By Zack Martin '18
Last Thursday, the Bulldogs took on Flint Hill in their regular season home opener. This was following the first away game on Monday, which resulted in a disappointing but well-fought loss to WCAC opponent DeMatha (16-17 OT). The Dogs started off strong offensively, but weren’t quite putting away the Huskies by halftime, who lingered behind STA by a score of 9-5. However, the Bulldogs turned up the notch in the second half and took care of Flint Hill with ease. The Dogs only allowed one goal in the final two quarters, and put up another nine offensively. The final score was 18-6, with outstanding offensive performances from Henry Holliday ‘19, Carter Tate ‘18 and Nick Meyer ‘19. This was a great first win for the Dogs against a team they should have, and did, take down by a large margin. They now sit at 1-2 on the season following a close loss to Gonzaga, another tough WCAC opponent, on Saturday (4-7). Their next game is at home on Monday, March 12 against a solid squad from The Heights. Face-off is at 4pm. Get out to that!
By Alex Bamford '19
NCS Lacrosse started off their season this week with three exciting games. This year, the Varsity team grew with the addition of a couple new valuable freshmen: Madeline Hopper, Nina Davy, Eliza Turner, and Cooper Garrett. In their game on Friday against Holton Arms School, NCS began with some difficulty, letting in a few goals in the starting minutes. By the end of the first half, however, Eliza Turner ’21 and Chloe Conaghan ’19 both scored impressive goals. During the second, Holton’s strongest players scored again, but not without a struggle against NCS’s standout goalie, Lilly Keller ’19. As the NCS team became more focused and worked better together, Madeline Hopper ’21 and Kate Nuechterlein ’20 scored before the game ended, bringing up the score a few points. Unfortunately, the final score was 5 to 15, Holton. The Lacrosse team has not lost faith and is very motivated going forward; they are extremely excited to work together and push themselves for the rest of the season!
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:37-40
On July 20,1969, Michael Collins bade farewell to his comrades Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they floated away from him in the Lunar Module “Eagle” to go down to the lunar surface. Everyone knows what they did down there. But Collins stayed up in lunar orbit. After all, someone needed to keep watch over the command module, and who was better for the job than a St. Albans’s graduate? Yes indeed, while the other two went down, Collins stayed, content to let his friends have what was seen as the greater glory, content with his own relatively unassuming yet utterly vital role in the mission.
Now there’s a funny thing about lunar orbit that not many people realize. Everyone at this school knows that communications are lost even at the bottom of Marriott Hall. So it’s not hard to realize that when a spaceship goes behind the moon, it enters complete radio silence. Other missions had gone around the moon and into radio silence before Apollo 11, but Michael Collins was the first astronaut to do so alone. So when he entered the shadow of the moon, Michael Collins became the first human to feel what it is like to be in absolute physical isolation from the rest of humanity.
Alone. As Collins sat in the Command module by himself, he took out a pad of paper and wrote “I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.” It would be safe to say that Michael Collins was about as lonely at that moment as any human had ever been.
But I don’t think that means there never was or will be another human that lonely. Obviously there has never been one more physically isolated than Collins was, but if there’s anything I know, it’s that you don’t have to be alone to be lonely.
To get to what loneliness really is, we have to go look at a different spacecraft. Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977 to take advantage of a peculiar planetary alignment and perform close flybys of Jupiter and Saturn while its twin, Voyager 2, added in Uranus and Neptune. By 1989, they had both completed their initial missions, and NASA deemed them healthy enough to go ahead with their extended mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission. Using the gravity of the outer planets, scientists were able to send both spacecraft hurtling out of the ecliptic plane of our solar system at about 3.6 Astronomical Units per year, equivalent to 10.6 miles per second. Voyager 1 is currently about 19.6 billion kilometers away from Earth, which is a 36-hour round trip… if you’re traveling the speed of light. In August 2013, Voyager 1 passed through the Termination Shock and the Heliopause of our sun and became the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space. It’s worth noting here that I think those two terms provide conclusive proof that scientists are much better at naming things than historians.
Aboard each of the Voyager spacecraft is a golden record meant to communicate mankind’s story to any extraterrestrial race that may pick up the spacecraft. It takes a lot of editing to try and condense the human experience onto a gold plate. The one who arranged it, Carl Sagan, decided to put in natural sounds such as the sound of the ocean surf, spoken greetings in 55 languages from Ancient Sumerian to Chinese, and a menagerie of musical works from various eras. The music was selected not only to demonstrate some of the most beautiful achievements of mankind, but also to emulate certain human emotions.
The song chosen to represent the sensation of loneliness is called “Dark was the Night, Wet was the Ground”. The man who wrote the song, Blind Willie Johnson, was born in Texas in 1897. His mother died soon after. He always wanted to grow up to be a preacher, and he taught himself to play on a guitar he made out of a cigar box when he was five. When he was seven, his father caught his stepmother going out with another man and beat her mercilessly. She then threw a can of lye in Willie’s face, blinding him for the rest of his life. Blind Willie remained poor his entire life, even though he did grow up to be a preacher and a blues man like he always wanted. He made a living spreading God’s word and playing the gospel blues from town to town until when records show he operated a House of Prayer in Beaumont, Texas. In 1945, his house burned to the ground, leaving him with nowhere to go for shelter. He lived in the burned-out ruins of his home for the next few months, with a pile of wet newspapers as a bed. It was there that he wrote “Dark was the Night, Wet was the Ground”. He lived there until he contracted malarial fever and died on September 18, 1945, a hot Texas night, after being refused at multiple hospitals because of the color of his skin. He was buried in an unmarked grave.
Blind Willie led a lonely life. He, more than anyone else, knew what loneliness felt like, and he poured out his loneliness into his song. That is why it was chosen to represent loneliness for all mankind. He experienced a kind of loneliness that can’t be brought about by only physical isolation. True loneliness comes when someone is right in the middle of all humanity and yet still there is radio silence. No communication. To feel true loneliness is to feel the isolation of Michael Collins while you are still here on Earth with everyone else. The loneliest people are found among the rest of us.
I am glad that for the last 8 years I have lived in a community that has ensured against this kind of loneliness. But it still serves as a valuable idea, especially for my fellow seniors and I who are about to embark on lives of our own. We should treat everyone as if they were one of these lonely ones, because we never know who is really lonely and who isn’t. And it really is the worst feeling, when you are certain that no one loves you and no one cares to know how you feel. But the best possible thing that someone can do when you feel that way is to talk with you, to connect with you, in that time of hardship. The Bible even tells us to do this. In the reading today, Jesus says that to help others is to do the work of God, to share his love. To talk to someone and to be nice to them is not a big commitment. But the effect it can have on someone who needs a friend is utterly astounding.
Sometime in the past few days, I am sure you have all heard, a solid number of times, the phrase “happy new year!” I certainly have. With any new year, we often think about what has changed in the past 365 days, and what we want to change in the upcoming 12 months. In an effort to improve our lives, many adopt “new year’s resolutions”—going to the gym, eating healthy, doing more community service. Often, we fall short of our expectations. I know that I have not yet succeeded in accomplishing last year’s resolution of taking a voluntary trip to the weight room.
We cherish our New Year’s Resolutions because a new year offers a new element of control to our lives, the ability to change our lifestyle, habits, and practices for the coming year. But while the New Year offers a fresh start to life, it also presents significant uncertainty.
As humans, we are bound to despise that butterflies-in-the-stomach, nauseous feeling of uncertainty. When we lack control or information about the future, we grow nervous, irritable, and fearful. Think about your favorite TV show. For me, that’s House of Cards. Every season ends with Frank Underwood finishing off another political enemy, ascending to some higher office, or engaged mid-argument with his wife, Claire. Just when you want to know what happens next, the end credits start rolling and you have to wait another year. Through the use of cliffhangers, Hollywood capitalizes on the human instinct to avoid uncertainty.
In our own lives, unpredictability is also present, and occasionally seems to outweigh the joys we share. The New Year brings great opportunity for change, and such opportunity creates uncertainty. For the seniors who have been here since C Form, think about how much is different in what seems like such a short period of time. From the time we arrived here to the time we graduate, we will have seen three Presidents, two Popes, and ten different iPhone model releases. Ebola replaced the swine flu. ISIS replaced al Qaeda. Black Lives Matter replaced Occupy Wall Street and George R. R. Martin replaced J. K. Rowling. These events, occurring in less than a decade, have been completely unpredictable. And through the multiple fruitless attempts to predict a major outcome through polling, it is clear that we can NOT mathematically predict a future event.
We always seem to prioritize in our thoughts the uncertain and unpredictable elements of our lives. In just five days, every student in the room will toil through multiple two hour marathons of explaining how The Odyssey is a bildungsroman, elaborating on the importance of Grendel’s mom and Scyld Schefing in Beowulf, and why Hester Prynne’s relationship with Reverend Dimmesdale is an aspect of Romanticism, not realism. Those of us who have sat through exams before are dreading that all too familiar feeling of seeing the 15-page double-sided packet in a teacher’s hand.
But the great uncertainty “elephant” in the room rests in the senior class. Most of our class has not been accepted into a college, and many of us, just less than a week ago, clicked send on eight, nine, or even ten applications. We now will wait over three agonizing months to hear back, all the while working to maintain our grades. The lack of control that we have over such a major decision is excruciating for all eighty members of our grade.
These first few days of January represent a season of uncertainty in the Church Calendar as well. The season of Epiphany marks the time when the three “kings” or “magi” traveled far from the East, and disobeying King Herod’s warning, presented gifts to the King of Kings, or, as they saw it, a infant lying in a barn. In today’s hymn and reading, you heard of the long and perilous journey the three men endured to find the supposed Messiah. These “wise men” as we know them today, were not Jewish or Christian, rather, they were Zoroastrian priests, traveling from as far as Persia to a land they did not know to meet a child they had barely heard of. Their sense of uncertainty was certainly great, and it is no coincidence that this season of Epiphany falls at the start of our calendar year, when we face our own ambivalence about our true purpose, the world as we know it, and God’s presence in our midst. The story of wise men, shepherds, and other individuals traveling, under dangerous pretenses, to meet a baby with a death threat on his head, serves as a reminder to all of us that the new challenges, expectations, and doubts of the New Year are universally commonplace.
And that is my simple message today. In our daily lives, we are all struggling with an uncertainty. For students right now, it’s exams. For seniors, it’s colleges. For all of us, it’s this unpredictable and consequential year ahead. With a new president, administration, and congress, new classes and semester grades in two weeks, there are a lot of expectations, doubts, hopes, and fears circling our days here at St. Albans and in the world at large. There is much we do not know, many aspects of our lives are outside of our control. But it is important to realize and understand that if you do feel this way, you are not alone. All of us, in some way or another, deal with uncertainties everyday. Like the end of an episode of Game of Thrones, the outcome of something for all of us is completely out of reach, and as humans we cannot stand this. So enjoy the New Year. Whatever may be bothering you and causing doubts in your life is likely bothering the guy sitting next to you. While there is opportunity for great change in the coming year, there is also opportunity for great success. Embrace it. After all, that is what the willingness of the wise men to follow a star invites us to do because it reflected a sign of something mysterious yet affirming. So follow your light and be open to what your journey will include, especially the uncertainty.
Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
I remember most of my time in first grade with fondness. I would ride my scooter home from school everyday, there was no homework on weekends and my biggest concern was what cartoons would be on early on Saturday mornings. There was one event however that was not as positive. One day at recess we were playing the familiar game of 500. At that time I was not quite the sculpted athlete you see before yourselves today and was still struggling to grow into my body. The thrower launched the ball high into the air and I positioned myself perfectly under it. At the last second, however, it slipped right through my fingers and dropped to the pavement with a thud. A fourth grader looks at me and says, “Nice hands, fatso.” I couldn’t think of anything to say so I just stared back at him in bewilderment. No one had ever said something like that to me. I sheepishly walked away ashamed and wondering why someone I had never even spoken to before would say something like this to me. What did I do to him? Why did he feel the need to insult me? When I got home, I told my mom what had transpired on the blacktop that day. I asked her for advice. The next morning when she was dropping me off she asked me to identify the kid who had bullied me the previous day. When she saw that he was a smaller child she told me that he probably felt self conscious about his own size and was making fun of me in an attempt to make himself feel better. At the time I remember thinking that his genetics were more at fault for that than me, but now I see things a little bit differently. I see that he was probably frustrated at seeing a younger boy that was bigger than him and felt the need to release some of his anger.
In the reading this morning we heard about good trees bearing good fruit. Your words are like seeds, the trees are the consequences, and the fruits are the memories you keep. Those seeds or words determine the kind of tree and the kind of fruit you will bear. In other words, what you say has more significance than you may realize at the moment. In return, you either create a positive or negative memory. I ask you to think about a time when someone hurt you. How did it make you feel? What about a time when you hurt someone else with your words. What made you say these things? How did it make you feel when you said these things?
We live in a culture dominated by social media. We can tweet, text, or post something before we think about the ramifications. Once you put your words out there they are permanent. It’s so much easier to say something mean to someone from behind your computer than it is to say it to someone’s face.
That day at recess is one of the few things from first grade that I remember in such clear detail. As a result of his words, I remember what I was wearing, what he was wearing, and what the ball looked like. His words, however, are what stayed in my head the most. Just like the seed transforms into a tree and fruit, your words have immense power. You can decide whether they can help or hurt someone. You may inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings while making a joke about something that they’re insecure about. I encourage you to think carefully about what you say. Understand that words can be used for so much good. You can encourage someone after a tough loss, a failed test or a bad day. No one is perfect, so when you feel insecure or feel like you’re lacking in some area, you should know that someone else has their own fears and insecurities. As you go forth, I ask you to use your words to encourage, uplift and inspire. Remember that your words can have a permanent impact on someone else. I truly believe we are all good people, so let’s be sure that our words reflect that.
A Scene From Finding Nemo:
“Would you just stop it?”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“We’re in a whale, don’t you get it?”
“A whale, ‘cause you had to ask for help, and now we’re stuck here”
“Wow. A whale. You know I speak whale.”
“No! You’re insane! You can’t speak whale! I have to get out! I have to find my son! I have to tell him how old sea turtles are!”
“There, there. It’s all right. It’ll be okay.”
“No. No, it won’t”
“Sure it will, you’ll see.”
“No, I promised [Nemo] I’d never let anything happen to him.”
“Huh. That’s a funny thing to promise.”
“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”
“What’s going on?”
“I think he says we’ve stopped.”
“Of course, we’ve stopped. Just stop trying to speak whale, you’re gonna make things worse. What is that noise? Oh no. Look what you did. The water’s going down!”
“Really? You sure about that?”
“Look, it’s already half-empty!”
“Hm...I’d say it’s half full.”
“Stop that! It’s half-empty”
“Okay, that one was a little tougher. He either said we should go to the back of the throat or he wants a root beer float.”
“Of course he wants us to go there! That’s eating us! What is going on?”
“No! No more whale! You can’t speak whale!”
“Yes, I can!”
“No, you can’t! You think you could do these things but you can’t, Nemo!”
“He says it’s time to let go! Everything’s gonna be alright!”
“How do you know? How do you know something bad isn’t gonna happen?”
Happy first Chapel!
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve carried myself my past 3 years in the upper school and what’s struck me most as I’ve progressed through my learning. While thinking and reading, I remembered this scene that we just read from Finding Nemo. The last time I saw this, it particularly resonated with me when I thought about myself in both roles – Dory and Marlin.
Here’s how I think of this in context of high school. Risk taking is inevitable because we don’t step into this world knowing everything.
So why do we take risks…why should we…how do we take risks and what does it feel like? What does it feel like to struggle with both your inner Marlin and your inner Dory, and what can we do from there?
Here’s what I’ve learned from this scene and from my experience here: First, we have to take risks, and sometimes a whale will eat us when we ask for directions. But don’t necessarily expect things not to be okay because they aren’t now.
When you get eaten by a whale, it’s pretty easy to forget how you ended up there in the first place, and easy to put unreasonable blame on ourselves. Though you chose to ask for the directions, you didn’t choose to be in a whale. And that’s okay. Recognize that maybe you need to be in a whale right now because that’s the only way you can find your Nemo, no matter how tough this feels in the moment. Marlin freaks out because he thinks he’s going to die in the whale, but completely forgets about his cause -- he took a risk and had such good intentions. So, in the end, the journey you may be on may not be between two points. Don’t let the in-the-whale moments devalue your intentions and disrupt your purpose.
Another thing about risks is that we don’t always have control over what happens to us, no matter how much preparation we do. Marlin says, “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.” Dory thinks that’s a dumb promise because then nothing would happen to Nemo! Sure, you can sit in a room all day and pretend you have control over if anything happens to you. But ultimately, to do anything OTHER than sitting in said room, you’re going to have to walk out. You’ll have to take risks, as I said before. But what happens from there is not always under your control.
What can you control? One thing. How you react. Which leads me to this:
Trust your gut. Your inner conscience, your truest voice, that culmination of thinking and learning and values that may come down to what seem like really little moments with a lot of weight. When you put yourself out there and need to react to something, trusting your gut should always be in the picture. Instead of however much you think you are worth based on your past decisions, know that you are worth however much you give yourself in the moment. Occasionally, on tests with multiple choice questions, I used to not let myself believe my answer was right, despite studying and knowing. I would deny my gut feelings because I thought it better to know I was wrong before anyone told me...but here’s the thing...I wasn’t wrong. Like Marlin, we are inclined to assume the worst in these moments. There is no doubt about that. So, I would use any failure I had in the past as evidence that I should assume the worst -- the worst being that my answer was wrong -- kind of like what Marlin does here. After what happened to Nemo’s mom and now Nemo, he’s so afraid of doing something wrong again that he doesn’t quite trust anything. If you’ve ever felt like this at all, or feel like you could, I need you to tap into your inner Dory. Why Dory? Well, our brains are wired to remember our negative experiences more than our positive ones to keep us safe. Dory not only has a positive attitude, but she has short-term memory loss! Dory physically can’t draw on some of her negative experiences to tell herself that she’s wrong. Maybe you’re thinking that’s dangerous in some cases, which is valid, but in a lot of cases like this one, putting aside every thought in your mind that could deny your gut feeling is what needs to happen. Dory only has her gut to tell why they should jump. She doesn’t know, but it doesn’t matter. As I mentioned before, your instinct in this moment is a culmination of hours of thinking and learning and values. Be the Dory, have confidence, and trust your gut. Everything will be okay, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment.
These are all the things I’ve found helpful to keep in mind when I ask myself why I take risks at all.
If you get one thing from this reflection, PLEASE take risks this year. Find your Dory. Trust yourself for who you know can be, not anything negative with which you label yourself. Let yourself decide.
I leave you with this quote from Howards End:
“With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of a man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken. Margaret hoped that for the future she would be less cautious, not more cautious, than she had been in the past.” (Forster, 76)
When I was a toddler, my favorite toys were legos. I would build houses and people and sculptures while my parents learned to not walk through the living room barefoot. One day, I bought a box of legos that were a different size than the ones I already had. When I began to build my tower, the blocks didn’t click together like they were supposed to. I started ugly-crying. Legos click together; it’s what they do. It’s what they’ve always done. It was the earliest memory I have of genuine confusion. What was supposed to make sense, to fit together, suddenly didn’t.
With that in mind, I’m going to give a little history lesson. Bear with me; I promise it connects. At the turn of the 20th century, science itself was in a state of confusion. When people zoomed in on atoms or zoomed out on galaxies, Newton’s mathematical laws that had governed motion for centuries suddenly didn’t work. People scrambled to find explanations for why the universe was breaking the rules, and then these weird ideas of quantum mechanics and relativity arrived and established a new order. The universe made sense again, in a new way. This was a major scientific revolution. For decades beforehand, though, scientists’ minds were full of question marks.
This is the part we don’t learn about in science classes and yet can most relate to: not having an answer. Being confused. It often seems like the worst, to face a blank slate when everything that should click together just doesn’t. We’ve all experienced this in our academic lives, if on a smaller scale than that of Einstein. In math class, you write your solution, triple check your algebra, confidently circle your answer, and then…in comes the teacher’s pen. Or you spend hours slaving away at a paper for English or history and you don’t get the grade you thought you deserved, and you don’t know why. Or you don’t have any work written down and you just stare at the math problem or the essay prompt, with no idea of where to even begin.
Growing up, I loathed that whoosh of confusion and helplessness which these moments bring. In such moments, my brain is a churning mixture of disconnections. And often there’s the eventual light bulb that clicks my mind together and makes things as clear as a Claritin-D commercial, but unlike my toddler self, I’ve come to believe that those seconds beforehand, those moments in the dark, matter.
This idea began in my sophomore year, when I read a play called “Arcadia” for English class. In this play, I came across one of those sentences (You know, the ones that stop you in your tracks and make you put down the book to look at your life). There’s this character – who coincidentally is talking about that big scientific revolution I mentioned before – and at the end of this monologue, he says, “it’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.” Those words hit me hard. I, who had hated confusion ever since the day those legos didn’t fit together, had never paused to think of it as a time of opportunity.
In subsequent months, I kept pondering such a suggestion. Why would anyone enjoy being wrong or having no answer? But that sentence kept sticking with me, and so I started giving myself time to sit with confusion rather than freeze in frustration. No, I didn’t suddenly get straight-A’s or reach enlightenment, but by embracing my confusion in the classroom, schoolwork became more enjoyable. Confusion changed from being an obstacle in the way of my academic growth to the cornerstone of it. And this wasn’t a result of doing anything drastically differently; I simply allow myself a change in perspective.
To be poetic with it, confusion is when the familiar becomes foreign. Minds full of question marks meet in the dark, scrounging aimlessly for a candle and a set of matches. But I believe confusion is also a time of open doors, when the track you’ve followed has hit a dead end, leaving you the unexpected explorer. And if you freeze up or run away from those moments, you miss the enjoyment they can bring. Confusion is an adventure, leading you to an undetermined, unknown goal.
I believe the fun doesn’t come from the solution with a check mark, or the paper with the A, or even the revolution itself, but from the confusion. The red pen, the blank paper, the blinking cursor on the screen - the burned out bulbs that give you time to wander, to be lost. And I know we’re constantly told, “It’s about the journey, not the destination! It’s not about what’s waiting on the other side - it’s the climb!” But do we really apply that philosophy to the classroom?
I know we’re all busy and most of us don’t have time to close our eyes and meditate over every difficult homework problem or question we encounter, but you only need a few seconds to take a deep breath, give your best shot, and let yourself be in this state, to explore what you do know and wonder at what you don’t.
See, you’re at a point in life and in school when you should be confused. And one of the benefits of being confused at this point and in this place is that we’re surrounded by people who can support us along the way. You won’t always answer every big question that comes to you, but that’s okay. Sit in those disconnected legos of your life, those ashes of “what you thought you knew,” and as you wait for a light bulb to turn on, give yourself time to be at peace in the darkness. And who knows? If you keep moving forward in confusion, there is that magical possibility that you might just stumble upon a revolution.
I’m Kelsi Okun, I’m a senior, I have the extreme privilege of being your student body president this year, and here’s how I want to spend the next 15 minutes. I’m going to tell you a lot of random stories about times I’ve admired this close, close community and then one time when I really struggled to see it. And then convince you that they are all related and then that they have something to do with you. And this community. And this sisterhood.
So please have faith that this will all connect, try and stay awake for at least 1/2 of this, and, in suit with my idol and life coach DJ Khaled I invite you to take the next few minutes to “ride wit me on the journey to more success.” Guys, I promise. That’s my only quote, I couldn’t find a Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition for major key, so that’s all I’ve got.
Okay here we go.
My friends leave the best voicemails. I kid you not. I’ve cried more at these 2-minute masterpieces than I do at Pixar shorts, which is saying a lot. The way that they can craft words into instant memories without stuttering or second guessing their vulnerability or hesitating with their sympathy—it’s unreal.
I, on the other hand, can’t go more than 10 seconds without awkwardly laughing or sidestepping reality with ill-timed sarcasm.
Sisterhood is unconditional kindness.
I attend class the minimum amount to actually graduate. If you know me, you know it’s true. I ride horses 6 days a week for a couple hours each afternoon, travel almost every weekend for competitions and show up for class in between. It’s a chaotic schedule and it means that I can’t do normal “NCS girl” things every day- school sports, afterschool events, attending performances are usually out of the picture. And it breaks my heart. But, like Ly-Lan noted, somehow my friends still reach out to me and still try and include me, even if fruitlessly, on their agendas. And they spend time with me, even when time is so devastatingly limited. They continue to love me even if it’s inconvenient.
Sisterhood is accepting each other’s flaws for what they are not who they are.
Let me preface my next example with the fact that at the end of last year, I think there was a movement to impeach all our senior class leaders and to start general rioting immediately following our first attempt at a conversation about possible senior themes. RIP Kingdom. But then we came together at the senior retreat this fall and I’ve truly never witnessed such a sense of whole-hearted cooperation and absolute motivation to work together for the benefit of the whole. People took ownership of their ideas and then others constructively challenged them, but then those same challengers listened intently to the responses and there was this exchange of creativity and inspiration that helped to develop the ideas into something, dare I say it?, magical.
Witnessing these mature and thoughtful conversations about something that everyone was so obviously excited about, though in different ways, made me realize that I am surrounded by an extraordinary family of individuals who can challenge each other’s ideas without challenging the people themselves.
Sisterhood is dedication to a common cause and dedication to one another.
I love to hear myself talk. Honestly, it’s a real problem and I’m sure you are all realizing just how serious of an issue it is at this point. But, I have teachers and friends at this school who can listen, truly listen, to me without judgment or without a hidden agenda. You see, I have this habit of sitting on a random desk in a classroom during office hours and absolutely overextending my welcome. All I’ll say is that the conversations spiral off topic far too quickly, but just knowing that there are people at this school that care about the conversation more than the clock is exceptional. Because Sisterhood is listening, not just hearing; It’s listening for the sake of listening, not necessarily for replying.
I think that I hold a lot of these values to the standard that my real sister, Rachel, has set. She’s objectively the kindest person on the planet right now-it’s not up for question- and she came here just for the day to watch me try and not mess up, so she deserves a shout out. Rachel has this effect on people where she makes everyone she talks to feel worthwhile and she somehow sees promise in everyone, even people like me who can’t ask a poignant question unless it relates to the day’s schedule or my next meal. Sisterhood is seeing potential in others, even when they can’t see it in themselves.
And with this huge, beautiful, kind adopted family sitting in front of me, I’ve realized another thing about our community. Sisterhood is being joyful together. Whether it’s a senior processing in together with a new fourth grader during the opening cathedral or the upper school congregating for hymn sings, or the middle schoolers trying to put on a skit during music day, or simply a group of girls eating chicken on a stick at flower mart and realizing what true happiness is: we do a lot of happy things, together. At this school there is an incredibly and impressively tight knit community that exists on so many levels. It’s remarkably important that we don’t lose sight of the joy that comes from being with one another, from being together.
And coming off of the 100 day celebration last week and realizing how quickly my time here is coming to a close, I feel now more than ever that fierce sense of community here, which is uniquely impressive.
However, there is one detail in this picture of sisterhood that oftentimes doesn’t line up with our daily reality. I think the hardest, and yet the most important, facet of sisterhood is admiring one another without jealousy.
I think that the way in which we talk about this school is oftentimes paradox to the ways in which we act—we are supportive of everyone’s success, but are expected to be the most successful of everyone, right?
We should cheer for the winners, but we should be the winners, right?
There is an undeniable culture of competition here and, honestly, there will be in any environment in which you put 600 smart, talented, and highly motivated individuals into one building. But, sometimes it feels like you have to be competitive to even be a part of this community. And I think that this can undermine the larger sense of sisterhood here that I’ve just spent so long exemplifying for you.
Now, I know that exercising absolute admiration is easier said than done and I’ll the first to point out that I am a sore loser- just ask anyone who has ever played a board game with me. Ever.
And I’m definitely not to the point where I can be selflessly supportive. In fact, I realized just how far I have to go when I was at a college event a few weeks ago. The coordinator stopped all of our awkward small talk and attempts at ice-breaking conversations in order to give us “a sense of the people we were in the room with.”
He began listing select accomplishments of anonymous students in the group. This litany included things like being published authors, presenting policy about food deserts in congress, curing cancer, and the like. Completely dumbfounded, I turned to the kid next to me and jokingly asked which one of those descriptions he inspired. He said, “I built the prosthetic arm for NASA.” And I left the event exactly 10 seconds later. That feeling of absolute unworthiness was so disorienting and quite frankly, terrifying.
But, when I was on the car ride home, I realized how extraordinarily lucky I am to be able to put myself in positions where I can be surrounded by people who are so much cooler than me. At this school and, as I’m starting to realize, after this school, you will meet a lot of kinder, smarter, and more talented people than you.
And that is a good and great thing.
You always hear that you are the average of the people you surround yourself with, and I do believe that to an extent. But, I can’t accept it fully. Though I’d like to think that some traits of my friends and my sister and my teachers have maybe, somehow, rubbed off on me, I think that the best part of this community is actually that you don’t have to be everything at every time for everyone.
What a weird concept, right? At NCS, we prioritize excellence, right? You can’t be the second-best because that means you’re the first loser, right?
I think that’s wrong.
Because, as I look around at you guys and think back to Charlotte and Chloe and Ly-Lan’s stories and I consider all of these times where I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of community and sisterhood here, I realize that every single moment where I’ve felt unconditionally loved was because I was with remarkable people. I think the people make this place and if we begin to combat this culture of competiveness, we have the potential to have so many more of these moments of true togetherness.
So, I challenge us all to start recognizing and appreciating each other’s unique traits without making it a personal contest; to compliment someone for the sake of complementing them, not for getting a leg up.
To surround yourself with people who challenge you emotionally and mentally, who question your beliefs, who test your patience, who make you reconsider your actions.
I think that as soon as we stop competing and start collaborating with the people who astound us and inspire us--at that point, we become a sisterhood.
Once we recognize and embrace and admire our differences, we begin to realize that a community exists here, which will transcend our time and memories on the close.
Sisterhood is surrounding yourself with remarkable people; it’s admiring each other unconditionally; it’s pushing yourself to succeed, but not until you break; it’s being kind and compassionate and empathetic and together; sisterhood is a beautiful thing and I thank you all for showing me that.
Proverbs 24:3-4 By wisdom a house is built. And by understanding, it is established. And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
Today I woke up in my house in Mclean, brushed my teeth, showered, ate breakfast, and then got in my car and came home. I say this not purely in a sentimental, end-of-a-Lifetime movie way, but in mathematical truth. In the most technical sense, home is the place where you spend the most amount of time. Of course, this is an extremely limited description- I consider a home to be the place where you’re most comfortable, and that would be true in this case as well. But assuming the technical statute is in fact valid, I’m fairly close to calling St. Albans my place of residence. If we examine Value A, time spent at school during the day, and subtract it from Subset Z, amount of time in the day, you will notice that the resulting value, Value B (time at home), is less than Value A. You will also notice that I don’t really understand math. All of this is a fancy way of saying I spend a lot of time at school. I’ve talked to Mr. Baad about setting up a tent on the roof of Marriott Hall and making STA my legal place of residence, but sadly was turned down.
After this realization, I tried to track my increasing amount of time spent at school over the past 3 years. Naturally, I arrive at school every day at about 8:05. Yes, I said 8:05. We all have problems we need to work on. I’ve always had class all day, although the number of Chipotle free-period outings has certainly increased with the addition of a license, age, and freedom to go off campus. And I’ve always had sports at the end of every day, just like every other student. Freshmen year, the things that kept me at school late were limited to FOCUS, messing around after practice, and a sister who clearly did not love me enough to pick me up on time. However, as the years pass, involvement in each aspect has grown deeper and time commitments have grown longer. Classes become more intense, heaping on homework. Sometimes it makes more sense to just stay at school and do it. JV sports turn into varsity sports, stretching past 6:00, even 6:30. Extracurricular activities become passions, requiring post-sports meetings and even weekend visits. Add in a musical and sooner or later you’re at school everyday until 9:00. On average, that’s more time spent at school than at home, sleep included.
If you went back now and told me as a minuscule eighth grader going home at 3:30 that I would one day be spending the majority of my hours at school, I would’ve been very upset, and also asked you how time travel works. If you told me that I loved it that way, I would have been dumbfounded. What about my life? I would have asked. What about my friends? I want to have fun. Furthermore, how will I grow? School is a place of learning, of formulas and grammar. It’s where you find out the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell! Not where you discover what powers you.
St. Albans has been the answer to these questions. I don’t know if I would have grasped that in eighth grade, or even last year. It is only when I sit down and begin to think about my interaction with this place, what it has given me, what I have given it, what it has taken and what I have taken, the morals instilled and the brothers made, that I truly begin to realize that St. Albans is my home, just as it is home for every teacher and student sitting here today. Beyond a simple number of hours, St. Albans has become the place where I belong in every way.
My life takes place here, in the classrooms, the refectory, the fields, and beyond. Your classmates teach you as much as your teachers do. The things you learn will not only be physical. The way I think, my sense of wrong and right, the way I speak and act are all guided by this school. It’s impossible to spend as much time in a place as we do here and not be shaped by it.
I’ve changed in countless ways when I’m not even looking. When I pay attention closely, I see each input from the people around me. Strength, wisdom, humor are absorbed, personalized, and sent out once again in a never-ending feedback loop.
And yes, it is fun, as my eighth grade self worried so deeply about. Table questions, pushing each other around in the hallways, joking with your friends, running, laughing, struggling together. It is also not fun. Failing a precal test, standing in line for food, shivering outside after another workout on a dark winter day. It’s not always easy (in fact, it rarely is) and it’s not a guarantee of 24/7 happiness. This place offers countless opportunity, but it often forces it on us in order to help us grow. It gives us these things so that we can react. Solve. Move on with confidence.
Of course, just like every home, a component of it reacts to what you put in and it is what you make it. If you treat your house with no love, trashing it, and sit in your room by yourself every day, your family probably won’t feel very affectionate towards you. They will still love you, but your lack of respect will hurt your home.
Just as a home shelters and nurtures you, you have to give back. It builds you and you build it. As I mentioned, your friends help shape you. At the same time, remember your role in shaping them. The reward in this is remembering the people around you will uphold the same responsibility.
As I enter my senior year, each room holds special memories and messages for me, as they do for us all. The choices that I made even freshman year, good or bad, still reverberate around me, bouncing off the steel, glass, and stone. These buildings have seen who we were, who we are, and as time goes on, who we will be. Of course, even writing this I’m not sure what that will mean at the end of the year. I’m still changing. As Caillou once poignantly and eloquently stated, “I’m just a kid who’s four/Each day I grow some more.”
St. Albans is a place you can turn to and it is a place that will always be open for you. Together, our interactions with these buildings make this place St. Albans. This is your house. Learn from it. Come to know this place and it will become your home. Fill these rooms with riches. Take what it gives you and build it. Welcome home.
Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.