By John Carl McGrady, guest writer
You’ve probably heard a thousand times that Nantucket isn’t like the “real world.” This is, of course, a self-evident lie; Nantucket is part of the real world. Its problems are real, and serious, and people who try to dismiss them are doing everyone, including themselves, a disservice. But here’s what is true: Nantucket is an echo-chamber.
For many people, this will conjure up thoughts of political polarization and partisan self-selection, and it’s true that Nantucket is very liberal, but I’m not talking about politics here. The college I am attending is actually more politically homogeneous than Nantucket, but it’s far more diverse and less of an echo-chamber.
Diversity, again, conjures up specific images. You might think of race, or sexuality, or gender identity, and it’s true that Nantucket is not particularly diverse—or, to be fair, particularly homogenous—in these respects. Knowing that there are more people who share your sexuality or gender identity in the world, and that when it comes time to go to college, you can purposefully choose a campus with greater diversity in these areas is, no doubt, comforting to many Nantucket High School students. However, odds are, you already know that. Those stats are available online with a single search, and widely reported on.
What you might not know about is the diversity of values. Not political values, by which I mean laws or policies individuals believe the government should implement, but personal values, by which I mean beliefs or priorities individuals hold in their own lives. For example, an individual could have the political value of supporting marijuana legalization while still maintaining the personal value of avoiding drug use—this describes me.
And man, was I alone at NHS. It was hard to not give in to the incessant peer pressure to drink alcohol or take marijuanna. Many people envision peer pressure as someone trying to convince someone else to do something they don’t want to do, cajoling them and extolling the joys of the activity, and I did experience that at NHS—I’ll never forget the time in gym class in Freshman year when a classmate of mine spent fifteen minutes trying to convince me to buy weed from him—but the more insidious form of peer pressure is passive. When all of your peers are doing something, you feel pressured to do it too. Yes, I know, there’s probably an ASAP ad in here right now claiming that like half of NHS has never seen a glass of wine or whatever, but their own director is on the record admitting their polling data is faulty. You know it is. I was on the phone with a good friend of mine a week ago and we couldn’t name a single person who abstained from alcohol in my grade other than me.
But if you’re in my shoes, I want to tell you something. I can name five people off of the top of my head in my grade in college who have abstained, and I don’t know that many people here yet. Their reasons are varied. Some want to avoid addiction. Some want to avoid the brain damage associated with alcohol consumption. Some have religious reasons. The diversity of values is far greater than you think it is. I can’t stop you from reading this paragraph cynically as just another version of the ASAP study, but it’s not. Drug use, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve met people who go to church every Sunday, in one case driving over half an hour each way to do so, and I’ve met people who go to Mosque every Friday and wear a hijab. I met someone who is un-ironically waiting for marriage before having sex, and someone who told me earnestly that the most important thing in their life was ultimate frisbee. People who are unapologetically nonbinary, who casually write “any” on their nametag when asked to note their pronouns, people who think the most important thing in the world to study is geoscience and people who think it’s pure math.
On my third day here, during orientation, a group of freshmen stopped at Walmart. One of us, an immigrant from a west African country, spent half of the trip standing in front of the Coca-Cola.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“I’ve never seen so much soda in my life,” he said. “If it’s like this in every Walmart, why is this not a national scandal? Do you know how bad this is for you?”
I didn’t have a good answer to that.
I spent high school ashamed of my personal values. Worried that I was just confused, or backwards, or that my beliefs somehow made me worse or that I was some weird, bigoted conservative for not wanting to drink. Turns out, Nantucket is weird. These people I described to you are not weird, bigoted conseratives, they’re just people. Honestly, almost all of them are leftists.
Whatever you believe, however alone you feel at NHS, you aren’t alone. There are a million people who value the things you value, and you won’t be stuck in the bizarre NHS value bubble for much longer.
There’s a whole world out there. You just have to graduate to get to it.