Mix It Up day sets valuable precedent

More than anything, they draw uncrossable lines. They break hearts, they ruin friendships, they divide people amongst race and creed and class and clique—yes, of course: lunch tables.

Unlike the rest of the day, lunch is entirely student-centric. The student chooses where to sit, what to eat, and who to eat with. And because it’s the choice of the teenager, lunch tables can accurately represent many of the problems associated with being a teenager—most namely, debilitating cliquey-ness. Debilitating cliquey-ness can mean many things, but it’s a lot like the Mafia: to get in, you have to be willing to assimilate and swear absolute loyalty, and the only way out is in a body bag.

It was for this reason, though, that SCLC created mix-it-up day, an occasion where students are urged (see also: forced) to sit at a random table, with other random people, to do unheard of things like “embrace the awkward” or even “make new friends.” Every year, mix-it-up day combats the evils of cliques and high school awkwardness, and is soundly beaten into the ground—or, at least, deemed hopeless. It’s a sad truth, but it’s a truth that needs to be addressed.

Often, mix-it-up day comes under fire from all sides. The students get mad at the administration for making them uncomfortable for a day, the administration gets mad at the students for not complying, and both parties get mad at the day for being ineffective. All the while, the day is called either unproductive or pointless, because no one participates—or no one participates because the day is called either unproductive or pointless.

But it isn’t that the mix-it-up day criticisms are unwarranted, it’s more that mix-it-up day’s purpose is often widely misconstrued. The important aspect of mix-it-up day isn’t to set aside a single day out of the nine month school year so you can sit out of your social group once. That would be silly and meaningless. Mix-it-up day seeks to set a precedent that sitting, conversing, and learning about someone who you don’t know is entirely feasible. The day tries to disarm the ubiquitous but needless notion that sitting next to a new person would be “totes awkward, lol.”

That’s a notion that’s hard to understate, because the social skills to carry on a conversation with someone you haven’t gone to school with for five and half years are vital currently, but even more so in the future of every student.

Beyond even that, “mix-it-up” carries another notion that if a senior girl isn’t sitting with a freshman boy, it isn’t “mixing it up.” This year, seeing certain teachers berating students who sat amongst tenuous “friends” for “not mixing it up” solidifies that—but it’s simply untrue.

Mixing it up means changing who you sit with. It’s inconceivable that everyone in the school will always be friends with everyone—that’s why social groups exist. To “mix it up” can mean as little or as much as you want, as long as there’s some effort involved. If a sophomore girl sits next to a sophomore girl, that can be “mixing it up” as much as anything else.

In a school with vastly varying levels of social anxiety, we need to build up the ability to branch out—disarm that notion at first, while setting the precedent. In the same vein—getting into a cold pool, it’s far easier to dip a foot in, test the water, and ease yourself into the cold without jumping in and entering cardiac arrest. To that, many might say, “I would rather jump in and get it all over with.” But that’s truly the beauty of mix-it-up day. If you want to, you can make your transition as stark as you’d like—and if you don’t, the day is a precedent for others, throughout the year, that it’s safe to jump in. It’s just our job as a school to keep that alive.