Natalie Minor, '22
My favorite movies have always been rom-coms. From 10 Things I Hate About You to Four Weddings and a Funeral to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I have seen and loved them all. But when you absorb all of these stories over the years, you grow up thinking that love has to look a very particular way. Like many other queer people, I always thought that I would meet a man, fall in love, get married right out of college, have three kids a few years later, and live happily ever after. There were no stories about same-sex relationships for me to look to, I did not know any adults in my life who weren’t married and had kids, and people at school were too busy picking a new crush every week to tell me that it was okay if I didn’t have those feelings. But LGBTQ+ people have been redefining what love looks like for a long time. In the 19th century, some people of the same sex were involved in romantic friendships, which were very close but non-sexual relationships between friends. Before we began to define couples as either gay or straight, these people existed in relationships that were somewhere in between platonic and romantic.
As an asexual lesbian, meaning I experience little to no sexual attraction but am romantically attracted to other women, I think that people do not expect me to be able to find love. Frankly, I have personally struggled with the fear that nobody will ever want to date a person who identifies as ace. It is difficult to remain hopeful that I will get my own rom-com story when most people intertwine romantic and sexual attraction so closely. But I have learned to place more value in the other types of love around me than in just the romantic love I am expected to experience.
First of all, familial love is something that is very important to me, and I hope to remain close to my family members for a long time. Additionally, an overemphasis on romantic love discounts the significance of platonic love. The love I have for my friends is, to me, more important than anything else, because they are the people who have stuck beside me for the longest time and who I have learned the most about. I know which of my friends like certain foods, who needs to be reassured and who needs to be hugged when they are upset, and which music everyone likes to listen to in the car. This effort that I put into my friendships directly results in the care that I get back from them, and that is the love that I feel in my everyday life.
And, once again, queer people continue to redefine what love and relationships have to look like. Queer-platonic relationships, which are kind of like modern romantic friendships, are very close platonic relationships that are often between people on the asexual or aromantic spectrums. So, even though I may not ever have the epic, romantic love story of When Harry Met Sally, I know that I can find love in all the people around me, which is more than enough.
Will Spector, '23
“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.”
I came across this statement while browsing an online fountain pen forum several years ago. As a self-proclaimed “insider” of the fountain pen niche, I realized that I had become oblivious to the newcomer’s perspective. What had once been an antiquated item in my mind had developed into a passion. But what I’d forgotten was that as my image of fountain pens changed, the generally accepted image remained. Upon mentioning my hobby to others, I would receive weird glances or questions because (though I didn’t realize it) the hobby was odd. But I didn’t mind. Once Covid hit I found myself spending more time perusing the internet for new pen or ink reviews. The more I searched, the more interesting stuff I found. The wealth seemed never-ending.
From time to time during my six-year fountain pen journey, one question would come to light: was I addicted? Sure, I loved pens. That was clear from my search history and incessant babbling to my family about writing instruments. But addiction? “Addiction,” though normally associated with negative habits—drugs, alcohol, video games—sometimes seemed to be the most appropriate delineation of my interest. The reality of pen addiction is well-documented. Stories of other confessed fountain pen druggies spending entire paychecks on the latest Montblanc LE or counting ink bottles to realize that they had amassed thousands were just as common as accounts of individuals going cold-turkey and swearing off buying pens for the foreseeable future. The narratives came suspiciously close to those told of more widespread addictions. However, I used these stories as reassurance, not as warning signs. “I’ll never spend $100k on fountain pens like in those horror stories,” I’d convince myself. “That would be insane!” But I often found myself unconsciously taking the “Oooh, shiny” approach to pen browsing, telling myself that those expensive pens that I couldn’t afford now, I would definitely purchase when I was older.
I still can’t decide where to draw the line between love and addiction. Sometimes I have to return to the question of “why was I interested in pens in the first place?” I’ve always liked the idea of something collectible and usable that could fit in a pocket. Of course, nobody buys a fountain pen for practicality—they are, by definition, less practical than their ballpoint successors. There’s just something special about filling a fountain pen with a beautiful ink and sitting down to write instead of pulling a BIC out of your pocket to jot something down. Each word you record feels more significant, and the connection between the writer and the content being written is closer. I fear that the urge to obtain every attractive pen or spend more time coveting pens on the internet than actually writing might take away from the intimacy that accompanies having a small collection that you use everyday. Achieving fountain pen nirvana—that is, being totally and completely satisfied with what you use—might be the only way to avoid addiction.
Whether or not I’m anywhere close to that point, the fountain pen hobby and the people associated with it have been among the best experiences of my life. Even though some people (including myself) might get “too into it” at times, as with any hobby, those impulses can be controlled, and the beautiful aspects of the hobby far outweigh periodic overinterest. Frankly, I’m very lucky to be a part of the fountain pen community and I look forward to the years of interest to come.
I’ll offer a few statements as a gateway in case you’re interested. As I mentioned, fountain pens are actually a really popular and amazing hobby, and I think everyone should try one before deciding they’re not for them.
1. (Many) Fountain pens are environmentally friendly! Instead of a cheap plastic pen that you discard after it runs out of ink, you can refill from a large glass bottle that lasts you months.
2. Fountain pens come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and price points. Unless you are vehemently opposed to them, it’s pretty much guaranteed that there’s a pen for you out there.
3.There are lots of opportunities to meet with and discuss pens with other people, like pen shows, local pen clubs, and online forums.
4. You can change ink colors and properties whenever you want, so the pen can reflect your personality or mood.
5. Fountain pens make writing more meaningful and fun!
Benjamin Acosta, '23
Atrial systole. Ventricular systole. Heartstrings tugging at the valve. Such is the rapid repetitive occurrence as the carpenter heaves her saw across the oaken grain. The sweat beads decorate her face beneath a red sun, a hot sun, hot as her passion for creating palaces, for building this town. This is here, this is in the distant past.
Here, now, a clump of muscle and tubes, dripping, drenched, fresh—there on the floor. A removed heart resting on the surface of a puddle. Here it is morning, here it is bright, the sun in the east window marks the floor unmistakably red. He doesn’t remember or wonder about the woman who all those years ago hammered together these floorboards, these boards now soaked, now silent beneath two bodies. His body stoops over the other, ventricular systole threatening his ears. Tears drip, stream, patter, reminiscent of the rainy nights when the two bodies had ventured in the outskirts, when both were warm. The blood beating its way up and around his brain carries from his heart remorseful whispers of the hours they spent fantasizing tales into the clouds. Now his love for his friend pools and soaks into the floorboards.
Below the floorboards, where the love drips (though really it is still in the heart of the heartbroken boy) a woman is on the floor, on her face, towards the sun, towards a special place. This is not the land of prayer, this is not the town of religion. Fire for a deity, reverence in an irreverent place—thus does love burn for God. She prays how she always has, but in her heart she includes a hope of consolation for the wailer she hears above. Beloved stranger.
It was here, just the night before: a man, a carving knife, a kid he’d been following for hours, an evisceration. As the man trespassed into that kid’s room: atrial systole, ventricular systole, they traded off quicker and quicker. A thrill in stalking, in anticipation, raced in the organ of love. Then slicing open the kid’s chest, something opened in the man. Something joyous, some esoteric passion, an awe at the spattering on the walls. The love that, here, now, stoops and weeps for times now ended will never understand that man’s love for the redness of humanity, for the canister of love wrenched from its cavity, for death. Never would that broken heart share in the man’s perception of beauty in the dripping clump, red as a valentine.
Here, in the wooden courtroom are mothers and others—everyone who could never understand. This is the pounding of one heart amplified. Here love veils as rage, an impostor equally red. This is the quick condemnation: death to murderers. The judge conceals a smile upon looking at the killer. Such is the grip of justice in that room, imbued with the passion of a forgotten carpenter.
A carpenter births a town and gazes satisfied from a hill upon its completion. The hill commands a sunset view to far outmatch her infrastructural artistry. She is there because she loves to tear down the trees and create homes.
Now on the hill is a guillotine, a relic somehow brought out this way. The man in the guillotine is here because he loves the sight of hearts, of blood, like his childhood’s valentines. The boy is here because he loves his friend, still, though half their love is dried into a wooden floor. The woman is here because she loves God and loves the stranger boy who wept. The judge is here—as are the mothers and all the others—because she loves justice. All on the hill. Facing the sunset. Tense, like contracted myocardium. As the guillotine begins to sever his nape, the man wonders if they do not love death also, if they do not love the way the blood stains the blade and the hems of their clothes. But he is probably just crazy. Ventricular systole. Stop. The boy still cries.
Confused and temperamental as a cauldron of boiling blood—such are the hearts on this hill. Heartstrings yank violently at the valves. For love, they are willing to kill. Something is close to tearing inside. The sunset is suspiciously red.
Benjamin Acosta, '23
“Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love.” –Anakin
“Love won’t save you Padme. Only my new powers can do that.” –also Anakin
“I will love you if you abandon your baticeering, and I will love you if you retire from the theater to take up some other, less dangerous occupation. I will love you if you drop your raincoat on the floor instead of hanging it up and I will love you if you betray your father. I will love you even if you announce that the poetry of Edgar Guest is the best in the world and even if you announce that the work of Zilpha Keatley Snyder is unbearably tedious. I will love you if you abandon the theremin and take up the harmonica and I will love you if you donate your marmosets to the zoo and your tree frogs to M. I will love you as the starfish loves a coral reef and as kudzu loves trees, even if the oceans turn to sawdust and the trees fall in the forest without anyone around to hear them. I will love you as the pesto loves the fetuccini and as the horseradish loves the miyagi, as the tempura loves the ikura and the pepperoni loves the pizza.” –Lemony Snicket
“Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!” –Walt Whitman
“Love is a steak taco.” –Holden Lombardo ‘23
“I know.” –Han Solo
The Editors of The Exchanged
STA Student Poll →
Opinions: We all have them, yet oftentimes we decide not to voice what’s really on our minds. Whether it be the fear that disagreeing with a particularly opinionated teacher will hurt your grade, or the knowledge that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you think because nothing is going to change, there are a myriad of reasons for keeping your views to yourself. At times, voicing your opinion even leads to scolding or censorship from teachers, further disincentivizing or precluding thoughtful discourse on issues plaguing our community and nation. The STA News was once a place to share students’ real opinions on different controversies, but the news unfortunately changed its policy many years ago. When contributors to The News were frustrated of being told what they could and couldn’t write, they established The Independent, a forum where students could share any idea or belief they had. The Independent eventually collapsed, and The Exchanged assumed its place with its establishment in 2016. This publication, which is independent, student-run, and (mostly) uncensored, is the perfect place for students on the close to publish their opinions. The editors at The Exchanged want the publication to be a “platform for students to express their ideas freely without the direct oversight from their respective school administration.” We believe that all respectful and decent opinions should be heard without the threat of disciplinary action; furthermore, we believe that this exchange of ideas is essential in revealing what the student body believes and allows the community to learn from each other and grow together. For The Exchanged to achieve its goals, we need your help! The past few months have brought new challenges and controversies. There have been debates over the dress code, increased mask mandates throughout the country, and the subsequent removal of these mandates (though not at St. Albans or in D.C.). With so much happening both around the world and at home at St. Albans, we thought it would be beneficial to allow students to share what they have been thinking. Attached is a link to a survey that we would like St. Albans students to fill out. The results will help us learn where the student body stands on a variety of issues, and the breakdown of opinions will be unpacked in the next edition of The Exchanged. If you feel strongly about any of the statements in the poll, please feel free to reach out to any of the editors— we would love to have you voice your opinion by writing an article or letter to the editors (remember, you can always remain anonymous). Thanks for your help!
You will be required to sign into your school email, but email addresses are not collected and all responses are completely anonymous.
The Editors of The Exchanged
Please note that this is adapted from opinion editor Jack Kaplan’s article “Make Your Voices Heard.” For the purpose of creating separate school-oriented student polls, we have created this adaptation to cater towards NCS students.
The NCS Student Poll →
Opinions: We all have them, yet oftentimes we decide not to voice what’s really on our minds. Whether it be the fear that disagreeing with a particularly opinionated teacher will hurt your grade, or the knowledge that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you think because nothing is going to change, there are a myriad of reasons for keeping your views to yourself. At times, voicing your opinion even leads to scolding or censorship from teachers, further disincentivizing or precluding thoughtful discourse on issues plaguing our community and nation.
Established in 2016, The Exchanged is the Close’s co-ed newspaper. This publication, which is independent, student-run, and (mostly) uncensored, is the perfect place for students on the close to publish their opinions. The editors at The Exchanged want the publication to be a “platform for students to express their ideas freely without the direct oversight from their respective school administration.” We believe that all respectful and decent opinions should be heard without the threat of disciplinary action; furthermore, we believe that this exchange of ideas is essential in revealing what the student body believes and allows the community to learn from each other and grow together. For The Exchanged to achieve its goals, we need your help! The past few months have brought new challenges and controversies. There have been debates over the dress code, increased mask mandates throughout the country, and the subsequent removal of these mandates (though not at NCS or in D.C.). Recently, NCS has even announced that there is a new head of the Upper School! With so much happening both around the world and at home at NCS, we thought it would be beneficial to allow students to share what they have been thinking. Attached is a link to a survey that we would like NCS students to fill out. The results will help us learn where the student body stands on a variety of issues, and the breakdown of opinions will be unpacked in the next edition of The Exchanged. If you feel strongly about any of the statements in the poll, please feel free to reach out to any of the editors— we would love to have you voice your opinion by writing an article or letter to the editors (remember, you can always remain anonymous). Thanks for your help!
You will be required to sign into your NCS email, but email addresses are not collected and all responses are completely anonymous. Student Poll.
Theo Johnson, ‘23
I was pleased to receive your message regarding cycling up the Vârfdrum.
While the Gran Summit—with its advanced and impressive steam powered technology—has offered many a smooth passage from the foot of the mountain to the Herz die Burg Hotel at its peak, the Vârfdrum offers a more beautiful, if slower, path to the hotel.
I know the expedition will reveal great beauties to me that a trip on the Gran Summit would never provide. The Vârfdrum might offer that unique feeling which I, and all men, seek to experience over the course of their lives.
Now, the old road has a wonderful invention called the Swift Word which was used by many travelers to send letters down the mountain. If I should find the Swift Word in proper condition, I am sure to send letters of my travels at each of the four switchbacks along the route.
If there were ever a day to hop forward in the flow of time and forever leave behind my place in the present, it would be this one. The future holds such bountiful gifts that I should not wait much longer.
All the best
I have reached the first switchback after two days of cycling. The image which it has painted for me at this place is greater than any in the galleries of Paris or Vienna.
I watched as the sun dropped over the edge of the earth and splashed a million shades of orange and red into the sky. My heart began to beat in a strange but welcome fashion. Tears began to shape the golden rays into precious crystals that glazed my eye.
You told me when I first arrived in Windl that the sunrise outside the window of the Penthouse Room of the Herz die Burg Hotel is the most beautiful of any in the world.
That may be so, but the one I have seen on this highway has filled my soul with a kind of feeling that I have wanted to feel for a time longer than I might have known. I think it can only be described as unique.
You may receive this message when looking at a sunrise of your own and comment, “a daily occurrence as such should not be referred to as unique.” I can only reply that it was not the sun or the sky that brought out such emotions, but the place from which I looked out upon them.
II. and III.
I am sorry to write that I do not have much to share from my passage around the second and third switchbacks. Somewhere along my second day of cycling, a thick sheet of clouds concealed the beauties that extend abundantly on the one side of the Vârfdrum. In an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile their error, the clouds opened a sphere around me which, in the most torturous manner, revealed only the road beneath my wheels and the nearest side of the mountain. I hope the clouds will part soon.
The clouds parted early on my fourth day of cycling. I quickly found my pedals turning more quickly than they had before. A joy seemed to fill up all the open space surrounding me, pushing out the dark clouds with it.
But, when I came across that steep and tight curve of the fourth switchback, I at once realized the bleakness of the environment which surrounded me. I suppose that, somewhere in the anonymity of the dense fog, the trees had abandoned their posts around the road. The mountain revealed itself in naked truth: a pile of brown and orange rocks.
The Vârfdrum set before me a far different image from the one I had seen on the first switchback. Perhaps she was trying to test me or, better yet, prove to me that there was nothing inherently beautiful about her pathway up the mountain.
The Gran Summit, after all, offered many views of its own views on its faster path to the peak. The Penthouse Suite of the Herze die Burg Hotel boasted a sunset with a million more shades of red and orange.
But there, on the fourth switchback of the endless mountain road, my heart overflowed again with that strange feeling. I cannot describe it.
The strange feeling which I felt on the first switchback I felt again. This proves, indeed, that the feeling is not unique, as I wrote before. I am sure, my friend, that you have felt it many times. But I believe this not-unique feeling is produced by a condition that is unique. A condition that I cannot describe because, if I could, it would not be the right description.
I’m not sure what it is, my friend, but I think it’s quite strong here.
Asia Marina Burka ‘25
I hate it when people say that they’ve never experienced love. We have all experienced the joys and drawbacks of love. We just haven’t realized it yet.
Love is a concept with some areas that are still unexplored for many people. Indeed, most students on the Close have probably not experienced a romantic relationship. However, everyone on the Close has one branch of love: a hobby.
Mine is performing. The claps from the crowd, blinding brightness of a spotlight, sparkles and swishes of a costume, tiny vibrations of a vibrato, and each movement of the muscles in a finger are all beautiful. They can make a mediocre performance memorable. They are my serotonin.
Understandably, not everyone shares my love of performing. Others might enjoy horseback riding, gaming, playing an instrument, doing chess puzzles, or cosplaying. Even though the specifics of each activity are wildly different, we all share the same devotion.
My hobbies occupy my mind even when they shouldn’t, like when my fingers press into my bedsheets as if they were piano keys, or when my feet decide it would be a good idea to do a dance combination under the desk when I’m supposed to be focusing and taking notes. Often, I notice that my friends have these same little motions relating to their hobbies. One friend of mine is a drum player, and his fingers never cease to pat away at rhythms of sorts. Another friend of mine is a singer, and she can’t stop humming for the life of her––through the hallways, while pulling out her notes, and occasionally while drinking water. Hobbies are unlike any other kind of devotion.
While I spend hours practicing the same vocal run or doing adagio at the bar, others grind, build, battle, work out, and so much more, all to perfect a craft that is unique to them. If we didn’t love our time-consuming hobbies, then why would we do them? We wouldn’t.
Despite the pain, we still do our activities. I’ll admit that my friends often hear complaints about a swelling ankle or losing my voice. Even when we have a pile of schoolwork to do, we still get home at 8 p.m. due to rehearsals, sports games, or just hanging out with friends. We then study until one in the morning. and receive five hours of sleep. As someone who has frequent late nights due to hours at rehearsal, the extra ten minutes that I could use to study for physics tests are spent stretching. It’s a domino effect––the lack of sleep impacts my work, leading to even more sacrifice. As the recently and dearly departed composer, Stephen Sondheim, said: “art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.”
There aren’t enough hours in the day to do what I love, focus on my mental health and friendships, and make sure that my grades are good enough for college boards. I wish that even one of those things could be more accommodating. Often, people judge others and say that they spend too much time perfecting their craft and not enough time studying and vice versa. Life is all about balance. I don’t know about you, but my life would be nothing without doing what I love. While academics are important, so is this. Having a significant other or a perfect GPA is nice, but doing something you love, that you could do all day and never get bored of is so much better. Why can’t we have both?
Sophia Rees, ‘23
Religion is at the forefront of my life; I strive to live each day as a faithful Christian with great emphasis on acting with love and patience. Obviously, it is nearly impossible to go through everyday without a single mistake, but I try to remember to do everything with good intention.
I haven’t always been this religious, though. At the beginning of 6th grade, my mom encouraged me to join her at a church youth group picnic. I had absolutely no interest in going; we spent at least an hour bickering about the event. Finally, I succumbed and went to the picnic. Little did I know that giving into my mom’s advice and going to that picnic would change my life forever. I was immediately greeted by kids my age and parents eager to know me. I felt overwhelmed by everyone’s radiance and confused by how people could be so welcoming. Looking back, I know that God intended for me to perceive those around me with such reverence, and I see how it worked as part of His plan for my life.
I decided to attend the following week for the first official meeting with just the kids. We had to bring Bibles. I felt clueless as I looked down on mine with no idea about what I had just gotten myself into. However, all the Biblical stories that we read were told with clarity and our leader worked hard to ensure that we had acquired something meaningful out of each lesson.
I spent the rest of the year attending the youth group and learned more about Jesus and myself. Especially in a period when my life was changing, it was nice to have a steady group that I could return to weekly that would encourage me for the week ahead through Scripture.
The following year, I was excited to start another season with the youth group. Soon after, however, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was immediately filled with sadness and frustration. How could something so terrible happen to someone so amazing? I continuously reflected on the past and even questioned what I did wrong to let this happen. I called on God frequently, but mostly out of anger. Because my mom couldn’t physically be with me through this tough time, she encouraged me to keep going to the youth group to give me the strength that I would need to not only support myself, but her as well.
My experience as my mom battled breast cancer serves as one of the biggest trials of my faith to this day. I talked to God a lot as I struggled with even the idea of losing my best friend. As difficult as it was, I had to trust that God was using her cancer to do something good in both her life and my family’s.
After what felt like an eternity, my mom’s cancer was eradicated. She was in the clear. It was the best news I could have ever asked for, and I knew that it was all God’s doing. However, that didn’t stop my confusion on the cancer itself. I continued to reflect on the experience for months after.
The way I understand it now is that God used my mom’s cancer to snap my family back into reality. All of us had been living in a mad rush with little care for ourselves and we failed to appreciate most parts of life… as embarrassing as that is to say. Though I still struggle when I think about the pain my mom endured, I know that God used it to teach my family to slow down and live life with more gratitude for His doings.
My mom’s experience with cancer serves as one of a few experiences in my life that have shaped my practicing of faith today. Some are of a similar degree of severity, while others have stemmed from a variety of experiences, such as hour-long Bible Studies or short books. In any case, my faith in God has taught me that everything will be okay. The Bible has also taught me how to live a virtuous life by appreciating and loving my neighbor, despite difficulties, and to understand that everyone and everything in my life has a purpose that is beautiful to God. Though I know I still have many trials ahead that will both challenge and strengthen me, I am forever comforted by God’s everlasting love that never fails as He walks me through the crazy journey that is life.
Maryam Mohseni, ‘24
"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in useful life," said the American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. What better way to fill those “spare moments” than hobbies? For the sake of this article, all extracurricular activities, including school/out-of-school sports, clubs, and drama, as well as more individual activities, such as reading, writing, and baking, are considered hobbies. In other words, a hobby is anything done outside of school that doesn’t earn you money. Hobbies give teenagers a chance to meet new people, discover new passions, develop skills outside of school, and have fun.
Research shows adolescents without hobbies are more likely to participate in high-risk behaviors. When researchers chose a large number of peer-reviewed journal publications and pool the data, research shows that teens who don’t spend any time at all doing extracurricular activities are:
Additionally, hobbies help with the social-emotional development of teenagers. The most important processes that take place during the teenage years are identity formation and differentiation. Identity formation is the process of becoming an individual with personal wants, needs, skills, and preferences. Differentiation is the formation of an identity outside and apart from parents and family. Hobbies are a great way for teens to create and discover passions other than the ones introduced to them by their family and forge their own path away from the watchful eye of their parents and teachers, but still in a safe environment. Sports coaches and band directors, for example, are neither teachers nor parents and so they are in a unique position to help teens learn and grow in new and different ways while also teaching them new skills.
Last year was my first at NCS. For the first few months of the school year, school was online. Because I was new, I didn’t know anyone.Due to virtual school, there was no in-person clubs fair, however, in its place, a virtual clubs fair was held. One of the clubs I decided to join was Debate Club. Over the course of weekly Zoom meetings, and eventually in-person meetings, I developed close relationships with my fellow debaters. Not only did I have the opportunity to become friends with other freshmen, I also forged bonds with upperclassmen. Debate Club members made me feel welcome in a new environment and gave invaluable advice on how to be successful at NCS. Of course, I was also able to improve my public speaking skills, gain more confidence, and better my research skills. Although debate tournaments were initially scary, they got easier over time. I now look forward to tournaments and the accompanying rush of energy as I face off with my opponent. Picking up debate was one of the best choices I’ve made since coming to NCS, and it’s now become one of my favorite hobbies.
Perhaps the best thing about hobbies is that there are so many of them. They can be anything from inconsequential pursuits to templates for achievements and success. They can teach valuable life lessons and enrich the physical and emotional development of teenagers. Everyone could benefit from a hobby. If you don’t have one, start looking. They aren’t hard to find.