, I could actually sit back and abide by simple rules. Don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex, do your homework, etc. It was really simple. And for those of you who huff and puff at those simple rules, there’s plenty of time for sex, drugs and rock and roll when you go off to college. PLENTY.
4. I learned self-sufficiency. Until this point in my life, someone else had been doing my laundry whether it be one of my parents or older sisters (or, I cringe when I say this, a cleaning lady). At boarding school, I had to learn to do laundry all on my own without the help from others. I also had to learn to gauge time, manage money, and recycle (there weren’t laws in Arkansas where I previously lived on recycling).
5. My eyes were opened to a whole new world. Coming from a small town in Arkansas, I hadn’t been exposed to a lot of cultures and diversity prior to boarding school (my freshmen roommate was named Phan from Thailand). Not only that, I had my very first salad while at boarding school. I had been so sheltered growing up that I never had been exposed to many of the foods that I grew to love on the West Coast. I also discovered that I had a southern accent with strange sayings that no one seemed to understand (”I reckon” “I’m fixing to” “I used to could”).
6. I had opportunities to do things that I wouldn’t get to have otherwise. During my freshmen year, I was in the school musical, West Side Story, which went on tour to Hawaii for two weeks. I took radio and had to do my very own show on the largest high school radio station west of the Mississippi river. Being in Pebble Beach, I could sign out in the middle of the day on one of my free periods and go down to the beach to hang out for a while before returning to campus to go back to class.
7. People accepted me for who I was regardless of my sexuality. I was a member of the Gay/Straight alliance and later went on to become Co-President during my senior year. I was one-half of the first same-sex couple to attend homecoming during my senior year. I had close guy friends who happened to be straight who would slow dance with me on the dance floor. At prom, I even got my photo taken with one of the most popular guys in school.
8. Relationships accelerated at a far greater pace than relationships outside of boarding school. Because you live with these people, go to breakfast, class, lunch, more classes, do after school sports, go to study hall, and spend almost all of your down time with the other boarders, relationships accelerate at a far greater pace. A week at boarding school with these people would be like a month and a half with someone outside of boarding school. There are few types of relationships like those of boarding school ones. Today, when I run into a boarding school friend we pick up exactly where we left off. There’s a short-hand there that other relationships lack.
9. We didn’t have to wear uniforms. A lot of people think of uniforms when they think of boarding school and of course, there are some out there that do require a uniform; but not at Stevenson School. The only time we had to dress up was during Monday Night Dinner which was a special seating salon of students and teachers at various tables where the boys wore a suit and tie and the girls wore dresses. This allowed us to get to know other students from across campus that we might not normally interact with.
10. The yearly school streak is a favorite past time amongst boarders. Every year, there would be several attempts made by the boys first and then the girls the following night at a streak across campus in what is called “No Man’s Land” (a sacred area where no boy must enter as it’s a private enclave where only the girls lived). A regular private school or public school couldn’t pull off these kinds of shenanigans late into the night. A true boarding school student experience.