Life without the cakes

Andrea is a senior at Peddie. She reflects on the past four years and recognizes that while there is a place for routine, we all have a choice when change stands in our path - it's all about perspective.

"So don’t let your plan have the last laugh, 

but laugh last when your plan laughs, 

and when your plan has the last laugh, 

laugh back, laughing!" 

                                                                  ― Lauren Graham, "Talking as Fast as I Can"

Since freshman year, at roughly 7:45 in the morning I drive past Guatepan, the Mexican bakery in Hightstown on my way to school. And every morning, at roughly 7:45 they would be unloading cakes from the truck into the bakery. Rain or shine, the cakes were always there. No matter what was going on in the world, or in my life, the cakes were there. Seeing those cakes provided me with the stability and reassurance I needed to start my day.

Maybe the cakes symbolized a fresh start with every new day. Maybe they reminded me that in a time in which everything was always changing (relationships, grades, and my life goals), I could always count on two things: the cakes and that Mr. Corica would be wearing a sweater vest. 

Guatepan shop exteriorWhile I always saw the cakes – to be honest – I have never actually tasted them. However, I came to love those cakes at Guatepan. But then, everything changed. And by everything, I mean the time at which they unload the cakes. This may seem like a tiny change in your daily processions but to someone like me who relied on the cakes as a routine landmark, it felt like a big deal. I didn’t recognize it at first, but something felt off about my mornings this year until I realized what was missing: the cakes! 

As I was thinking about this, I couldn’t help but think of the movie "Groundhog Day." The movie centers on the main character, Phil, who keeps reliving the same day in a time loop that only he is aware of. After getting over the initial weirdness, he thinks this is awesome. No consequences for his actions, every day is a clean slate, he can do anything he wants. So he makes some irresponsible decisions, but eventually grows tired of this lifestyle. 

Then, he becomes depressed and tries killing himself in multiple different ways, but even his death cannot break the time loop.

He decides to take advantage of the situation by learning to play the piano and sculpt ice, saving lives, and preventing disasters from occurring. But, this being a movie, he is finally able to break the time loop when he finds true love. 

So this movie, and the cakes, among other things, got me thinking about my life. Sometimes, when I passed the cakes in the morning I felt like I was in the movie "Groundhog Day" because of the repetition in my life. But it almost always felt like Phil’s good phase when he was motivated to make it a good day. I liked the feeling that every day is a clean slate and what I do with it is up to me and my actions. As we all know, it can be easy to fall into that “Peddie rut” of doing the same thing every day, especially during these long winter months. But, if I learned anything from the cakes (and writing this speech), it’s that any rut we are in is a mindset. One can escape the rut simply by setting daily goals, and reflecting on the good and bad of the day, and I started learning this lesson from the tender age of 5. 

From Kindergarten to 8th grade in Cranbury School, my Vice Principal would get on the loudspeaker every morning and end her announcements by saying: “Make it a good day, or not. The choice is yours.” This contingency was ingrained into my brain, and gave me a feeling of control. I went through 9 years of hearing those words every morning without giving them much thought. But now, I realize how much they affected me. Every day has the potential to be good. Bad things can, and will happen, but the extent that these things affect you is your decision. 

I think every morning in high school when I passed the cakes, I was subconsciously thinking of this message.

I like routine. I like sitting at the same lunch table every day. I’ve had the same blue and white backpack since freshman year. I’ve never gotten a haircut of more than four inches at a time. I like knowing exactly where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. Clearly, change scares me. So as I, along with the entire class of 2017, approach a huge change in our lives, I decided it’s time to address this problem.

In college, everything will change. Our surroundings, our friends, the food we eat, and Harry Mooney is going to dye his hair blue. All this change is unsettling.

We don’t know how college is going to affect us. But I think the scariest part is that we don’t know how it will affect the ones we love.

I know I will still be the same old me no matter what. But what if my friends change? What if Peddie changes? What if I come back and my little sister is taller than me? So, I discovered that the scary thing about change is not the unknown that lies ahead, but losing what I have now.

And now that I know the root of my fear, it makes the change a lot easier to accept. We all have the power to jump into this change head on, and take advantage of the new opportunities. And if we’re lucky, we know that the bonds we’ve made here are strong enough to withstand the changes we’re about to go through. And I truly believe that everyone in this chapel is that lucky.

In the spring of my freshman year, I was sitting in the Masland room. I turned to my friends Alanna and Erin and said “I think I’m gonna run for class rep!” So, overcome with excitement and confidence I ran to the dean’s office to pick up my petition, which of course was due the very next day. I got my 50 signatures, wrote my candidate statement and handed in my form hopeful but not sure what the outcome would be. Anyways, I got elected, then reelected, then I was lucky enough to become elected co-president. About 5 ½ months ago I stood in this very spot to deliver the convocation speech with DJ. We told you all that you had the opportunity to write the legacy of this year, to essentially make it a good year, or not.

And as the year progressed, we all worked to find that perfect balance of routine and new experiences. I try to maintain the routine structure of my days, while filling each day with a unique purpose.

This morning’s reading from Lauren Graham contains a message that I needed to hear. It says “when your plan has the last laugh, laugh back, laughing!”

Essentially, when things don’t go as you planned, when you didn’t do well on the test you thought you aced, when the person in the imaginary conversation you planned in your head didn’t stick to their script, when the unexpected happens, don’t let your plan laugh at you. Take the time to adjust your mindset and proceed. I had to learn this lesson two years ago.

It was the fall of my sophomore year – the Monday of Blair Week, when I got in a bad car accident on my way to school. I certainly didn’t plan on sporting my cheetah print One-Direction onesie in the hospital that day. I definitely didn’t plan on missing all of Blair Week and the end of fall term due to my resulting concussion. I didn’t plan on sitting in my living room on Blair Day listening to livestream of the football game and folding socks instead of storming the field in Blairstown. However, I adjusted my routine and focused on what I could until I was back where I wanted to be (which, by the way was here at Peddie).

My new routine that fall became sleeping as much as possible, baking, and petting my dog all day. Though this was not my ideal routine, it actually made my junior and senior Blair Weeks that much better.

Routine is not a bad thing. Trust that the mixture of stability and freedom in each day will encourage you to take risks while relying on the foundation you’ve built. When plans go awry, take advantage of the new opportunity in front of you. Or conversely, when you feel yourself being sucked back into that rut, make the conscious decision to get out. Introduce yourself to someone new, debate with a teacher, try a new sport, run for class rep… You never know what may come of it.

And trust me, I get it: Life can be hard. But the one thing that can save you is perspective. Whether you biggest problem is that they ran out of your favorite cereal at breakfast, or having serious family problems, having the right perspective will help guide you over that bump, no matter how big.

Life without the cakes has proved not to be as bad as I feared. This has been an amazing year, probably shaped by a sudden urge I had to run for rep 3 years ago in the Masland. And even though I don’t have the visual reminder of the cakes, as I enter the Peddie campus every morning, I get the same sense. I have the authority over my life and the ability to make every day a good one.

So Peddie, make it a good day………or not. The choice is yours.