It’s That Time.

Every day the sun sets at Groton either creating a cotton candy or a blue and orange sky. Today it’s a blue and orange sky, and as I sit at my desk, taking a break from writing my Hamlet essay, I think about how the sky does that every day. The sun sets every day, and I watch it every day, whether it’s from my desk or the Circle.

It’s that time. The time when the Prize Day tent goes up and seniors have less than two weeks before graduation. It’s that time when, as other people’s journeys at Groton come to a close, you can’t help but think of your own.

Next year that will be me. I will be the senior, my time wrapping up here. Right now I’m wondering if there will really be a time where I won’t see these amazing sunsets each day. I’m wondering if I’ll forget.

It’s that time. Where you get really sentimental about everything, but even though you know it’s cliche, you let it happen.

Groton isn’t easy. It isn’t always fun. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do (like write a Hamlet essay), but it’s that time of year when you realize it’s worth it. My friends, my teachers, all people who’ve become family to me make it worth it.

Today a senior asked if we define places by the memories we have there, or by their physical location and purpose. Well, I know the Dining Hall isn’t just the Dining Hall, a place where I eat. It’s the place I spend too long on Sundays, chatting for hours at a time with various people as they come and go. The CPAC isn’t just the place where performances happen. The CPAC is where I’ve spent most of my time at Groton; it is my safe space, it is my sanctuary. The Jazz Band room will never just be a place where I had class; it’s where I’ve had some of the most fun with people I would’ve never known otherwise. Groton will never just be the place I attended school. It’s a place that’s indescribable. Somehow it manages to simultaneously be the hardest yet best thing that I’ve ever done in my life. Groton is home.

The sun has set for the night, and soon (for some people) it will set on their time here. After them, I’m next. But it’s that time. That time when you know it’s eventually going to, but you also know you’ll never forget the way it looked when it did.

3 Weeks

I have three weeks left of my three years here at Groton. Prize Day is as far in the future as April 22 is in the past. In a word: soon. I’m excited to graduate and go on long bike rides with my brother this summer, but I’m in no rush to leave behind my friends and teachers.

The flowers have finally bloomed, and bold green leaves are growing quickly in their place. We’ve had some incredible weather lately. Last Tuesday, I had a free period after lunch, and it would have been a crime to stay inside, so I lay out a towel against the brick wall of my dorm and read for class. I had to go upstairs for bug spray, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

Flowers outside the Schoolhouse

This weekend, we seniors got eight hours of self-defense training from an organization called Impact Boston. Over two four-hour sessions, we learned physical and verbal techniques to ward off an attacker. My classmates and I were dreading the large chunk of time, but I ended up enjoying the lessons, and I’ll feel much safer walking in the city. It’s so cool that Groton does this for us.

If you saw my post in February about the boathouse road, here’s an update: it’s suddenly quite green!

 

Hospitality in India

This spring break, I went on the school global education trip to India. We traveled all over Northern India, from New Delhi to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located) to Dehradun (where we stayed at boys’ and girls’ boarding schools), and finally to Varanasi, where we closed the 16-day journey. The entire trip was very eye-opening. I was particularly struck by the colorism in the country. For example, all of the movie stars were extremely light and most menial jobs, such as drivers and cooks, were done by darker Indians. However, what I was most struck by during my stay was the hospitality of the girls at Welham Girls’ School.

My first impression of Welham was good and bad. The food was delicious and everyone was so welcoming. However, the campus in in the middle of a city and is surrounded by barbed-wired brick walls on all four sides. I felt caged in and started to see the rolling hills of Groton in a new light. I was also turned off by the highly strict and traditional nature of the school. The girls aren’t allowed cell phones at all and can only leave campus with their own parents through a strict sign-out system. However, over the course of my stay, my opinions started to change.

Firstly, I started to warm up to the traditions on campus. Breakfast was at 8 and just like at Groton the dorms started to wake up all at the same time–7 a.m. After breakfast, all of the girls filed out and lined up for morning assembly. Their school captain (our version of senior prefect) opened the assembly, and then their headmistress made announcements. The whole assembly began with the singing of a hymn (sometimes in Hindi, sometimes in English)–just like at Groton. The girls complained like crazy about their classes and their teachers, but they were passionate about their interests too–just like at Groton. After school, the girls hustled to sports before they had study hall before they had dinner–just like at Groton, albeit in a different order. I was struck by how similar we were to the girls, even 10.5 hours around the globe. However, what really affected me was how kind the girls were.

When I say that I felt the most welcomed that I have ever felt in a new environment at Welham, I am not exaggerating. The senior girls who were tasked to show us around went above and beyond the line of duty. Not only them, but younger girls whom we didn’t interact with during the day would come to our dorm after dinner and talk to us about our lives. In addition, our dorm head constantly checked in to make sure everything was okay with our lodging. The whole experience made me realize how Groton falls short in our exchange program. It also made me realize how much more I personally can reach out to people whom I’m not that close with. All in all, my India trip made me realize that we humans are more alike than we think, and that’s a beautiful thing.

#trackszn

It’s April. It’s spring. It’s track season.

Yep. It’s that time of year again. You know what I mean–that time of year we students all look forward to after a cold, grueling winter.

I’m not gonna lie; it doesn’t feel like spring right now, but the sun’s definitely gonna come out soon. Right?! Can’t get caught up in all that though ’cause track season’s upon us, and the irritating weather isn’t stopping us from driving out to the track every day. I’ll be running in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 4*400m events this year, and I’m already excited to get to a meet (not necessarily ’cause I can’t wait to sprint but because we get to grill with Mrs. Maqubela and just hang out all day). We have a meet in six days on April 14, and I’m already fired up.

So yeah, #trackszn is here. We’re all just waiting for the sun to come out so #spikeballszn can be upon as as well.

Nothing Better than the Spring

Although we have to wait a few more weeks for it to really start, there’s nothing better than the springtime at Groton. Not only is it baseball season, but the sun is shining and the smell of fresh cut grass fills the air. As I sit in class, the breeze floats through the open Schoolhouse windows as I glance out at the green and the sunshine. I walk out of the big Schoolhouse doors and feel the warm blanket cover me from head to toe.

I look up at the Circle and see it filled with people. Some are basking in the sun on their blankets and chairs, others sweating profusely while playing “just one more game” of spikeball before their next class starts. I can hear numerous speakers blasting music—from country music (the best) to rap music, and everything in between.

I’m not sure why, but even school seems to get easier in the spring. Maybe it’s because we’re all so happy or because springtime is the perfect excuse not to finish all our homework. I’m not quite sure, but what I do know is that everything is better when that sun comes out and the Circle is constantly packed.

 

Lax SZN Finally Here

This past week, the varsity lacrosse team started our official season.

However, it wasn’t the first time we had stepped on the field as a team. During the last week of our spring break, we started unofficially. About 23 Groton students, from each form, flew out to sunny Casa Grande, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. We had two practices a day, followed by a game in the evening most nights. It wasn’t all work and no play, though. We had the third annual Star Johnson Desert Lacrosse Golf Classic–flags and cones are set up across an unused part of the facility that we use, and we play golf but with lacrosse sticks! It is always a highlight of the trip for me. Leaving the 85-degree weather, we flew back after five days to 8 degrees at Logan Airport.

When we returned to school, we held tryouts for those who didn’t attend the preseason in Arizona. After the first round of cuts, Groton held a jamboree with Pomfret, Brooks, Cushing, and Kimball Union. We played Pomfret, Cushing, and KUA, beating both Pomfret and Cushing and tying KUA. It was a great showing from a very young team. (See Owen Gund’s interview).

After that, we set our sights on our first regular-season game. We played St. Paul’s School up in Concord, NH, this past Wednesday. After a strong first quarter, we took our foot off the gas and foolishly let them back into the game. A motivating halftime speech saw us rally to a resounding 10–5 win at the end of the game.

Just yesterday (I’m writing this Sunday afternoon), we again drove north, this time to play Berwick Academy in South Berwick, ME. This game proved to be much closer. We drove home with a victory, 11–7.

This week we have two difficult games against two great teams, Governors and St. Sebastian’s.

One-Acts: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

A picture of my one-act from last year: A Streak of Lavender written by Mac Gallinson ’17

As the spring term starts to get underway, there are any number of things that students here get excited about: spending time on the Circle in the sun, playing tent ball with the spring formal and prize day tents, feeling the days get longer and longer, and enjoying the intramural sporting titan that is the Groton Evening Softball League. But for me, the most exciting thing about spring term starts in earnest this Monday. Because this Monday is auditions for One-Acts.

Groton School’s One-Acts Festival is a night of short (about 10–15 minute) student-written, student-produced, and student-directed one-act plays. In one night, you get to see comedies, dramas, farces, mysteries, and everything in between, all featuring the hard work of your fellow students. Needless to say, these plays are a hit. The past two years, one-acts took place in the small black-box theater of the performing arts center, and both times the line to get a seat started two hours before show time. This year, because of that massive demand, the festival will take place on the mainstage, with room for the whole school to see them, but I expect the excitement will be no less strong this time around.

An image from another one-act from 2016

This spring, I am directing my third one-act: a play called Anna by my formmate Alex Waxman ’18. I don’t want to give anything away about this play, but I will tell you that in past years I directed a play centering on the historical theory that Abraham Lincoln was gay (trust me, it was brilliantly written) and a play I wrote based on interviews with other students about mental health at Groton.

Directing is something that I myself am passionate about—I even went so far as to take a one-on-one tutorial in the subject—but it is also something that can be a great experience even if you only do it once. It really is an amazing thing that every year, eight or so students get to try their hand at steering a play. As a director you have to inspire and lead your cast while also not becoming overbearing. You need to plan ahead and coordinate with the technical side of the production. It is a lesson in everything from patience to organization—and something pretty darn special that you get to do.

And you get to make an audience laugh while you’re at it.

Spring Term Becoming A Winterland…How To Cope?

It is officially spring term, but if you look outside you will still think we are still struggling through the winter months as snow flutters to the ground and covers the path and freezes the grass. Cold winds cause you to bundle in a jacket when your heart knows that it’s time to wear short sleeves with a light sweater. How do we deal with this unfair situation?

First: take some classes that you love, in which you are guaranteed to laugh. Mrs. Spring’s history class always fills me with laughter and keeps me engaged with debates among my classmates. Public Speaking allows me to grow while sometimes making (and watching) some of the silly mistakes my classmates make as we try to develop the skills just taught to us minutes before. And of course, jazz band–where we may switch instruments, but just for one song!

Second: Ignore how cold it is and walk into town for an iced coffee with your friend. We know that the iced coffee will just make us colder, but that’s what we call denial!

Lastly: Climb a tree on the Circle with another friend even though you are the only ones there (because everyone else understands it is freezing). Play some Glee songs and sing at the top of your lungs until your hands finally get too cold to withstand another moment, and go inside.

When it’s cold at Groton (as it often is), it is the responsibility of the individual to make sure they are keeping warm inside their heart with laughter and friends. Cheesy? Maybe. True? Yes.

Putting On A Greek-Like Play

It’s spring term and after stage managing for Twelfth Night in the fall and acting in Cabaret as Fraulein Schnieder in the winter, I am currently assistant directing for the show Women of Lockerbie. The show, in simple terms, is about a group of women in Lockerbie who fight an American official in order to wash the clothes from the Pan Am 103 terrorist attack. The show uses a chorus, as they do in Greek plays, and the playwright states that we should not use naturalism because the show will become melodramatic if we do.

I was so prepared to just jump in and put my ideas onto the stage, but this show requires thoughts of synchronized movement and unique staging that I have never encountered before. Although it has proven to be more challenging than I anticipated, Laurie (the director) has continued to guide me through her own thinking and has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and attempt to stage some scenes and moments myself. The cast has also managed to make every day a magical one with their own ideas and the ability to laugh and have fun throughout rehearsal (although the show is sad).

We have a month to put this show up, and although it will be a lot of work I am confident it will be one of the most unique and beautiful works we have put up at Groton so far.

Hints of Spring

Although the Circle is once again weighed down by a thick wet blanket of slush and snow, we enjoyed a couple early mornings and late afternoons of golden rays in the two weeks since spring break. I picture these hints of spring as I trudge across campus to class and meals.

I woke up with my arm draped across my face, skin warmed and glowing. I blinked a few times to adjust to the light spilling in through the cracks in my shade. It was only 6:30 in the morning but the backyard of Brooks House was bathed in sunlight and bustling in the flurry of scurrying animals. I sat on my bed with my legs dangling off the side, still sleepy but robbed of peaceful darkness. I pulled up my shades a little, just enough to peek through. A teacher was bidding farewell to his husband with his son. Shuffling footsteps, clacking of leather shoes, a few words of encouragement, then a higher pitched “I love you.” “Daddy loves you too!”… slammed car door, the engine starts, then the backyard returned to silence. I smile and lay my head back on the pillow, white spots dancing in my vision.

I looked up from my desk. Books and loose leaves sprawl across the unscathed surface. I dimmed my laptop screen but my eyes still protested, sore and drooping. I glanced out the window, my gaze landing on the soft green carpet. Lush and vibrant, shining in the soft afternoon rays. I shut my laptop, pushed away my books and headed out with a friend. We strolled through the woods near the boathouse, shivering in the breeze despite the golden beams. Laughing, talking, occasionally bending down to play with a dog. We returned to the dorm, with our fingers stiff and hair tangled, but cheeks flushed and eyes wide.

Passover at Groton

Hello, readers!

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, and I got to celebrate it twice this year! For the first night, members of Jewish Student Life–the Friday evening Shabbat service students attend to fulfill the weekend religious service requirement–gathered in the multipurpose room for a quick seder. The accidentally vegan peppermint patties made my life. Mr. Spierer made a mean charoset, a sort of pre-mashed applesauce.

The Passover table

Saturday night, I went to our family friends’ annual seder. Let’s just say there was singing, discussion, and lots and lots and lots of good food. I’m still full. (Kidding. I got up the next morning and devoured the leftovers.)

In other news, it’s been a week since the start of the term, and I’m loving my two spring electives: Moby Dick and America in Iraq. I signed up for both classes because I’ve heard great things about the teachers, and I haven’t been disappointed. It’s helpful not to go through Moby Dick alone, and everything we’re learning in America in Iraq is relevant today.

If you need me, I’ll just be hanging out here, waiting for the weather to get warm.

Spring in the Sky

In my opinion, the most beautiful view of Groton rests far away on the horizon. While lying in the grass of the Circle, the sky goes stretching out beyond the boathouse to blend with the dark woods in the distance. Every evening a different chroma melting into the sky, morphed by the minute into a flowing wave of watercolors that are splashed across the Circle. Maybe it is the proximity to summer, or the ideal sunset-watching weather, but spring term is inarguably the best one. Spry stems have slowly begun their ascent, and accompanied by chirping birds and the occasional day of sunshine, these soon-to-be flowers are a welcome sight after the snow that has been accumulating since December. The changing of the seasons is a cheerful transformation, and following my return from vacation, I have a refreshed sense of excitement for my final stretch of Third Form.

Between the occasional class taught outside on the Circle, spring formal, and the senior class’ contagious excitement, I can hands-down say I’ve been looking forward to it all year. Sit-down dinner is back, and every Tuesday I find myself at a new table with people I wouldn’t normally sit with. Coming back for crew preseason was a little chilly–actually freezing cold–but the adjustment is being made, and soon enough we will be able to go for swims in the Nashua River after practice again, and eventually watch the sunset from the Circle.

A Trip to Remember

Over the course of the school year, there are three main breaks: Thanksgiving, winter, and the longest of them all – spring break. It’s something that you spend most of the back half of winter term counting down to, and then there it is – twenty-five days of rest and glory, a well-deserved break from the fast, frantic pace of Groton life. But this spring break, I decided to spend an extra two weeks of my precious break with Groton, when I signed up for the Global Education (GEO) China Jazz Band trip. The trip literally combined two of the things I love the most – music and China, my home country. I would be able to perform six times with my jazz band in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Hong Kong, while also experiencing China from a tourist’s perspective for the first time.

And overall, the trip was great. One of the benefits was how I was able to know a lot of my bandmates way better than before. Just to be able to interact and travel with them in a setting other than Groton was awesome, and by the end of the two weeks, we’d developed inside jokes, shared lots of laughs, eaten tons of wacky food, done a fair amount of bargaining on the streets, played endless rounds of games on long bus rides, and formed bonds that went beyond just playing in the same band.

Besides that, there was also the great benefit of exchanging cultures. Jazz is not widely known in China, and many hadn’t even heard of jazz before we performed. So there was something truly special about introducing an entirely new genre and style of music to so many people. Hearing the audiences clap and getting them up to dance and interact and experience a whole new type of music really made performing worth it. And they also showed us parts of their cultures too. We learned a lot about the histories of each school and their cities, as well as heard a lot of traditional Chinese music and even Tibetan music and dance at one of the stops. I had been exposed to this music before, but I’d never been particularly captivated by it until I heard students of my own age perform it in front of me.

The best cultural exchanges, however, were when we all worked together. In the Jin Ze Art Centre in Shanghai, for example, we joined in a spontaneous dance circle that several of the Tibetan monks there had started. And in Hong Kong, we collaborated with student musicians at one of the schools there to play several of our songs, culminating in a joint performance that I think brought a lot of value to both sides.

All in all, although the trip took place in my own country, which I’ve lived in for almost ten years and have traveled through countless times, it brought tons of brand new experiences because I was experiencing China, as I said before, through the perspective of a foreigner. I got to see parts of China that demonstrated just how special the people and the culture there are, and also just how incredible it is when two vastly different cultures, the Groton jazz band and musicians from many different parts of China, come together to share and enjoy the spirit of music.

On stage in Beijing

The jazz band on the “wild” Great Wall

The monks at the Jin Ze Art Centre in Shanghai waving goodbye

Weekend Fun

These are some pictures of my friends and I having some Groton weekend fun. In order to keep our weekends jam-packed with exciting things to do, there are often times some unique activities. What you are witnessing above is my friend Bridget getting ready to play broomball. Broomball is basically hockey without skates, allowing everyone to participate regardless of their athletic and skating ability. Although Nikkie and I were not apart of Bridget’s team, we came armed with cheers and spirit in order to support her to victory. Overall, it was a loud, silly, and heated evening.

Merry-Go-Round

My friends and I ran out from the Brooks House courtyard to screams and flashing green lights. Striding across the paved road, pumping our arms up the stairs we skidded to a halt in the Dining Hall. Boxes of donuts draped across the wooden tables and long lines danced behind hot chocolate dispensers. Music crashed into us like waves from the stereo and everyone beamed in the brightly lit chamber. Mr. Maqubela strolled leisurely in his bright green jacket–physical evidence that Surprise Holiday was announced.

The next morning I scurried to board the bus to Cambridge, having woken up just minutes before. As we passed farmland, then construction sites and finally skyscrapers, I could not keep my lips from parting into a grin. The blasting wind and frozen rain battered us as we paraded through the streets, but we pranced and joked to the rhythm of ice hitting the pavement. I led the pack with another friend, jumping up and down to thaw out our frozen limbs. We crossed into a deserted playground, flying over the fence onto the slides and climbing walls. One friend sat on the creaking merry-go-round while the rest cranked their legs in the slippery sandpit. We bounced up and down on the seesaws, a jolt through our bodies every time we launched into the sky. The cold air heated up in the little circle we darted around in, and our laughter resounded in the surrounding parks. With little crystals gleaming in our hair and our fingers stiff and crooked, we swarmed into an ice-creamery. Each person clutched their waffle of creamy cooling goodness and sat silently facing each other in the booth, savoring every lick. I smiled with chocolate dripping down my chin at my friend tilting her head to chomp on her overflowing cone.

We sauntered towards our meeting point, each person carrying a paper bag enveloped in whiffs of chocolate and vanilla. Our sneakers dragged on bricks leaving trails of water and sand while our swinging arms left the cold air sizzling with hints of eggs and cream. Aboard the bus I watched glass walls, then metal rods and finally grassy fields whiz by, I leaned my head against the cool pane and thought of a merry-go-round.

Just So

Terror never fails to find me while I wait offstage. My heart throbs nervously in the darkness, and the mere existence of an audience twirls my mind into a dreadful knot of all the things I could mess up. This same nervousness has often followed me into classrooms and conversations, but when getting up on stage, there can be no denial that everyone is passing judgment. Subsequently, I admittedly had a mild urge to run away from what I believed to be certain embarrassment as I listened to the piano strike its first note. Instead, I watched as the bold lighting rose over the “black box” and its modest stage, feeling as if I were seeing its bright colors for the first time. Convincing myself to think a little less, I found myself walking out and into everyone’s view, and only then did the panic I was poorly hiding subside.

I felt carefree, but then there was a little sadness. It occurred to me that this would be my last time playing my role with my newfound friends. They were the reason the terror of an audience watching wasn’t enough to stop me; they would be there even if I blundered a few lines. Since the beginning of winter term, a group of around thirteen other Lower Schoolers and I had been working on a play based off of Just So Stories, a book by Rudyard Kipling. Even the lighting and stage management were adeptly done by a Second and a Third Form student. Rehearsals took place after our regular athletic practices, and we even used Sundays to work through the show. For many students, it was their first time acting. For the majority of us, it was our first time singing. That and a combination of various acrobatics left even veteran actors feeling a little vulnerable around show time.

Although I was sometimes worried after coming from long basketball practices and climbing on chairs during rehearsal, there were no onstage catastrophes. Instead, I ended up meeting kids in my form who I had never even talked to before, and found myself relying on them when we performed. I am proud of what we accomplished, but most of all, I’m lucky that I found people who showed me how unimportant it is what the audience thinks.

 

Winter is Ending!

That’s not the same thing as “spring is coming.”

I don’t like winter. I don’t like the cold, short days, and having to moisturize my hands every five minutes, and not exercising outdoors (I’ve run with three pairs of leggings and still been cold). Until it snowed on Sunday, it felt like the end of winter term.

It is the end of winter term–spring break starts March 2–but with our fresh coating of snow, it doesn’t feel like it. Even though Prize Day is in 104 days, and 24 of those will be spent on vacation, and another handful on spring long weekend, I haven’t wrapped my head around how soon all of this will be history. Soon it’ll be crew season, and one afternoon in mid-May I’ll walk down to the boathouse and notice that the trees are all so green, and then I’ll be saying goodbye to this place. June feels so far away, but it isn’t.

 

Boathouse Road in January

Boathouse Road in May

I took a walk around the Circle after spending too long at dinner–with good food and good friends, it’s hard not to–while listening to music and looking up at the cloudy sky. The past few nights, I’ve been able to see the Big Dipper (I think, though I haven’t confirmed with the astronomy teacher). This place has become so familiar over the past two and a half years, and soon I’ll be off in a strange new place (Ecuador! and then college!) and I’ll come back to visit and say, “Aww, remember when these tables were brand new?” (Real talk: I visited my middle school over long weekend and was shocked at how small the lockers [and the sixth graders] were.)

 

(I’m actually into photography, believe it or not.)

A Weekend Of Music

This weekend was jam-packed with music, and it was fabulous. This year the Maqupellas, Groton’s a cappella group, was invited to an a cappella festival at St. Mark’s, and it was so much fun. Various boarding schools gathered to sing their multiple songs, and the final performance of the night was The Nor’easters, Northeastern’s a cappella group. Their performance left me awestruck; I had never heard a man with a better voice than one of the lead vocalists for their group. The whole experience was unforgettable and left me wanting to continue a cappella in college.

On Sunday, I went to the jazz band’s yearly performance at Ryles, a jazz club in Cambridge. It was my favorite year so far. The energy of the band was extremely high, it was my first time soloing on my instrument, and I got to sing some of my favorite songs this year. Overall, it left me even more eager for our music trip to China this year.

Grammys 2019?

I’m working on a tutorial this term, which means that instead of taking a typical class, I meet with my teacher twice a week and work on my own time. The subject? Spanish poetry and songwriting. The idea came to mind on a bike ride last June when a line of Spanish poetry popped into my mind. I write songs in English, I figured, so why not Spanish?

For the past few weeks, I’ve analyzed poems, written new ones, and turned them into songs (either by singing the poetry or playing guitar in the background).

This week, for the first time, I’m writing my first Spanish song—not a poem to be sung, but a song. It’s about wanting to leave the place where one grew up. I’m really proud of this lyric describing small-town life*: “Las noticias grandes / del año 2002 / eran que la pizzería / ganó un premio.”

In English, that’s “The big news / of the year 2002 / was that the pizzeria / won a prize.” Some things are lost in translation, but I was thinking—Grammys 2019?

Image result for grammys meme

 

 

*Disclaimer: I did not grow up in a small town! But that line could totally apply to the town of Groton.

Broomball!!

I love ice skating. Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with ice skating. I love going to the seasonal public rinks every winter. My birthday is in early March which, although is still cold, just falls out of range of the dates of the rinks, which usually close in February. For my 10th birthday however, I begged my parents for a skating party, and my wish was granted with a party at a year-long rink located very far north of my home in Atlanta. The Ice Center had two rinks, one to rent and one for the public to skate in. This was my very first time seeing the sport of hockey being played.

When I came to Groton, I got to see a lot more skating. I so vividly remember watching the varsity boys hockey game on St. Mark’s Day in Second Form. It was my first time watching a full hockey game and I was entranced. It may sound silly, but I think of hockey like a very intricate, beautiful dance. I was stunned by how fast the boys skated and how the puck got from point A to point B in less than a second. I vowed then that I would try hockey, and I eventually did during my Fourth Form winter. Participating in girls JV Puck was the best decision I’ve ever made at this school, and I readily spew this fact whenever my short hockey career is brought up. I wasn’t a hockey prodigy, but I must say, I think I could have been really good at hockey if I had started as a young child.

This winter I’m doing the musical, Cabaret, and I’ve sorely missed my ice time. The past few weekends have made up for it though. I’ve recently gotten into broomball, also something that I was first exposed to at Groton (along with field hockey, hockey, squash, lacrosse (in big doses), and modifying adjectives with the word “wicked”). If you don’t know, broomball works the same way as hockey except you play on only one-third of the rink, and instead of a hockey stick and skates, you use a wooden stick with a rubber end and your normal street shoes. I first begged my friends Amy and Ali to go with me about three weeks ago, but we just played again this past weekend and it was as fun as ever. Part of the joy is that it truly is for fun. The other people who go to broomball are a large group of Fourth Form boys who spend half the time playfully heckling each other. Although some of these boys are amazing at broomball, I feel no pressure whatsoever to perform, so I truly let go and just have a good time. It’s the perfect end to a long week, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you ever have the opportunity.

Halfway Day

Recently, I reached a pretty big milestone in my Groton career: halfway day. What this means is exactly what it sounds like—I am exactly halfway through my five years at Groton. Since we first arrived on the Circle two-and-a-half years ago for Second Form, the twenty-five or so of my original formmates and I have been through seven Surprise Holidays, five exam weeks, five formals, two Prize Days, countless Parlors, Roll Calls, chapels, long dinners, short breakfasts, check-ins, late night spontaneous dance parties, and so on. It’s been quite the journey, and to celebrate all the ups and downs, the original Second Form decided to take a picture.

We took the picture in the Schoolroom, where we once spent a great deal of time, especially during study hall in Second Form. Nowadays, I barely even set foot in the Schoolroom at all. Being back after so long caused memories to come flooding back to me, and so did seeing all of my Second Form together again. Although I’ve kept many of my closest friends from Second Form, I can’t pretend that I’ve totally kept in touch with all of them either. Somewhere in the craziness of Groton, I’ve lost touch with some of my formmates from Second Form. So this was also a time for me to catch up with them.

But apart from taking a trip down memory lane, halfway day also got me thinking about my time at Groton as a whole. The concept of time in the context of Groton is a funny one. There are the two minutes at the end of last period on Friday that seem to stretch on for ages, as well the twenty minutes of check-in, where all the laughter and conversation makes it feel an hour long. There’s also the two weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break, when all the work picks up and you go through the longest two weeks of your life, not to mention the three long weeks of spring break that make it so that when you return to Groton, you feel like you’ve been away for years.

But with all these relatively small expanses of minutes, days, or weeks, we never really think about our time at Groton as a whole very much. From all the chapel talks I’ve heard, it seems like it all doesn’t hit you until the last moments of your senior year—just how much time you have spent at this one place. For me, this will be five years. Five whole years. And just the thought that I’ve already lived through half of that time is almost daunting. I’ve come so far, but at the same time, I’ve got so far to go. And while minutes and weeks may drag on, half of a Groton career—two-and-a-half years—flies by quickly. It only seems like yesterday when I first arrived on the Circle, not knowing what to do, what to expect, or anything at all. If only I’d known about all the twists and turns that’d be thrown at me through the next two-and-a-half years.

At the fall athletic banquet this year, the head coach of the football team said something that I realized really applied to my current situation. Speaking to his team, he noted how they were “halfway up the mountain,” while reminding them that “the second half is the hardest part.” While we all laughed at the time, turning it into a school-wide inside joke of sorts, he couldn’t be more correct. In a blink of the eye, I’ve made it halfway up the mountain. But it’s far from over. Groton’s still got a lot in store for me, even more challenging than what I’ve already been through. I’m only getting started.

Cultural Day

It was the second annual Cultural Day Saturday night. After a long day of classes and games, the school gathered in the Forum to celebrate every culture represented on the Circle. From the Korean table covered in sweet and savory snacks, to the Peruvian table dressed in silky flan and other delicate cuisine, the Forum exploded with different smells and colors. A loop of tunes from across the globe blasted from the speakers, and invited lively dancing on the tiled grounds. Several cultures shared their traditions through a selection of performances.

Two long tables pushed together hosted the Thai community. Pans of sweet and tangy pad thai, beautifully golden, sat temptingly next to crispy spring rolls almost bursting with rice noodles and vegetables. The Japanese cubicle served out bowl after bowl of hot ramen, perfectly accompanied by mochi ice cream and sweet matcha latte. Dancing across the Forum to the French table, a crepe stand was set up. Jugs of batter next to half empty containers of Nutella encouraged a long file of students to patiently line up with paper plates already piled high.

Halfway through the night, a performance of traditional Indian dance put on by students was followed by a magnificent rendition of a Chinese Lion Dance. Brightening the atmosphere were vibrant melodies from the Dominican band. Students led group numbers to popular songs from the States and the faculty joined in the fun.

Within the experience of food tasting and savoring we were able to learn about the different cultures. Next to the Thai food was a display of their currency, the UK table hosted a trivia quiz, and the Chinese table offered an experience in calligraphy. We ended the night with the energetic rhythms pounding in our ears and delicious aftertastes of each mouthwatering delicacy tingling on our tongues.

Supper Club

Running to Mrs. Lyons’ house in deep snow, leaving rushed footprints in soft powder, eight of us were bundled up and hungry. We were hurrying to attend a meeting of one of the new clubs this year, Supper Club. It was Italian Food evening. After a long day of sports games and morning classes, we were all excited to leave campus and relax.

The club head divided us into two groups, one in charge of making the broccoli, another of making pasta from scratch. I found myself and a few other friends standing around a table with empty bowls in front of us, assigned to the pasta station. We measured out the flour and added the egg, salt and oil. A crumbly dough began to form and we confidently poured out the mixture, boasting about our histories of culinary endeavors. We began kneading, pressing our palms into the cold, wet texture, willing the nuggets of separated dough to stick together. After about five minutes the dough in our imagination crumbled into detached chunks of flour-coated-egg on the tablecloth. The more optimistic of us kneaded with more might, pounding the mixture as if participating in the UFC. Others looked at their drying concoction, downcast, almost appalled at their creation.

The timer dinged and the broccoli was ready. We were still pummeling our limp pieces of dried dough. The club head saw our helpless plight and rushed over to offer a solution. She encouraged us and told us we were on the right track. We kneaded harder, while deep down we all knew that it was a lost cause. She took our bowls away and added a few drops of oil. Immediately, the dough softened and began to stick together. The tense atmosphere of possible failure also dissipated. We told stories and poked fun at each other while delicately working the dough. Spheres formed soon after, and we shaped the strands of pasta.

After twenty minutes of growling stomachs and fights over the last pieces of charred broccoli, the pasta was served. It was no five-star meal, barely edible, but we munched on each strand with thorough delight. Although the thick strands were tough and chewy, each bite tasted of the dismay and laughter we punched into the dough.

Extended Vacation

This has been one heck of a winter break. I left school a couple days early to get my wisdom teeth out, and my teachers were super flexible in letting me take tests and write an essay at home once I felt better. So the first few days of vacation were spent holding frozen peas to my face—20 minutes on each side—and not doing much of anything. I’m happy to show you the pictures of Chipmunk Macy, but I’d probably regret posting them on the Internet.

On December 17, I saw my musical hero, Lori McKenna, in concert in Harvard Square. (She penned Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and co-wrote Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” but my favorite albums are the ones she sings.) I went to a Taylor Swift concert at Gillette Stadium back in 2015, and while it was fun, it turns out that small listening rooms are my types of venues. We just let Lori sing and tell her stories, and when she forgot a line, we sang it back at her. My mom and I sat between a teacher from another boarding school—I heard him talking about dorms and comments and asked—and an aspiring singer-songwriter whose music I’d listened to, so we had fun even before the show began. Sunny Sweeney opened, and she was funny and witty and energetic, despite a cold.

I encourage you to put on some good tunes while you read the rest of this post… (My other favorites include “The Time I’ve Wasted,” “Halfway Home,” “All I Ever Do,” “Mama’s Cooking,” “Your Next Lover,” and, well, anything written by this woman.)

There she is!

A group of fans hung behind after the show, hoping Lori would come out to mingle, but it was her fourth show in two days and she was sick, so the venue kicked us out. We all waited in the cold, and everyone else gave up, but my mom and I stuck it out. I brought my guitar—which James Taylor signed last year—in the hopes that I could get Lori’s signature. And sure enough, when our fingers were frozen and we’d convinced ourselves there was a back door, Lori and family emerged on their way to the car! It’s been two weeks, and I’m still fan-girling.

She’s a freaking legend! I was still a bit of a chipmunk.

The next morning, my mom and I set out for the interstate. We had a blast driving down to South Carolina for the eclipse in August, but this time, we didn’t have a specific destination. The whole point was for me to practice driving, and drive I did. We stayed at various cheap motels in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. Per my history teacher’s recommendation, we drove Skyline Drive over Shenandoah Valley, and then we headed to Luray Caverns. Talk about a hole in the ground!

The sunset from Skyline Drive

Luray Caverns

We bopped around Raleigh, NC, for a couple days, enjoying the relative warmth. I lost my favorite lip balm at an outdoor mall, but then I found it (and my pack of tissues) on a bench where we’d been sitting. We saw Wonder, and those tissues came in handy. Then we spent a night with my second cousin twice removed, meeting all her friends at a little party, and the next day, we came home.

I took driver’s ed this week. It was not fun, but at least the classroom hours are over. In Massachusetts, if you want to get your license before you’re 18, you have to complete a 30-hour classroom course, 12 hours of driving instruction, 6 hours of observation, and 40 hours of practice with an adult. I’ve finished my class and my 40 hours of driving, but the hard part is scheduling the other 18 hours with the driving school.

So all of a sudden it’s 2018, the year I will graduate from high school. Up until now, 2018 was just a concept. I love the freshness of the new year, and this is going to be a good one—I’m signed up for a Global Ed trip to India in March, and at the end of August, I’ll begin my gap year in Ecuador!

I’m ready to go back to school, but I won’t rush these last couple days.

Two more nights of snuggling with this one!

 

Getting into the Giving Spirit

Christmas time at Groton is magical. When you return from Thanksgiving break, no matter how many times you see it, walking into the Dining Hall’s winter wonderland always takes your breath away. It serves as a reminder that winter is really here and to enjoy it—so naturally at Groton we do our best to infuse the holiday spirit into the time we spend here until we go off for break, otherwise known as “the two weeks.”

During the two weeks, there is an event called Groton Pops where all of our musical groups perform Christmas music in the heart of our Schoolhouse, the Forum, as their audience listens and decorates cookies. We have our traditional sing-a-long in chapel, where we sing multiple Christmas carols and, to top it all off, sing (or shout) “12 Days of Christmas,” with each unit at the school (Third Form, Fourth Form, Fifth Form, Sixth Form, faculty, etc.) singing one line and competing to be the loudest. There is also Secret Santa.

Secret Santa in the dorm is a pleasant time. At check-in, everyone puts their name in a hat, pulls a name out, and is responsible for getting their person two baby gifts and one big gift, whatever that may be. The thrill of giving someone a gift to brighten up their day is so great. There is nothing like, after the first snowfall of the two weeks and a long rehearsal, returning to your room and finding out that there is a nice mug with hot cocoa in it ready for you make and consume. It’s something tiny, but it still makes you smile and feel warm inside.

But…that all depends on what game you’re playing. Secret Santa in the dorm: a piece of cake; unlock the best, most thoughtful parts of your soul and gift things to make a person smile, knowing full well that you will get to smile in return. BUT if you’re playing a game of bad Secret Santa, watch out. What’s bad Secret Santa, you may be wondering? It’s when you have to gift someone the worst gift possible. I’ve seen the game played many times before, but this year is my first time involved in it—not in one game, but two. My friends decided we should play, and so did the Maqu-appellas, Groton’s a cappella group.

Some people did something simple like sending an email from Santa; others, like my friend Karla, decided to decorate one of the rooms of our friends with pictures of her least favorite celebrity. Another person and I helped her execute her scheme with success. The room was completely adorned and, of course, we didn’t forget to slip some pictures into her books as well. However, during this affair, Karla happened to let slip that the person who was also helping us happened to be my bad secret Santa. I was so upset (but not really)! Everyone playing knew I was so mad at her gift. She left me a snowman version of myself on my desk for me to clean up. By some twisted fate written in the stars, I also had her! I pranked her by covering her floor with trashcans.

Bad Secret Santa is strange, but I don’t know if it’s actually bad. Giving is still giving, and although it may not be a sweet, sentimental gift, you’re guaranteed to get a laugh, and that might be the best gift of all.

The Perks of Being Snowed In

Saturday was the first snowfall (that stuck) of the year. Snow had already hit the South; I had received videos and pictures of my own house from my parents back in Atlanta. However, I have to admit I never yearn for snow. It’s very cold and I dislike the feeling of snow flurries constantly berating me. Winter doesn’t officially start for 11 days, but at 12 pm yesterday Massachusetts was already letting me know what’s in store for the coming season. I was not amused. I didn’t have musical rehearsal so I had planned to fill my afternoon with work and watching the girls varsity squash invitational. However, with the snow, all games except for hockey were canceled. Additionally, I had planned to go on a school trip off campus for dinner, but all off-campus trips for the night were also canceled. I was left without a plan, but out of that lack of a plan came a spontaneity that allowed me to have one of the best Saturdays of the school year.

After classes got out I went to lunch and then back to the dorm, where I hung out with friends for two hours. After a while, I figured that if I wasn’t going to work, I should at least work out.  My roommate, Nikkie, and I went to the Athletic Center together. I was very excited because I’ve been wanting to get into the weight room for a while now, but I didn’t know how to start. Thankfully, Nikkie loves to weight lift, being into CrossFit and also following the training regimen of a varsity hockey player.  After teaching me the proper form for squatting, Nikkie had to leave, but I ended up doing an entire girls hockey workout with two senior girls who are on the team. It was an amazing, empowering feeling. Although, I won’t have many days off of rehearsal this winter, I hope I can keep the weight room in my regular fitness rotation.

After working out, I finally hit the books, albeit only for an hour. Don’t blame me, though–the Dining Hall was serving “Fasian” (Fake Asian) for dinner, which is one of my favorite meals. In Fifth Form it’s harder to catch up with all your friends because everyone is in different places all the time, but at dinner a large group of us crammed into the same table. I ended up staying at the Dining Hall from 5 to 7:30, the entirety of the operating dinner hours, talking and catching up with people. I don’t remember the last time I had such a long, laughter-filled dinner.

Afterwards, before getting ready for Middle School Dance, which I think has the best music out of all of our many themed dances, I caught up with my two friends Marianne and Shirley. Shirley was saying that she was disappointed that she had gotten so little done, work or otherwise, throughout the day. Marianne, ever wise, rebutted her, saying, “No, it’s going to be a long week. You needed that me time.” I realized she was right.

The two-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always intense. Usually teachers fit an entire unit within the short time frame so the last couple of days before students leave for Christmas break is always filled with major commitments. For that reason, at the start of this weekend I was determined to have an uber-productive Saturday, filled with homework, in order to get ahead on homework for the week. Although, I may not have had the most productive day work-wise, I had one of the most fulfilling Saturdays in a long time. I finally worked out in the weight room, something I’ve been wanting to do all fall term, and I caught up with so many friends. On top of all of that, I ended the day at one of my favorite dances of the year. All in all, it was a great day despite the start of what promises to be a cold, snowy winter.

Chapel Talk

Friday was my chapel talk! I’ve always loved hearing what seniors have to say, and my time finally came. After years of deliberation, I talked about choices, how Groton will make you choose because there isn’t enough time to go to every club, take every class, and pursue every hobby.

After the postlude, friends and faculty line up to hug the chapel speaker. This was my favorite part, since I love hugs! Someone once told me that the day of your chapel talk is better than your birthday, since people you hardly know sprinkle your day with compliments.

Here’s one of the more normal-looking pictures my mom took of me and some friends afterwards.

In other big news, I got into college two days ago! It’s been a crazy week. Things were going really great until I found out that I’m getting my wisdom teeth out on Wednesday.

I guess something had to kill my vibe.

Gospel Choir

Last fall, I was sitting in the Forum with Caleb watching football film on a Friday night. I probably should have been doing homework, but it was the night before game day, so film seemed more important. Caleb stood up, grabbed me by the hood of my Carolina Panthers hoodie, and said, “Let’s go. Gospel Choir.” Three things popped into my head: first, I can’t sing; second, I can’t dance; and third, I won’t fit in—I might be the only white guy there.

“Dude, the concert is tomorrow night and I’ve never been, so how am I supposed to sing if I have no clue what’s going on?” I responded.

I half-smiled, thinking that I talked my way out of having to go, but instead Noah walked up and laughed. “I haven’t been able to go to a single rehearsal all term, so I’m just as lost as you.” He proceeded to grab my hood as well and pick me up, out of my chair, and drag me into Gammons, where the Gospel Choir was rehearsing.

From behind the piano, Coach Dixon yelled, “What’s up y’all? Welcome to the squad.” Immediately, I knew this was gonna be fun. Johnny and I ended up learning the songs that night and made sure to sing quietly so no one could hear how bad we really were.

The next night, after our football game (a W of course), we all got dressed for the Parents Weekend concert and “warmed up” backstage. Finally, it was our turn to perform. We went onto the stage and all I could think about was how bright those lights were. I couldn’t see a thing. Then I watched as Noah walked out in front of us and turned around. Everyone wondered what he was doing, then the piano and drums started playing, and Noah began to conduct us. I don’t know anything about conducting, but he pretty much just started dancing in front of us, so naturally, we started dancing as well.

The next thing I remembered was the standing ovation we got after our two songs were over. After that, I’ve come back to Gospel Choir every week, and it has been just as fun as that first performance was on Parents Weekend. I guess I never thanked Noah and Caleb for dragging me to that rehearsal last fall. I guess I should at some point, since Gospel Choir is no doubt one of the best memories I’ve had here at Groton.

Preseason Excitement

I’ve been itching to get a basketball back in my hands for a while. Once the fall AAU season ended and theater’s tech week began, I found myself with little free time to do so. My love for theater made this a much smaller sacrifice. Doing the play was an eyeopening and delightful experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat. All good things come to an end though, and after plenty of hard work, fall term came to a close.

As much as I need Thanksgiving break, I can now barely wait for basketball season to get going. Tryouts have become more appetizing than the thought of turkey coming on Thursday. I am so excited to see what our team is capable of accomplishing this year.

For the past few days we’ve all been staying together in the same dorm and hitting the gym to try and get back our shooting forms. I am a little sore, but I missed my teammates more than the conditioning part anyway. Around my team, I can leave all of my stress and doubts aside. I can play the game that I enjoy with their constant support, and most fear of failure fades when they’re around.

Last season ended with the best record that girls varsity basketball has had in years. Hopefully this momentum will help us come out even stronger now. However impatient I am, I do want this vacation. I am just excited to start this term off strong, both on the court and off.

On the Line

The wind was howling. It felt like daggers, biting and digging into my skin. My hair was whipping all over the place. The moment I brushed it off my face, it lashed back with greater ferocity. Also, it was cold. Like, 10 degrees below freezing cold.

Despite the hazardous weather, an eerie silence hung in the air. I, along with the six other members of the Groton varsity cross country team, was squished in a tiny box, on the line, waiting for the start gun to go off. I was taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out. One of my teammates, Aroon, turned and looked at me.

“We got this, right?” he asked.

“Yup,” I said. “We got this.” We nodded at each other and returned to our starting positions, still waiting for that gun.

I shifted in my feet. How had the gun still not gone off yet? Suddenly, I thought of a Taylor Swift lyric. Our team likes to prepare for races with Taylor Swift’s musical masterpieces, so they are always perpetually stuck in my head. This particular lyric, simple and dramatic, applied especially to my situation: Are you ready for it?

 Was I ready for it? I didn’t know. I was certainly nervous. Very, very nervous. I get nervous before every race, but this time I was especially nervous. I was so nervous that I was somehow sweating in the frigid air.

Why was I so nervous? This wasn’t any old cross country race. This was the New England Cross Country Championships. This race was a gathering of the seven best cross country runners from sixteen schools across New England. It was the final race of the season, and it was freaking me out.

I’d always enjoyed running, even before I came to Groton. I’d tried a lot of different sports, to little success. I wasn’t tall enough for basketball. I was terrible at baseball and soccer, due to my subpar (which is an understatement) hand-eye/foot-eye coordination. I hated the water, so that threw swimming out the window. Needless to say, I didn’t think I was much of an athlete. When I came to Groton, I literally chose cross country as my fall sport using process of elimination. I had little expectation heading into, and for the first part of, the season.

But slowly, I began to fall in love with it. I didn’t know why. I didn’t even notice at first. But I found myself looking forward to cross country practice every day. During classes, during chapel, even during lunch, I found myself yearning for that moment at 3:45 where the entire cross country team jogged to the Whispering Bench. I found myself picturing the autumn leaves on the forest floor, and hearing the crunch of my shoes as I ran over them. I imagined the large “YEAHHHHHHHHHH!” that our coach, Mr. Capen, greeted us with at the beginning of every practice. And it helped that I wasn’t bad. In fact, as a Second Former, I realized this was something I was actually decent at. Goodbye, basketball, baseball, soccer, etc. I was a runner now.

So over the summer, heading into the next season, I trained. By training, I mean that I literally just ran around my neighborhood a few times every day. But it turned into a routine, to the point where not running felt strange. Heading into my Third Form year, I was excited for a great year. And I sure had one. I made my way onto varsity by the end of the season, not only getting faster, but also forming deep bonds with my teammates. It all came rather naturally. I was working hard, but it all came with little obstacles in my way. I went out there, ran, rested, then practiced for the next race. Run, rest, practice. Run, rest, practice. It was a breeze.

Then came Fourth Form. This was the year when I, as well as many of my friends and teammates, expected to really break out and start heading into my prime. But something about this felt different. I’d had an exceptionally busy summer, so I didn’t have as much time to train. The moment I went on my first run during pre-preseason at Mr. Capen’s house in Maine, it didn’t feel like a breeze anymore. Every step took twice as much effort as before. Every breath was labored and forced. Running no longer came naturally, or was as fun. It took every ounce of my effort and spirit.

At first, I attributed this change to just being out of shape. I pushed myself harder than ever before, too hard. In my three years running cross country, I’d never suffered an injury. I’d visited the trainer maybe once or twice. Now, I was practically living in the trainer’s. I was knocked out with injuries for two weeks. Now, for some, two weeks might not have been a lot. But for me, those might have been some of the longest two weeks I’ve ever lived through. I hated sitting on the sidelines, relegated to a glorified cheerleader role. I’d always loved cheering on my teammates, but that always included running and being cheered on as well. Just as my injuries started to improve, I got very sick, spending a few painful days in the Health Center and at home, which set me back even further in my recovery.

Long story short, the season was not going well. But those weeks on the sidelines changed my perspective on cross country and running as a whole. I realized that my “junior slump” wasn’t completely because of injuries, or sickness, or what shape I was in. It was because that routine I’d developed – race, rest, practice, repeat – had made me forget what had made me fall in love with running in the first place, pushing me to a point where I didn’t even know why I was even running every day. Not running for an extended period of time made me appreciate all the little things that make cross country so special. When I could finally run again, I paid close attention to those little things. The moment right before the starter presses the trigger on the gun. The rhythmic vibration of the ground after the start of every race. The euphoria of cresting a steep hill and the subsequent breeze as you cruise down that hill. The cacophony of assorted screams and cheers heading into the finish line. My speed and time might have still been off from my best, but I had rediscovered the beauty of running, which made cross country more enjoyable than it had ever been. It definitely helped that I had the best teammates and the best coaches in the world to appreciate that beauty with me.

So on that starting line at the New England Championships, all I thought about were the little things. I looked around and saw the enormous crowd cheering us on, along with the 111 other runners on the line, all probably freaking out just as much as I was. I pictured the trophy our team had just won the week before at the ISL Championships, another big race, and visualized another trophy, waiting for us at the end of this race. Time seemed to freeze and I settled myself into my starting position.

That Taylor Swift lyric circulated around my head: Are you ready for it?

Yes, Taylor. I thought. I am ready for it. We’re all ready for it.

Suddenly, the starter yelled: “Runners, take your marks!”

Time unfroze. The gun went off. The race had started.

And I ran.

The manic start of the ISL’s

The team in a huddle moments before the start of a race

The varsity team after the ISL Championships

Part of the team with our 3rd place (out of 16 teams) plaque at the ISL’s

 

 

 

 

Why I Have Taken Three Years of Ecology

What happens if you reintroduce wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem? They hunt and kill deer. The deer population decreases. With the some of the deer gone, the levels of vegetation increase. Tall grasses and early successional plants replace plains. Trees grow taller. More and taller trees means bird and beaver populations increase. More beavers means more dams. As a result of the dams and the increase of trees by rivers, river banks collapse less often and became more fixed in their path. The increased trees and fixed rivers means that soil erosion sharply decreases, a boon to wildlife and the preservation of the ecosystem.
Reintroduce wolves, and you change the course of the rivers.

This is Ecology: the study of the interactions between all the biotic and abiotic forces that make up an ecosystem. It is a science of systems, of feedback loops, of unanticipated consequences. It is my favorite thing to study because the ecologist needs to think from the smallest level of algae in a lake to the largest level of erosion in the Grand Canyon. It is a fascinating science.

But more than that, it is a fascinating and universally applicable mindset. To be able to go from the smallest implementation detail to the largest overall goal, and to see how changes in one can ripple up or down to the other is not an easy thing to do, but it is what it takes to protect the planet.

The Invisible Magic of Light

Lighting design is one of those things, like film editing or magazine layout, that most people only ever notice when it is bad. While I might walk out of a show and babble on about the way that the lighting designer used backlight or shadow or color, I am without a doubt the exception. Most people just walk out of a good show and remember how they felt: the depth of emotion felt, the height of laugher reached, the majesty of wonder experienced. That means the lighting designer did their job.

I designed my first piece freshman year: about five lighting cues for a ten minute, student-directed one-act play. Later that year, I got to design for two dance pieces for a recital, and then by the start of my sophomore year I was the student in charge of all lighting design for the dance shows and for the one-acts festival.

Most theater people, at least in high school, get scared away from lighting because they view it as just another part of theater tech. And that is not entirely inaccurate: lighting design is a deeply technical and calculated job. You need to know about what angles of light you need to hit people’s faces properly and what colors of light you need to make them not look like ghosts. The imposing number of buttons on the lighting board itself is enough to scare away most would-be designers.

But for all the technicality and craft involved, it is also an art. Because the real job of a lighting designer is help the director tell the story that they want to tell. That takes a deep understanding of the play and of the emotion and meaning behind it. That takes a deep understanding of the human psyche.

And that is why I have enjoyed learning about lighting so much over the past few years in school. It is creative and analytical, precise and intuitive. It is technology and art.

Veterans Day 2017

There is a deep vein of military service that runs through my blood. My uncle and grandfather on my mom’s side both flew for the Navy, and my grandfather on my dad’s side was an officer in the Army. It’s always been my dream to follow in their footsteps and continue the tradition of service in my family.

One of the ways I honor their sacrifices and the sacrifices of all who have given up their lives in service to the country is to raise the American flag every morning. I do this with a group of fellow students, no matter the weather, time of day, or any circumstance. We are like clock work. The flag is raised at sunrise every morning, and lowered at every sunset.

It’s an incredibly important part of my daily routine. I’ll wake up earlier than most would consider sane, drive to school before the sun rises, and after the flag is flown, I’ll journey the 300 meters to the Dining Hall to either finish homework due that day or start tomorrow’s. Without this staple in my day, sure, I would get more sleep, but I would also lose the feeling of pride and reverence that I experience every time the Red White and Blue ascends the flagpole on the Circle.

  • It’s my way of keeping myself in check, but more importantly it’ (more…)

Movie Night

Last night, my ethics class crowded into our teacher’s living room to watch The Joy Luck Club, a movie about, according to Wikipedia, “the relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese mothers.” The movie was long and emotionally draining–there’s a lot in it–but it was fun. In class tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how we identify with the characters.

Every now and then, I have these moments when I think, “This is why I came to boarding school.” Last night, munching on grapes and crackers in my teacher’s home, I had just that thought.

A Fifteen-Minute Birthday Party

It’s the worst feeling. You know it’s coming, but you’re powerless to stop it. It hits you, BAM, and leaves you feeling terrible for a long time after. I felt it when one of my friends, Alan, approached me in the Forum during conference milk and cookies.

“It’s my birthday today!” he said excitedly. “But you knew that, right?”

Here, I was ready to sink into the floor and never come out of it. I didn’t know whether to lie and play along or tell the truth and apologize profusely. Even though I’d forgotten birthdays a few times before (once even with my own dad…not my finest moment), every situation is somehow different.

“Yeah!” I said awkwardly. “Happy Birthday, Alan!” I laughed nervously, weirdly patted him on the back, and kind of just ran away.

Let’s pause here. As I said before, this situation was quite different from say, forgetting the birthday of the man who literally created and raised me. I am not a terrible person. In fact, basically no one knew it was Alan’s birthday. Usually, birthdays are announced at Roll Call, but we hadn’t had Roll Call in three days due to Surprise Holiday, Wednesday, and Thursday advisory meetings. Alan is also a new student to our form, so even though he’d become a good friend of ours, his birthday hadn’t come around yet.

This was a problem that we needed to fix. After a day of feeling like terrible people, the group of the nine or ten of us convened in the best way we knew how: a group chat on text. We all agreed that we needed to do something extra special to make up for our collective ignorance. One of my friends, Ben, was the first one to bring up the idea of a surprise party. Everyone immediately liked this idea. The problem was that the only time where we could all get together, since it was also Parents Weekend, was during the Fifteen, which is a fifteen-minute period between study hall and check-in where you can basically do anything around campus. Including throwing a surprise party. Fifteen minutes is better than none, so we decided to make it work.

We only had a few hours. We had to get to work. I set out with my parents to find a cake, cupcakes, and a huge bottle of Canada Dry. Another one of my friends got balloons (some of which may have been “borrowed” from the Parents Weekend festivities, but I digress). Others set up my room for the party, while some also formulated a plan to get Alan over to my room (they agreed on telling Alan that they were raiding my room for food). By study hall, in the space of less than two hours, we were ready. Ten minutes before the Fifteen, our plan was set in motion.

It all turned out great. As Alan came into the room, it was pitch black and we were all hiding in the closets. “There isn’t anyone here!” he exclaimed. We all couldn’t stop giggling as we turned on the lights, yelling “Happy Birthday!”

Alan jumped up. “So there are people here!” he remarked.

For the next fifteen minutes, standing there in a roomful of people wolfing down cake, downing Canada Dry, and popping balloons, I realized that I’d never done something so spur-of-the-moment and random here before. At Groton, the days can sometimes seem to drag on. It’s the spontaneous moments like this that make everything okay. A funny conversation, a quick game of foosball, or a surprise birthday party—these fifteen minutes of fun and joy can mean the world.

The aftermath of our fifteen-minute party

 

 

A Band of Dreamers

Music has always been one of the pillars in my life. Over the years, no matter where I am or what happens, music has been a constant. Ever since I first started taking piano lessons when I was four, I’ve loved how music has given me an ability to express my inner thoughts and emotions in ways that nothing else can. To express those things in my head, I learned how to create my own music. Soon, composing became what I loved most, because playing my own music just took me to a different dimension, a connection that was far stronger than when I was playing something someone else wrote.

Coming to Groton, at first I didn’t do any composing. I was in a jazz combo and getting into jazz music as a whole, which was very fun and refreshing, but I just didn’t feel that connection with the music that I’d cherished for so long. Thankfully, with the help of Ms. Lanier, I was able to set up composition lessons with Kenji, who is the director of the jazz band that I’m in now and a talented multi-instrumentalist/composer. With Kenji, I started small, writing a piece for my combo group and a violin/piano duet.

One day near the end of my Second Form year, Kenji informed me that the next thing we’d be working on was a big band piece for the entire jazz ensemble. This task was daunting. I had to arrange a piece for almost twenty different parts, making sure all instruments worked together without clashing. It was a scale of creating music that I’d never experienced before.

Kenji and I worked on the big band piece over the summer, all the way until spring term of my Third Form year, when it was finally done. After almost a year of slow, steady work, I’d completed my first ever big band piece. I was thrilled.

A few days after, we tried to play it in the jazz band, with the goal of playing it at the spring concert. Various problems arose, with the main one being that it just wasn’t ready to be played. The smallest of details manifested as problems, and adjustments had to be made. Simply put, it didn’t sound the way it did in my head.

So it was back to the drawing board. This time, I was discouraged. I’d worked for a year, and this is what I got? But Kenji and I continued to toil throughout the next summer, adding a few touches, making adjustments for our band. At the same time, I’d started a violin sonata, so my attention soon shifted.

That attention shifted right back when Kenji announced to the entire band that we were playing my piece at the upcoming Parents Weekend concert, one of the three main performances of the year. This time, I was confident that my piece was ready. I had named it “Shining” because of the warm, vibrant feeling it gave off, reminding me of the sun shining and the warmth and comfort it spreads. I felt that feeling the first time we played through it, and it was magical. This time, it was right. It wasn’t perfect the first time around, but that’s what practice is for. The important thing is that the feeling of the song was there. I wasn’t necessarily excited because the band was playing the notes that I’d written on the page, but because they’d also captured and conveyed the spirit of the song—my spirit when writing it.

Soon, the day of the concert came around. I was more nervous than I’d ever been at any of our other concerts, simply because my song was being played. I was nervous about what the audience would think about a student composer. Kenji had informed me that a student composition had never been performed by the jazz band before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was also nervous about what might go wrong during the actual piece, if all the weeks of practice would pay off.

And pay off it did. It was arguably the best take that we’d ever done of the song. It all came together as a beautiful whole (well, at least in my mind), a whole that I had finally completed after a year and a half. Sitting there on the stage, the bright lights blinding my eyes, the thunderous applause deafening my ears, it was almost like a dream.

Kenji had introduced my song. The band was playing my song. The audience was clapping for my song. I felt that connection to the music that had made me fall in with all of this in the first place.

Groton has a way of making any figment of your imagination, any pipe dream come true. I set out with the goal of creating a large-scale big band piece and eventually having it performed by our band. It wasn’t easy, but I got there, with the help of so many of my teachers and peers. In a way, we’re just a band of dreamers, each with our own aspirations, and each playing a role in helping each other’s dreams come true. That is the essence and beauty of our community. That is why I came to Groton.

The jazz band after a successful Parents Weekend concert

133 Blue Bottles on the Wall!

Every year, we celebrate the school’s birthday at sit-down. It is always an event, with the whole school crammed into the Dining Hall and the Webb Marshall room below, everyone bubbling over the always highly anticipated ice cream cakes for dessert. However, this year I was all the more excited for sit-down because as a Fifth Former I got to sing “Blue Bottles” with my entire form to the Sixth Form. This Groton tradition is ages old and it’s one I’ve personally looked forward to ever since Second Form.

I’m not even a particularly huge fan of sit-down, but this was one I am sure to remember for quite a while. For starters, sit-down was held in the gym to comfortably accommodate everyone. Secondly, we sat by advisory groups, which was very nice because I love my advisor and advisory. Also sometimes sit-down can be awkward if the table chemistry is off, and it was nice to not have to worry about that. Thirdly, the food was stellar. Lastly, we sang “Blue Bottles”!! As people started to clear their plates, I started to anticipate the moment when the Sixth Form would go above to the indoor track to yell, “We want ‘Blue Bottles’!” At that time, the Fifth Form was to gather on the bleachers in front of the rest of the school sitting down to sing (read: yell) the song.

The form had practiced the song once the week prior, but I have to admit that we were not very in sync. I was on the front row, directly center, in front of Mr. Bannard, who was conducting with a huge knife (another wacky tradition). We started the tune way way way too fast. The way it works is that you count down from “133 blue bottles hanging on the wall,” then one hundred, then fifty, twenty-five, fifteen, ten, then by one until you reach “no blue bottles hanging on the wall,” increasing your tempo and noise level as you go. However, we started at too fast a pace. (I say too fast, but I was very enthusiastic and honestly part of the problem myself). By the time we reached “ten blue bottles hanging on the wall” we were simply screeching, also might I add, banging on the floor with our feet as well as clapping in time. Put simply, it was the highlight of my fall term.

After the song was over, I left the bleachers in a daze and on Cloud 9. I was so happy. Sometimes I think it’s hard for other students to relate to my excitement, but when you’ve been at Groton since Second Form and you finally get to do the traditions you’ve seen the classes ahead of you do for three years now—the feeling is incomparable to anything else. Singing “Blue Bottles” was for me the official sign that I am in Fifth Form, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about that fact (even though there was not ice cream cake for every table).

Being a Tour Guide

Last night, I received the infamous “tour guide assignment reminder” email, and the first things that popped into my head were the upcoming physics and stats tests and the six-page English paper due by Friday. Then I got excited because there’s nothing better than an excuse for procrastination, right? And what’s better than showing off the Circle and getting to talk to new people for an hour?
My favorite part of giving tours is how each one is so different. I follow the same route, show the same rooms, talk about the same buildings, but it’s never the same. One day I’ll have an athlete from San Francisco and the next I’ll have an actor from New Hampshire who is also interested in ceramics. Each tour brings back unique memories from Third and Fourth Form. For example, my tour this morning had never heard of Spikeball, so we spent pretty much the whole walk around the Circle talking about this intense competition. Instead of a show-and-tell, I love having a continuous conversation that highlights the best aspects of Groton.
The most interesting tour I have ever given was to a family friend from Phoenix, Arizona. I’m not quite sure how, but the mother and I somehow made the connection that my pediatrician as a child had moved there and now works in her building. I proceeded to tell all of the stories I could remember from my pediatrician—everything from the first visit I can remember to the portrait of a duck standing on a pig standing on a cow. Next thing I knew, I looked at the time and realized we weren’t even halfway done with the tour, and an hour had already passed. At least he told me that he’ll be applying for the Form of 2022 next year. I think this was the longest tour has ever given and also the highlight of my week.

I Know Where I’m Going

Although Fifth Form can be tough, even the bad days have their good moments. My roughest day of Fifth Form contains one of my fondest memories so far.

I woke up that morning having to take a standardized test and attend a Diversity and Inclusion meeting and a rehearsal, with only thirty minutes in between each commitment.

As I trudged along to each task, I was longing for the day to end but, finally, as my feet dragged my body to rehearsal, I faced the best task I could have ever been asked to do: dress up the actor who was playing Viola as a man (in the general norms of society).

I wasn’t allowed to come back until she was perfect, so I took the actor up to the costume shop and spent forty minutes perfecting the look. When I had to reveal the new and improved Viola, I couldn’t help but squeal and jump in glee. She looked so good—kind of funny, but still great.

That is what theater at Groton is for me—the part of the day when I know I will laugh. Third Form winter theater is what I woke up looking forward to. Although winter may be rough, it has always been my favorite term because it always meant theater.

This fall, theater has been the part of my day where I fall in love, get brokenhearted, and laugh till I’m shaking in my seat. It’s where just being in the presence of some of my favorite people brighten up my whole spirit and day. It’s where I can express myself in song when words fail me, where I can go from talking about race in the productions we do and the roles we play and five minutes later get on a table shouting about love and passion while in yellow stockings and cross-gartered. It’s where I can bare my soul in song, it’s the place where people know me, it’s the place I call home.

Laurie (the theater director) once asked us, “What is our sacred space?” She answered her own question with “the theater.” If I had to give an answer, I would say the same thing. As I belt out my feelings, my identity, my soul on stage, I am my most bare, vulnerable, and freest self. The theater is where I feel most in touch with myself.

Groton theater is a space where, like magic, the inexpressible is understood, and everyone and everything becomes one. If I had to choose, Groton theater just might be my favorite thing about Groton.

Red in Front and Red Behind

After a two-hour bus ride with the movie Seabiscuit blasting in our ears, the girls cross country team shuffled onto the humid fields, most of us sleepy and dazed. The course walk was brisk and relatively speedy. We joked and laughed, enjoying the beautiful view of the sea. As we approached the end of the three miles, we began our warm-up on part of the course. The relaxed atmosphere quickly dispersed as we breathed heavily up and down the rolling hills. It was clear that the last mile of the race was going to be tough. I felt a wringing in my stomach and the pain of the race took hold of my mind.

Crouched and tense, we froze in anticipation of the gunshot that signals the start of the race. Our chant was still resonating in the background. As the shot fired, a sea of red uniforms swallowed the trail like a rushing tide, our pounding feet kicked up sand and dirt, leaving a cloud of dust in our passing. Sprinting around the first corner I felt my legs tiring and my breathing unable to catch up. However, my running buddy strode with me shoulder-to-shoulder and her rhythmic steps paced my strides. We gained speed on an opponent. Looking at each other, we nodded our heads slightly. Picking up our paces we accelerated and passed her from both sides. We immediately closed our gap as we overtook. It was as if we engulfed her. Another girl ran a few strides ahead of us. My running buddy pointed at her but I shook my head. I was drained from the sprint and we were only done with a small portion of the race.

After half a mile, the pain faded and my legs moved mechanically as if detached from the rest of my body. My breathing was hard but at a constant pace, and I felt energized. Striding faster and pumping our arms we attempted to put more and more space between us and our opponents. As we finally reached the long stretch of downhill, I followed my coach’s advice and pushed harder. I soon passed the girl ahead of me. My running buddy was a few paces behind and another teammate was just ahead.

We reached the final uphill soon after. I attempted to power through, but I could feel the burning and stiffening of my limbs. I exerted much effort but realized that I was only inching along. My throat was scratchy and sweat ran into my eyes; I could feel a stitch pulsing dully underneath my ribs. I tensed my muscles, only taking shallow breaths. Thoughts raced through my mind as I forced one foot in front of the other: “Why is this worth this much pain?” “Why do I do this to myself every week?” My hair was plastered on my face and neck. My uniform soaked through. My body fought to slow down, but the pounding of my teammates’ feet kept my feet moving.

Soon we neared the finish line. I could faintly hear the shouting of spectators. Coaches and injured teammates lined the course, cheering and clapping. I spied the finishing chute through branches along the trail and my legs and arms moved faster and faster. Red in front and red behind, I finished in between my teammates with no opponents breaking our pack. We e keeled over panting, with our hands on our knees. We found the energy to high-five and congratulate each other.

The phenomenal power these girls emanate through their encouragement and attitude is the reason for the brutal practices and meets. No matter how tired I am or how much I complain, at the end of cross country I always smile and eagerly anticipate the next day.

A Post-Practice Swim

A few weeks ago, after a particularly hot day, the soccer team convinced our coaches to let us jump in the pool after practice. We ran from the practice field, through the Athletic Center, past the locker room, and outside to the outdoor pool. It was such a wonderful relief jumping into the seemingly freezing water. We all swam in the pool for 15 minutes before the strength and conditioning coach, Cory Varrell (who was serving as our lifeguard) told us that it was time to go. We all leaped out of the pool with a newfound bolt of life in our legs, as if we had all just replaced the batteries.

Not only did this serve as an awesome break in the day, but it also helped get the lactic acid flowing out of our legs. I would say that it fueled the soccer team for its match against Pomfret the following Saturday.

A Groton Morning

It’s Tuesday. 7:57 a.m. to be exact. Chapel starts at eight so I’m not worried; I’m just outside the doors. There are murmuring crowds in front of and behind me, all shuffling along towards the start 0f their day. My day is full: I have all five classes and end school with a science at 3:10 p.m., which means I have the +30 (thirty extra minutes tacked on to the regular period to get stuff done). I hear little snippets of joy and complaint above the murmuring: “I have shop today!” “I have like two major commitments after lunch!” “I can go back to the dorm right after Chapel!” Kevin, my best friend, starts to complain about how bad his day is too. He starts about how he has a chemistry test and I cut him short, “I have no frees, Kevin.” He starts to laugh and then falls silent. We’re in the chapel. The day begins.

A Thirds Soccer Story

It’s the 48th minute, the 18th of the second half. The game is at Middlesex and the score is 1–0 Groton after a made first half-penalty. The Middlesex boys have turned up the intensity, playing with newfound passion. Our boys, however, are not letting up on defense and are even making runs as well. “Man on! Man on!” “Switch sides!” The shouts from players on both teams fill the warm, fall air.

The ball flies over the crossbar, getting lost in the trees. The Middlesex goalie runs towards the ball and picks it up from the pile of brown and yellow leaves it rests in. He sets it on the edge of the 18 and boots it in. The ball hits the grass right in front me and bounces over my frame. I turn around, collect the ball, turn again with the ball in tow, and start to sprint up the line. I beat two defenders and pass it off to Hudson, a striker, and he passes it off to Daniel, another striker. By now, all three of us are right outside the 18 and sprinting. Daniel passes back to Hudson and from there the ball makes its way back to me. I hit the ball with the toe box of my cleat and it floats past the goalie.

The bench roars and all my teammates run towards me, screaming their congratulations as we celebrate. We all think to ourselves, “The game is ours now.” And it is.

 

 

In the Thick of It

 

The beauty of a tutorial (our word for an independent study) is that you and your teacher can work on any problem that you two find interesting. This means that the work you do is guaranteed to be fascinating. This also means that sometimes you get stuck and sit in the library five minutes before check-in staring at a computer screen filled with walls of code that, even though you wrote it in the first place, seems about as intelligible as whatever happens in Mr. Maqubela’s Organic Chemistry class.

Ok, that last bit was kind of specific to me. A few nights ago, I was stuck on a problem for my Computational Ecology tutorial with Dr. Black. My screen looked something like this (below) and I had no idea why my code wasn’t working. There was no answer key. There was no phoning a friend. I was just stuck. I was at the verge of pulling my hair out when I left the library for check-in, defeated.

But then a funny thing happened when I was in the shower the next morning. I came up with a solution. I thought about the problem in a different way and managed to entirely sidestep the part of the code that was giving me an issue. I gave my brain time to work and it managed to figure a way out of the problem.

There wasn’t a deadline for that code, or any grade punishment for failure. If the problem had stumped me then I would have told Dr. Black that the problem had stumped me and we would have moved on to another project. But nonetheless I wanted to get it right, and I think that says more about the tutorial than it does my work ethic. This opportunity to work on interesting problems in an area that fascinates me with a talented teacher has been one of the best things about my senior year, even when I’m in the thick of it.

Film Club Debut

This is a picture of Julien and me, along with our friend Tilly, who is a head of Unicef and the Business and Management Club, at the school club fair two weeks ago.

This year I have become increasingly involved in extracurricular activities at school. It’s been tough juggling a heavier school load along with my other activities, but as an Upper Schooler I’ve found myself wanting to be involved in more and more activities as I’m realizing that there’s only so much I can do in the short time I have left as a Groton student.

I am a member of the school’s new MIT launch club, which I am very excited about. I am a team leader of the Diversity and Inclusion task force, which means I help Ms. Sen Das, the teacher sponsor and director of the task force, along with twelve other Fifth and Sixth Formers, to plan the meetings for the rest of the students on the task force. In that capacity, I will also help lead my dorm discussions on issues that Diversity and Inclusion sponsors. I also am an assistant features editor for the school newspaper, the Circle Voice. What I am most excited about, however, is being a head of Film Club.

As of right now, when people ask me what I want to do, I tell them I want to be a screenwriter and director. I love to write, and my favorite movies are the ones that I judge to have the best screenplays. In fact, I’ve always wanted to do something to do with writing ever since I was a kid. I bounced from wanting to be a novelist, to considering journalism, to now wanting to screenwriter. Therefore, I am very excited to head Film Club. My friend, Julien Alam, and I are co-heading the club. Film Club has been an on-again, off-again club on campus since we were both in Second Form, but this year we’re trying to revamp it and make it a serious activity for students on campus.

Two weeks ago was the all-school club fair. Julien and I were both very nervous to debut the club, but we enjoyed a lot of sign-ups. This past Thursday we held our first meeting. I think one of the most nerve-wracking, cringe-inducing things one must eventually do on this campus is send an email to the whole school. The week prior to the meeting, when we were planning out what we would do in the first meeting, Julien and I  playfully argued about who would send out the initial email telling people when and where the club would meet.  It is super daunting. There is also something exhilarating about sending out an email for your club. It is a sign of getting older and taking charge. I still think it’s crazy that I’m a Fifth Former and that Lower Schoolers look up to me. That being said, the first meeting was a huge success. We had a great turnout for our first ever meeting, and we got positive reviews after it was over. During the meeting we went around and did introductions, watched a clip of Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, talking about his process during production, talked as a group about what film meant to us individually, and finally we finished with a short project wherein everyone split into groups and was given ten minutes to compose a short “film” on their phones.

Julien and I were both really pleased with how the meeting went. I cannot wait to see what else the club accomplishes in the coming weeks.

Reaching Out to the Community

This past Tuesday, Groton students in the Second, Third, and Fourth forms had the opportunity to participate in a day of service. I was happy to have been selected to go to a homeless shelter in Roxbury that needed volunteers, and excited that a few of my friends would also be on the trip.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and when I was assigned to fixing the backyard, I was glad that I had worn my sunscreen. The weather was perfect for the event. We raked the fall leaves up and weeded out the overgrown garden and fencing. Soon we realized the big rocks scattered in the yard needed to be removed, and we wanted to fix a gardening box so vegetables could be planted. We picked up garbage and cleared broken glass that would be dangerous for anyone wanting to use the space.

The gardening reminded me of last spring, when I volunteered to help at the arboretum in Acton. But for me, this work felt a little bit closer to heart. The aesthetics were undoubtedly better as our day ended, but most of all I was glad that the yard was now so open and safe to play in. There was no more trash, and no more crab apples to sprain ankles, rocks to stub toes, glass, or branches to trip anyone up. The backyard was transformed into a clean place that I was happy to imagine little kids playing in. My own day was filled with sunshine, laughter, and friends. Most important, however, was the hope that there will be no need again for the work that we did—that one day all children will have a safe place to call home, and their own garden to play in.

St George’s: The Revenge

Last year, the boys of fall trekked down 2.5 hrs to Middleton, RI to play St. George’s for the third game of our season. Little did we know we would play our worst game of the year, and six turnovers later, lose 49–14. As Coach Lamoreaux described it: “It was the most embarrassing football game any one of us has been a part of.”

So for the past twelve months, revenge has been the motivation for every sprint, rep, and extra workout—and on September 23, the big day finally came. Immediately, we started hot. Noah Aaron took a screen pass forty-five yards for the touchdown, and the next St. G’s possession, sophomore Caleb Coleman returned an interception for a TD. 14–0 us just a few minutes into the game.

Two sixty-yard and one forty-yard touchdowns later, we walked into halftime up 34–0. Every player wanted to run the score up and embarrass them just as they did to us last year, but our coaches took the classy route and pulled the starters. Our bench preserved the shutout and we came home with a little hardware to flaunt our victory. Not only did we get the W, but we got revenge in the best possible way—a thirty-four point shutout.

Open Mic

Open mic is one of my favorite events at Groton. Gammons Recital Hall fills up, and students (and faculty—more on that later) sing, play guitar or piano, read poetry, rap, and dance. It’s such a supportive atmosphere.

I love music, but I’m not naturally talented. I’ve played guitar for six years, and I’ve come a long way since I started taking voice lessons when I got to Groton in Fourth Form. Regardless of whether I’m off key, the audience always claps and cheers.

Friday night was no exception. I sang an original that basically says that I love music even though I’m not destined for any hall of fame. The crowd was smiling, and one of my teachers told me he loved it, and I love this opportunity for artists of all genres and levels to get up in front of an audience.

At the end, one of our history teachers brought some students up to sing “Wagon Wheel.” I am a shameless fan of country music, yet that song always drives me nuts. But when everyone started singing along, I pulled out my phone to record the moment. I knew that from that point on, “Wagon Wheel” would remind me of this community, these people, and the hot Friday nights under the Gammons lights.

 

Learning to Start Over (Again)

I have done a lot of theater. I have acted in four shows and directed two more in my time at Groton alone. And yet, here I am, starting rehearsals for the fall show Twelfth Night feeling like I have forgotten entirely how to act.

I know what it is supposed to feel like to be comfortable in your character and act as they would act, and nothing of what I am doing in rehearsals is that. I feel like I am tripping over the words and just making gestures because I know that you aren’t supposed to be still when you act, emphasizing words because I know you aren’t supposed to be monotone, and moving my feet because I know you aren’t supposed to fix your feet on stage. It’s all just going through the motions.

And I know that it just takes time to get comfortable with your character, that it is the first week and nobody expects anything in the first week, and that nobody else on stage is Laurence Olivier yet, either, but it is still a frustrating feeling.

But I’ve done it before. This is what starting over feels like. Starting a new show is the same as hitting File > New in Word, buying a blank canvas, or picking up a new instrument. Maybe you’ve done something like this before, but you still have to start over from scratch.

Acting isn’t like riding a bike; you can forget how to do it. But that’s ok, because if you never had to do it over again you would never get any better at it. You have to shake the Etch-a-Sketch before you can draw with it.

Terrified and Excited

I was sitting on my bed one night with my two best friends from Second Form. My room was freshly decorated and still relatively neat. My hair was pulled up, and I was lounging in my worn sweatpants. My friends sat next to me with their heads resting on pillows, eyes closed. We chatted aimlessly about the summer away from Groton and about our past few days back on the Circle. It was just the third day of school, but we were exhausted: moving in, meeting new classmates and teachers, starting new classes…our schedules were packed.

We are going from academics to athletics to dorm life each day with no rest in between. Everyone is looking for a good start to the new school year, putting the right foot forward, getting ahead of classes and work. We all enjoy routine, immersing ourselves into the fast-paced lifestyle: rushing from classes to classes, activities after activities. We’re all nervous about making new friends and mastering new subjects. It’s the same for new and returning students.

Third Form has been a big change from Second Form: our grade has tripled in size, one more subject has been added to our schedule, and we’re all trying to fit in and integrate into the culture. I came in for cross country preseason this year, and as I helped my roommate move into the dorm we talked about the year ahead.

I said to her the night before our first day, “I’m not ready for school to start! I was so caught up in preseason and meeting new people that I forgot classes start tomorrow!”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “Why are you scared? I should be the one who’s nervous. You’ve been through it once already; I’m the one who’s in a new city starting my first year at a new school!”

I laughed it off, “I guess you’re right, I should be used to it. You shouldn’t be scared either; you’ll be totally fine.”

I went to bed that night thinking about our conversation. I wondered why I was nervous. As my roommate said, I’ve done this once, why should I be scared to do it a second time? The next day answered my question. After a day of just fifteen minutes of each class, I realized that I was terrified because I was excited. I was excited to come back, excited to learn, excited to be challenged. All my anticipations of the new school year from the summer were being fulfilled. I was scared of my expectations of a new form and a new year not being satisfied, but the first day back reminded me of why I’m at Groton: my many laughs last year, my achievements and disappointments.

I said to my friends as we slumped against the pillows, “I guess I really am attached to this place. Why else would I be scared of not being able to prove myself here? I wouldn’t be terrified of losing it if I didn’t really love it.”

New Year, New Excitement

I moved into my dorm a couple days early for Sixth Form and peer counselor training. I had been here just over a week, but I felt like I’d never left. My room was all decorated, my classes were set, and I was finally back in the routine that keeps me sane.

I’m doing a writing FSA (faculty-sponsored activity) this fall, which means that instead of a sport or theater, I get to write in the afternoons! It’s so great. I write for an hour and a half some days, and just an hour on the days I exercise. On Wednesday, I went for a run on one of the town trails, and I shattered my four-mile record. The trails are beautiful, and running seems easier since I spend my energy focusing on my footing, not how much distance I have left. I’m excited to put together a solid portfolio of my writing at the end of the term, and I’m excited to keep running outside while it still feels like summer.

And because I can never be too excited, I’m also stoked to watch Pitch Perfect on the Circle tonight. Outdoor movies are my favorite way to spend these fleeting summer-y nights.

 

Above, the sun setting in my newly-decorated dorm room

Fifth Form Fun

The first week of school is always weird. This week was especially strange for me as a new Fifth Former. I no longer have mandatory study hall! It’s amazing, but also strange not to know where everyone is all the time. The answer to that question, I discovered, is: in the new library. (Tip: do not go there to reach maximum productivity levels.) That aside, I also had to adjust to new teachers and courses. So far my favorite classes are Precalculus, AP Latin, and US History.

I’ve found myself looking forward to all of my classes this year, which I haven’t always been able to say. I think that part of that comes from the fact that as a Fifth Former, my course load actually reflects my interests. This year I dropped Spanish, but kept Latin. I also am taking a history elective, Power and Politics, this fall, which I’m very excited about. The same is true for my friends. When schedules came out over the summer and we were comparing, we found that there was less class overlap than in the past. It’s a very cool, I think, and perhaps an inevitable phenomenon. This is the big year for specialization after all, and I’m finding myself very happy with the choices I’ve made so far.

That being said, I still admittedly live for the weekends and after a long week of classes the weekend finally arrived, along with the first soccer game of the season and also the opening dance of the school year, which is always very fun. Tomorrow is my friend Dashy’s (who is also coincidentally a Zebra Tales blogger) birthday. To celebrate her, yesterday evening a small group of friends met in the CPAC lobby to just sit, laugh, and chat over pizza, wings, and jalapeno poppers. It was a surprise party and Dashy was in fact surprised. I almost ruined it though. I was sprinting to the CPAC right at the minute the party was meant to start, and I turned my head to see Dashy walking up another path with our mutual friend, Julien, who coordinated the party and was leading Dashy to her surprise. Later Julien told us all that as a distraction in that moment he pointed in a wayward direction and yelled, “There’s a snake!” The potential crisis was thankfully averted and the gathering was a huge success. It was a great start to the weekend—surrounded by the people I love most—a little piece of normalcy in this new start of the school year.

 

A Wonderfully Uncomfortable English Class

As a returning student entering my third year at Groton as a Fifth Former, the nervousness that comes with the newness of Third Form and Fourth Form is almost non-existent. Arriving on this campus I already had an image of the hard work I would be having to do this year, and I know that there is no other approach than to just do it. There’s also the excitement of being surrounded by friends and the sadness of leaving summer behind, but the moment I walked on campus I felt ready to take on the upcoming year.

The positive thing about this year is that my classes will be changing each term. I will be moving from taking seven classes in the fall, three of them being art, to taking only one art in the winter and adding a second English class to my schedule. Everyone has classes that they love and others…well, not so much, but I felt nervous not feeling any particular spark with the classes I had signed up for in the fall. That all changed the moment I stepped into Mr. Capen’s English class.

Walking in, I looked around bewildered: there were seats in the shape of a circle, but no tables. As we each took a seat, Mr. Capen fearlessly dove into it, taking a few minutes to discuss what class discussions will look like and then pulling out text for us to read here and now. He says something constantly throughout our class: We will be uncomfortable. He tells us how only through being uncomfortable will we grow as people. Through being uncomfortable we will learn about the cruel things in the world and what to do in order to change them. The moment he said that, I was hooked. This class is already everything I could have asked for: philosophical, challenging, and something that will make me grow as a person and question myself and the kind of person I want to be. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings and am eager to get the ball rolling.

My non-academic life has also been exciting. Although I’m very used to being on stage, I chose to take a behind-the-scenes role and work as the stage manager for our fall production of Twelfth Night. It’s been so much fun working with all of the people I’m so used to performing with in a new way. I also made the Maqupellas, the school’s a cappella team.

To end the week, my friends threw me a surprise birthday party. It was so much fun to be surrounded by the people I love all in one place. Although we may be apart during the school day, it’s so nice to know that we will always be bonded.

And that’s the sauce.

Music Is More Than Just Sound

Throughout the year, professional musicians play concerts in Gammons Recital Hall. Tonight, I went to see and hear Michelle Cann, an incredible pianist.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t like classical music. I don’t dislike it, but I’d rather listen to country/folk songs that tell stories in words. But Michelle completely threw herself into the piano—literally and figuratively—and made it so clear that she loved what she was doing. Listening with my eyes closed wouldn’t have been the same. Music is more than just sound.

Gammons concerts are required for students taking music lessons for credit (I take guitar and voice—I’m stoked for lessons to start next week!), and I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. But I’m glad I went and witnessed someone so in tune with her craft.

 

Here’s a short segment of Michelle’s concert.

Moving Up

In my mind, there are two versions of Groton School. There is the version during the school year that we all know and love, always busy and bustling, full of energy and vibrancy. Then there is the version that most people don’t often see—the empty Groton. I experienced empty Groton when I lingered a few hours longer before spring break, after everyone had gone. I also lived through a month of this version during my summer at GRACE, where there were only twenty-something of us on campus.

Empty Groton is calm in almost an eerie way: the wind howls through the empty fields and the Circle—a patch of endless, vast green, with nobody and nothing on it. The Dining Hall and Schoolhouse seem way larger, with the smallest of noises sending echoes throughout. What this shows is that Groton simply is not the same without all the people. In other words, the most important part of Groton is not the beautiful facilities, or the top-notch education, it’s all the people. During the school year, there is always a familiar energy, a buzz in the air, which was missing when most of the people were gone.

When I arrived once again at Groton for preseason a few weeks ago, that buzz that I’d sorely missed was back. I could feel it as soon as I stepped off the bus, and it only added to the excitement I already had about moving into Upper School. In Second and Third Form, we would often talk about Upper School as if it were some type of mystery, relying on little bits and pieces of information to create our own idea of it. Upper School in reality seemed to be pretty close to Upper School in my imagination, except for one thing—when my roommates and I were placed in O’Donnell’s Dorm. It’s an excellent dorm, and our room in it is one of the largest on campus. The people in our dorm are also awesome—and so is our dorm head. I just had one problem—it’s in Brooks House, or “Lower School side.” O’Donnell’s is the only Upper School boys dorm on Lower School side, so I felt isolated from the majority of my formmates in Hundred House, on the other side of the Circle.

That night, I had my first “Fifteen.” This is a fifteen-minute period of time for Fourth Formers between study hall and check-in—basically a time for everything from grabbing a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich from the Dining Hall to hanging out with friends. During the Fifteen, several of my friends who lived across campus from me decided to come and storm our room, staging an “attack” and taking our snacks. As we all laughed hysterically and wrestled for my Doritos and fruit snacks, I came to a realization. The bonds that we build in our time here, throughout classes and weekends and late night study sessions, remain strong whether we are across the Circle from each other or oceans and continents apart. They remain strong throughout tough weeks, long winters, and the ups and downs of a school year, along with our entire Groton careers. As I realized before, when I experienced “empty Groton,” the people here and the bonds we build with each other are what makes Groton…well, Groton. It doesn’t matter where I live because, Brooks House or Hundred House, I’m still part of the larger Groton family, one that has welcomed me with open arms since day one. In that moment, I knew that I would be just fine.

The trademark Groton sunset welcoming me back to campus

Good Change

By now classes have started again and the first day jitters are long gone. Everyone seems to be back in the swing of things on the Circle now that fall sports and courses have begun. As a Third Former, my grade more than doubled in number of students compared to last year. So, I’ve been busy getting to know all my new formmates and the teachers I’ll have. Between Parlor, s’mores, check-ins, and our first dance coming up, we’re given a lot of opportunity to socialize. However, the rumors are true: Third Form proves to be much more of a challenge in regard to workload and material than last year. The plus side is that now we have twice the study buddies to bounce ideas off of. I’m loving all my classes, and am really looking forward to everything we’ll learn, even if it is a little difficult.

My favorite new addition is Sacred Texts, a course I’m taking that discusses religion, both in modern context and throughout history. There is a tremendous amount of discussion behind it all, and we learn about diverse religions and spiritualism around the world, and how they interact with one another and the community. This is something that is unique to any other class I’ve taken before, and it helps me broaden my view of religion.

I’m trying a new afternoon activity, too. Groton’s girls volleyball team is finally a varsity sport, but I handed in my kneepads this year and I’m excited to join the theater this fall for a production of Twelfth Night. After taking a theater class for a term in Second Form, I knew that I wanted to be in the play. I wasn’t wrong in thinking that it would be something I would really enjoy. It is so wonderful to get to work with the talented and funny actors and actresses of Groton.

Fall is starting out on the right foot, and I couldn’t be happier with all the new challenges, friendships, and opportunities that Third Form brings.

Eclipse Road Trip

On August 18, my mom and I headed down to South Carolina to see the total solar eclipse. It took two days to drive down, and we scouted out our viewing spot on Sunday. When Monday afternoon came around, there were a few clouds, so I was nervous—like, more nervous than I am before exams—but the weather cooperated and we saw about two minutes of totality. It was so cool. A couple other families were watching from the same spot, and when the eclipse reached totality, we couldn’t see it through our glasses anymore and we didn’t know what was going on. But there was a collective “ohhhh!” as we removed our glasses, and suddenly there was a white ring glimmering around the moon. It was awesome.

Driving around with my mom was just as much fun as the eclipse itself. We stopped and dropped off glasses at a friend’s house on the way, and then I met a cousin who lives in North Carolina, and we spent two nights at my first grade teacher’s house outside my favorite city, Washington D.C.

I can feel summer winding down—this was the last big thing on my calendar—but I’m not mad. I can’t wait to decorate my dorm with the other prefects and hear my friends’ chapel talks and get senior year rolling.

The eclipse during totality

Driving through Virginia during sunset

Evening-esque lighting during totality

Summer Behind the Scenes

This summer I interned at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, working under stage management on their summer show, Blackberry Daze. I want to be a screenwriter and director when I’m older, and this was my first time doing active work in the industry. It was very intense. Our day off was Monday, but other than that we worked eight-hour days, six days a week. My main job, along with the other intern, Maria, was to be in charge of props and set pieces. So, for the first week or so work was pretty dull. The cast busied themselves with read-throughs and music rehearsals while we mostly watched.

However, a couple of weeks in, my load really picked up. The set was abstract so Maria and I spent hours scribbling diagrams of the set—which mainly employed three benches to set the scene for any particular moment—and then erasing and redrawing when the director changed his mind, which he did a lot. When we moved to the main stage, I had to be ready to move scenery at any moment. Maria and I were also responsible for organizing the props backstage for the actors. I’d say it was about as mentally stimulating as my AP Chemistry class last year. That is, no matter how tired I may have been, I literally could not afford to let my mind wander.

But that isn’t to say that the work wasn’t enjoyable. Working on the show was amazing because I got to be “in the room” for the first time and just let the theatrical genius wash over me. My dad is a musician and he frequently does theater in the city, so I’ve been to several rehearsals in my life, but I’ve never been along for the entire process. I was there for the read-throughs and the first music rehearsals, and I helped the cast learn choreography.

My favorite parts were when I was just sitting watching the cast rehearse, and the director would stop to make notes. I love love love director’s notes. I’m a very analytical person. Even in our school productions (I’ve been in three shows at Groton so far), I like knowing, “OK, this is exactly what I need to work on.” Watching the director, Tom, give notes would give me chills. Sometimes the notes were more technical, but other times he would describe something pivotal to the actor and you could feel a flip switch in the room. One note can completely change the trajectory of a scene. I love that. I was also very lucky to be working with an all-black cast. Going in, I was immediately more comfortable. Plus, as a teenager, being surrounded by such degrees of black brilliance has more of an impact on me than I’d ever admit to my parents, coming home from a long tiring day of work.

I only worked on the show up to opening night, July 14 (which was magical and lovely). That night I had my mom, dad, great aunt, and family friend supporting me in the audience (and making me cringe when I had to come out to change the set pieces at intermission). However, in early August I saw the show from the audience with my sister, who actually also worked on the show unofficially, assisting the music director for two weeks; my grandmother; my cousin, who I grew up with but who has since moved away; and my dad. At the end of the show I felt so happy and proud. That was my cast. Afterward we stayed behind to catch up with everyone and it felt full circle. (Though I will admit that I didn’t mind having my summer back to myself in the weeks following opening!)

Short but Sweet

I swapped my backpack for a basketball and my study guides for sunscreen as soon as I penned the last words onto my exam. Sad as it may have been to say goodbye to Second Form life, the trade for summer excited me as always. I’m an avid kayaker, and love to surf and swim, so my favorite season comes with plenty of opportunities to round my friends and family up to hit the beach. Living in Maine over every summer of my life has influenced the fact that I enjoy my time in the water more than out. I’ve read a couple great books on these beach days too, and the lure of long bike rides with my friends (and the warm weather) means that sometimes I barely want to come home at all. However, the smell of homemade meals and corn on the cob wafting from my family’s kitchen always brings me back. On other summer days I enjoy going to my sister’s track meets; this summer she set the Maine state record in her age group for high jump.

It hasn’t been all sand and sunshine though. I’ve also traveled a little as a result of my AAU basketball team playing a tournament in Washington D.C. It was awesome since I got to play the game and hang out with my teammates without the added stress of homework. I spent some time playing at Harvard’s Elite camp this summer, enjoyed a 3 v. 3 tournament, camps, and preparing for my fall season AAU tryouts. I mostly enjoy the courts next to my house in Maine. Full of continuous games of pickup where I can at least attempt the moves I’m afraid of making during the regular season.

Soon I will be dropping my big brother off in college, meaning I will miss him and also enjoy that there is one less person sharing the bathroom. In all seriousness, I’m so excited to see how everything goes for him.

My summer has been a perfect combination of aquatics and athletics, even if I am a little sunburned because of it. So after many wonderful books and lively conversations with my family, I can indeed say my summer was short but sweet.

Why I Have Loved Groton

For my first post, I thought I would just go ahead and lay it all out for you. So here it is: this is my favorite thing about Groton.

It was in Third Form that I first showed an interest in lighting design. I was doing tech for the show that term: a collection of student-directed, one-act plays. After a crash course in the technical side of using the lighting board, I was tasked with lighting one of the plays—a short, maybe ten-minute comedy centered around a Scooby Doo–style gag of missing glasses. The show had maybe eight lighting cues in the whole piece, but I spent forever trying to get those eight cues right. And, amazingly, my teacher was right there with me the whole time I worked, staying with me late after everyone else had left for dinner, answering every question with more useful information than what I asked for, and just generally treating me like someone he wanted to train.

It was in Second Form that I started teaching myself how to code. After what must have been an annoying thirty minutes of looking over my dorm prefect’s shoulder as he worked on a coding problem, he gave me his textbook and told me to start working through it, asking me to come to him if I had questions. The next few weeks I made sure to get my work done before the end of study hall so that I would have time to code before lights-out, coming back to my prefect with every breakthrough and setback. The next year, when I told my new advisor that I was interested in programming, he gave me a sheet of coding problems normally meant for his Precalculus Honors Accelerated class. He challenged me to get them done, telling me to come to him if I had any questions. Over the next few weeks, we worked together to build my skills and get me to a place where I could start to teach myself some more advanced topics. Since then, I’ve only become more interested and more versed in computer science, so much so that I plan on studying it in college. And I credit my strong foundation to that prefect and that teacher who were there to support me and get me over the hump of starting something new.

I have loved and am proud of the things that I have been able to do in my four years here. I have directed two short plays, developed a mathematical model to direct wildlife preservation land acquisition, and written a computer program to visualize the three-dimensional wave equations of electron orbitals. Not only were these opportunities and projects that I would not have been able to get/do at many other schools, they were all the result of a teacher encouraging my interests and pushing me to go above and beyond the call of duty.

At Groton, there are teachers for whom, if asked to jump, I would reply “how high?” But the most rewarding experiences for me have been when I’ve decided to jump, because I know that when I do that, my teachers will take me higher than I ever could on my own.

430.2 Miles and 16 Songs

It’s been more than two months since school ended. I’ve been to two writing programs: a journalism workshop at Columbia and a creative writing camp at Kenyon College in Ohio. I’ve biked a total of 430.2 miles. I’ve written 16 songs and recorded 3.

My mom, brother, and I spent two weeks car camping on Cape Cod, as per family tradition. Nickerson State Park is one of my favorite places. My brother and I biked there; we were even less prepared than last year. It was a 120+ mile, 12-hour journey, and we were in agony by the time we arrived—and I can’t wait to do it again. Once we met our mom at the campsite, I was so glad I’d pushed through. Somehow all the things I do during lazy days at home are more fun at Nickerson—reading and playing guitar, for the most part. I snuggled with my doggos in my hammock overlooking Flax Pond, and there was no place I’d rather be.

Since we got home, I’ve been working at Staples and writing college essays. I got my schedule the other day, and I can’t wait for school to start.

Lasting Friendships

My aunt has been a high school teacher for more than 20 years, and she invited a few of her former students for a reunion dinner over the summer. After graduation, her students spread across the country and across the globe, rarely acquiring the chance to see each other. From my aunt’s stories, they are all of impressive academic backgrounds and worked extremely hard in school. They are also either working now, some as lawyers and some as engineers, or studying for their PhD, so I thought that only a few would come and that they would be distant toward each other.

Therefore, I was very surprised to see a full table of 25-year-olds engaging in conversations not too different from the laughing and joking my friends and I have in the Dining Hall.

They gossiped about former classmates while sipping on wine, joked around with each other, and reminisced about their days at school. Watching them laugh and talk, I thought about my friends and wondered if we would be like them some day. Would we still be as tightknit and fun-loving when we’re 25? Watching them so happy, I was suddenly missing Groton and the amazing community within. My four years of high school are just starting, and this dinner showed me just how important and long-lasting high school friendships are.

Unexpected Summer

Just after I finished my final exam in the spring, I walked out of my dorm with my baseball bag slung over one shoulder and my clothes rolling behind me, and I saw my father hurrying me in order to make our flight. We hustled through security and barely made it.

West Palm Beach was the first stop on the busy summer schedule. But we weren’t heading to West Palm for vacation; instead for baseball (which is way better). My entire summer was spent traveling around playing weeklong tournaments with my summer team, 5 Star National. Our schedule was packed. First it was West Palm, then Nashville, then Sarasota, then Palo Alto, CA, then Atlanta, then Fort Myers, then Atlanta again.

Immediately after my last tournament I was to drive up to Rockbridge, Virginia and serve as a work crew volunteer at the YoungLife camp there. That was going to last a month. When that ended, I could finally come home to Charlotte and spend the remaining week left of summer with my family. Even though I would only spend a week at home, my summer was gonna be perfect—a whole lotta baseball and YoungLife Camp.

Little did I know that, somewhere along the way, I would be sidelined and my summer plan take a detour.

It was July 2, a sneaky cold 65-degree morning in Palo Alto, CA. All sporting our cardinal-and-white Stanford jerseys, our team gathered in the dugout of Sunken Diamond, fully prepped for game 1. By the eighth inning, we were winning 4–2, and I was on second base. At the pitcher’s first movement, I took off for third, diving in headfirst to ensure I was safe. But this would turn out to be my biggest mistake of the summer as I jammed my thumb back and heard a pop. Immediately my hand filled with pain, and then suddenly went numb. I called time, shook my hand, and proceeded to score on the next pitch. We won the game 5–2. After the game I stumbled out of the dugout and saw my dad with a deflated look on his face.

“Mike Trout?” he asked.

“Hope not,” I replied.

A week or so before, Mike Trout, the reigning American League MVP, stole second and jammed his thumb in a similar fashion. He ended up tearing his UCL and was out for six to eight weeks. My thumb had swollen considerably as we approached the Stanford training staff. The head trainer analyzed it and recommended X-rays and an MRI. So the next morning we flew home to Charlotte and, in fact, I had the Mike Trout injury, needed surgery, and would be out for six to eight weeks.

My summer that was supposed to be loaded with baseball and YoungLife camp, with a little football conditioning sprinkled in the middle, took a quick turn. It started with surgery and being limited to the couch for two weeks (which felt like an eternity of inactivity and boredom). Then I had my wisdom teeth removed because—why not? I’m already immobilized—then I was put in a cast for the final three weeks, all with a little SAT prep sprinkled in the middle.

So, you might wonder: was it worth it? Was that one stolen base worth changing the course of my entire summer? If I could go back to that moment and do it over, would I steal third again? Absolutely. Because I was safe. And we won. And that’s all that really matters.

On My Grind

I closed out my busy Third Form year quite well, if I do say so myself. Running track, I shaved a second off my 100m personal best and two seconds off my 200m personal best; I didn’t completely lose my head after Prize Day; AND I felt confident about my exams AFTER I had written them. The break every student looked forward to had finally come and I was more than ready to dive in, especially since I was going to be back a month later.

The first third of my summer I was resting up as much as possible and getting ready for the second third of my summer, which was returning to Groton to take Chemistry and Latin in the GRACE* program. GRACE was rather challenging and demanding, especially since we were covering a year’s worth of material in the month of July. Besides the daily avalanche of homework that came with those courses, it was a great experience living on campus in the summer with friends and going out on weekends to camp out and raft or walk around Boston.

The home stretch of my summer has me excitedly prepping for Fourth Form. So far, I’ve spent it sleeping off the wear from GRACE and resting up for the new year, which I feel is going to be a good one. I’m looking forward to the perks that come with being a Fourth Former as well as the challenges that it entails.

*GRACE—GRoton Accelerate Challenge Enrich summer program

Pushing Limits, LIT-erally

This summer, I spent eight-and-a-half weeks working as a leader-in-training (L.I.T.) for a camp I’ve been attending for the past three years. It is an all-girls camp in Becket, MA and centers around empowering women, agape (unconditional love for all of humanity), and P.A.C.E. (positive attitude changes everything). My responsibilities as an L.I.T. included spending time with a cabin of campers, helping run activities, making skits for all camp performances, washing dishes, sorting mail, helping in the office, working at the infirmary, working in the store, and more.

As a camper, watching the L.I.T.s working in the dish window laughing and singing along to the radio always left me feeling impatient—all I wanted to do was be one of them! When I finally reached that point, I learned it wasn’t exactly as glamorous as it seems. There were tears and fatigue, and it was very hard, both mentally and physically. Running a meeting with 27 strangers isn’t exactly what I would call fun, and swimming 22 laps for training was not something I thought I could ever do. However, this summer managed to be the best summer of my life so far.

I have learned so many lessons that I will use in my life in these past eight-and-a-half weeks. One of them is as follows: All my life I’ve been privileged enough never to have had to do a ton of physical labor, but this summer tested my limits and how much I could handle. When working for someone else, you don’t have the option of quitting when things start to get hard. One of the experiences all the L.I.T.s have is going on a three-day hike with their entire team. I’m not very athletic and was worried about whether I could do it. On the second day, we hiked 12 miles, the majority of it within a few hours. Somewhere along the way my feet started to hurt, and I was so hot. I didn’t want to continue, but I pushed through, and eventually began to feel cool and enjoyed myself. As cliché as it is, I learned firsthand that if you persevere through the hard parts of whatever you are doing, it will get easier. I took this mentality to my 22 laps.

Something magical about this summer was also getting a family of 26 sisters and a brother whom I’ve grown to love unconditionally—something I never thought capable before. Through the challenges of the summer we’ve grown to be a loving and supporting group. Each member has empowered me and inspired me to be a better person. One person said during our final days together that, “From now on, we will never be alone.” They couldn’t have been more right.

Not Your Regular Summer School

When I told people that I would be spending one month of my precious summer at summer school, the first reaction I got was shock. “Oh my god, what happened?” “Are your grades okay?” “Your parents must be mad.” That was when I had to explain that this wasn’t conventional summer school, and I was going by my own choice, not because I had to. But while I explained, I myself still wondered: what was I going to get out of this?

GRACE stands for Groton Accelerate Challenge Enrich. Yes, somebody was really trying to spell GRACE, but it’s accurate. That’s exactly what GRACE does. Over the course of four weeks, we got to take our education into our own hands and take necessary measures to get better and challenge ourselves, whether it be in Latin, English, math, or chemistry. But after two years on the Circle, I know what I’m going to get in a Groton class, in the normal school year or during the summer. I was more concerned about this one question: will it be fun?
The answer is a resounding YES. When we weren’t learning or studying, we sure were never bored. We got to do regular fun stuff such as bowling, go-karting, or whitewater rafting—and that was awesome. But we also got to help out and teach math to kids at the Epiphany School, who were borrowing some of our campus for the summer. We learned about Zydeco music with Ms. Lanier and attended an actual Zydeco concert by CJ Chenier, the son of the “King of Zydeco,” Clifton Chenier. Yes, lots of dancing was involved. We also got to dive into the world of improv theater with Laurie (Ms. Sales, but she insists we never call her that). That included a trip to a hilarious, brilliant ImprovBoston performance. Basically, it was a blast and that’s something you sure don’t expect out of summer school. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge all the teachers and Dining Hall staff who also took time out of their precious summers to help us have the best possible “blast” at GRACE

But for me, as vital as the academics and fun are, there are two other important takeaways:

  • The additional time I got to spend with some of my formmates
    Throughout GRACE, I was able to build even stronger bonds with my formmates. Through all our fun and adventures, I was able to get to know a lot of them way better than in the normal school year, as there were fewer people around us and we got to spend a lot of time together.
  • A preview of Upper School
    GRACE gave us much more freedom and flexibility in our schedule and daily life than we’d experienced in Second and Third Form. That and living on the Hundred House side of the Circle gave me a good idea what Upper School life looks like, so I’m definitely going to be better prepared going in this fall.

So to answer my original question, what I got out of GRACE was more than just a head start on chemistry. There’s what I said above—being closer with the people I’m going to be spending the rest of my time here at Groton with and getting a sneak peek of Upper School life (something that I had only secondhand knowledge of beforehand). But most importantly, I had loads and loads of fun. And who doesn’t want that?

Go-karting with some of the GRACE squad

On the beach in Cape Cod

My Magical Escape

The never-ending rain beats on the window, creating a rhythmic symphony of pitter-patters. The morning mist curls around the mountains, leaving only the very tops of them to be seen. The faint, slightly damp scent of tea wafts through the air, drifting from room to room until reaching mine. This serene, peaceful atmosphere is what I woke up to every day for an unforgettable few weeks in August.
I was in a village called Mangjing, which lies right on the outskirts of Yunnan Province, and the outskirts of China, on one side of the Jingmai Mountain. I, along with eleven other students, had chosen to come all this way to shoot a documentary. The people who lived in the Mangjing village were of the Bulang Minority, and to learn more about the Bulang people, we spoke to their de facto leader, the Last Prince of the Bulang Minority.
He seemed reluctant to open up at first. “After the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the idea of a Bulang royal family was abolished,” he said hesitantly. “Therefore, my father, who was the king at the time, was the Last Bulang King, and I am the Last Bulang Prince.” As he described how globalization had changed Bulang culture since then, I realized that the loss of the royal family symbolized the loss of traditional Bulang culture as a whole. I looked around and saw kids wearing Hello Kitty slippers, playing with iPads—a lot of them unable to even understand the Bulang language.
This was when I realized the goal of our documentary: to help recover the traditional culture that was lost after modern society started to influence Bulang life. We would capture all the aspects of traditional Bulang life, such as clothing, music, tea, and holidays, so that one day, the younger Bulang generations would understand how their ancestors lived, a life that they never had and probably never would. From our conversation with the prince, he described two unique aspects of Bulang culture that stood out most.
“Our ancestors left us a message before they passed,” the prince leaned in, almost signaling for us to listen closely to what he was about to say. “They said: ‘If we leave you livestock, they will eventually perish. If we leave you gold and treasure, you will use it all. Thus, we will leave you a grove of tea trees, which you must protect and preserve, throughout generations.’ So, if you ask me what type of bond our people have with tea, the answer is that tea is everything. We were the first to discover it, and now we are the source of the world famous Puer tea, so everything we have comes from tea. It’s our gold, our silver. Without it, we can’t live a happy, prosperous life.” What struck me was that even though so many other parts of traditional Bulang culture are disappearing, tea still remains. The lives of the Bulang people are deeply intertwined with tea, to the point where you can feel the warmth, spirit, and soul of the Bulang people encapsulated in just a sip of their Puer tea.
When I asked the prince about a tree full of beehives that I’d seen, he chuckled. “That tree is called the Tree of the Bee Gods, as we worship bees as angels.” I found this very strange, as in my mind bees are menaces rather than divine beings. But it all became clear when he continued to explain. “Since ancient times, we have observed how the bees all lived in that same tree, together, peacefully, without destroying each other. We strive to live by the harmony that the bees in the tree display, incorporating it into our daily lifestyle. We believe in harmony—harmony with each other, harmony with nature, harmony with the universe.” These words struck me. That mantra—no strife, no conflict, just pure, peaceful living—is beautiful and something that the rest of the world could learn from.
During my time in Mangjing, I befriended a little Bulang boy named Aifu. To me, he represents everything I love about the Bulang people and the Mangjing village. He is kind, happy, and full of positive energy. Although modern culture has affected how he lives, he still maintains a sense of innocence in his own little bubble—just living his own life, unconcerned with everything that is going on around him.
I think that feeling is what I will miss the most. Throughout my time in that village, I was disconnected from the rest of the world. I wasn’t worried or stressed; I was merely soaking in everything around me, letting myself be taken through the day without much thought about tomorrow. I was in my own paradise, my own magical escape, living. And that feeling of just purely living is one that I will cherish throughout the rest of my life.

The village of Mangjing

Heaps and heaps of Puer tea in a Bulang storage room

A Bulang woman at one of their holidays, in traditional Bulang dress

Aifu (the Bulang boy I befriended) and I (he’s holding a football that I gave him and taught him how to play with)

Intramural Softball Walk-off

It’s late October, Boston, Massachusetts. You can feel the tension in the air. Two bitter rivals battling for history. It’s the bottom of the ninth, no outs, tied ball game. World Series on the line. Batter steps up to the plate, determination in his eyes. He swings at the first pitch. He crushes the leather-bound ball over the Green Monster and leisurely rounds the bases to cheers of his beloved fans and is swarmed at home by his ecstatic teammates. They walk off with the win.

Let me fill in some details. It wasn’t October, nor did this occur in Boston. The teams weren’t rivals; it was actually the first time in both of the teams’ history that they were playing each other. It wasn’t the bottom of the ninth, but rather the bottom of the seventh (we only play seven innings).

There was a championship on the line, though. This historic moment happened in the Groton Evening Softball League that happens every spring on the Circle. Anyone can put a team together and play just for the fun of it. The team I was on, “Sons of Pitches,” however, wasn’t playing “just for the fun of it.” We wanted to win and repeat as champs of the GESL.

I was the batter and, trust me, on the outside I looked determined, but on the inside, I was as nervous as I had ever been that spring. I stepped up to the plate and hit the play to left field. It cleared the left fielder, but since there is no outfield wall, I needed to sprint all the way around the bases to have a chance at winning the championship. I barely made it home safe. The left fielder, Johnny Stankard, hustled to the ball and threw it to home plate as soon as he could. The ball arrived just before I slid into home, but the catcher dropped it. There were no fans cheering, but I was swarmed by my teammates.

Although the afternoon was eventful, the day ended the same way every spring day ends at Groton. A beautiful scene over Mount Monadnock changing the green grass of the famed Circle into the soft glow of the orange sunset, setting free the entourage of iPhone cameras capturing the sight.