Get lost!

Go on, you heard me.

Get lost!

Sorry, I’m not being rude. I’m just passing on some of the best advice I ever got.

I was nine years old in New York City. I had finished third grade at Public School 52 and was just starting fourth grade in a new school, P.S. 98, in another neighborhood. It was only about half a mile way but it could have been across the world, that’s how far away and foreign it seemed.

In the new school, we wandered around in a daze. Everything was strange, nothing was familiar. In the old school we knew where our classroom was, the gym, the bathrooms. Here we were immediately and hopelessly lost.

Quickly, we had an assembly (once we all found the auditorium) for a welcome by our new principal. Here’s what he said – and I remember it clearly all these decades later, and pass it on to you new students at Phillips Exeter Summer, although by now you’re undoubtedly no longer lost, which is kind of the point:

Hello, boys and girls,

I know you’re all lost in this big new school.


We’re happy you’re lost. We want you to feel lost.

You see, you spend almost all your life in familiar surroundings, your home, your school, your town, your city. You know where everything is. You know what to expect. Now suddenly, you don’t know anything.

That’s a delicious, exciting new feeling. Embrace it! A new world open to your discovery.

In a week, in a day, in an hour, it will no longer seem so new and strange. It will begin to become familiar, like everything else you know. The magic will fade.

So do not wish it away. Be glad you’re lost. Enjoy it. It won’t last.

And you too, summer Exonians, are surely now all proud of how well you’ve adapted to your once-unfamiliar new surroundings. You’ve found your dorm and the D-hall. You’ve learned the difference between the Academy Building and the Academy Center, between Phillips and Phelps. You’ve probably even found the gym (although there still may be a few of you wandering around the construction piles).

So it’s too late for you to be lost here. Too bad. But remember that for next time, in the next new place you end up. Get lost, and enjoy it!