An Oft-Written Letter
I’ve started this letter so many times, and somehow it never really felt right. There is something incredibly personal about it that I never thought I could actually put to paper. And I’ve always been afraid that even if I wrote it, it couldn’t possibly get to all the people that I wanted to see it, or that it wouldn’t do justice to everything I want to say. Both of those concerns, now that I’ve written it, remain true. But I need to say thank you to the people and the institution that changed my life. Nothing is perfect for everyone, and Odyssey is no different. But Odyssey was perfect for me.
Dear Steve and Lee,
And Sensei, and Erin,
Dear Hillary and Jessica and Milton and everyone else,
It has been nearly six years since I left the four walls of Odyssey. Six years to reflect on all the things I learned and all the things I discovered. It hasn’t taken me six years to realize it, but it has taken me six years to tell you. Odyssey was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Regardless of where I went to middle school, I would’ve ended up at a good college, getting a valuable education in whatever I wanted to study. But its because of Odyssey that I am where I am, and that I am who I am, today.
Without Odyssey, I know that I wouldn’t be at Tufts. I mightn’t have applied. Even if I had, I mightn’t have been accepted, I think to this day that I got into Tufts because of the essay I wrote comparing the two schools. I wouldn’t be majoring in Political Science; I’d be a Chemical Engineer like both my parents. I wouldn’t be applying to internships as far flung as stage management in Stratford-upon-Avon and viniculture in Sonoma. I wouldn’t be simultaneously planning trips to Iceland, Prague, and Cambodia/Thailand. I probably wouldn’t be planning those trips at all.
There are so many parts of my personality that I love; within each of them is a piece of Odyssey. So many of my strengths were revealed to me while I was at Odyssey, and even more of my weaknesses were ruthlessly corrected. My passion for theater may have never been stimulated, and my know my world would certainly have remained hidden. I wouldn’t love Shakespeare, or calmly observing the night sky. I wouldn’t know how to find the star in the middle of an apple, or have a story about a one-day trip to Los Angeles. I never would have started studying Japanese, or have dissected a fetal pig. There is too much about my time at Odyssey to remember, but there is nothing I remember that I regret.
I’ve obviously taken writing classes since Odyssey, but Steve’s determination to teach us each to find our own voice is still evident in my writing. His thrice-weekly essay assignments forced us to really practice writing, not just study it. So many assignments, combined with a lack of time, meant that my first drafts are often spotless. I flew through my high school English courses and tested out of Freshman English in college, all because I am comfortable writing and confident in my own writing. Steve, you created in me not an author of novels, but an author of ideas. Someone who is perfectly capable of taking what is in my head and putting on paper with the same ease that I can tell it to my friends. Thank you for teaching me everything about writing that I ever needed to know before I needed to know it. Thank you for the note on my research paper this week: “You clearly know how to write. It’s something I don’t often see.” Thank you for the fact that I don’t have to take three hours to edit even the shortest of papers, because I know that the first draft has at most five spelling and grammatical errors per five hundred words.
I credit Lee with my incredible passion for everything that happens in the world. Every time I call home and talk about Political Science, my dad is incredulous again: “I don’t understand where you got your humanities side from. Certainly not me or your mom.” He always questions it; I always think of my sixth grade final humanities exam. I think of Lee’s emphasis on understanding the history and the people of every country and every region, not just remembering the facts. That I learned so much about the religions of the world still astounds me. That I still remember so much of what I learned astonishes me. So thank you, Lee, for inspiring me to truly be a citizen of the world. For teaching me to see traveling as a way to learn, as a way to bring home understanding, and not just pictures and memories. For telling me about the world.
I took Japanese at Odyssey, like everyone else. I continued in high school. I am still studying Japanese. I can converse about a wide variety of topics in Japanese, I can read and write well enough to learn about the Japanese education system in Japanese, or write and memorize a speech about global warming. I never have to worry about my stroke order because Imase Sensei always made sure we used the right stroke order in eighth grade. I never get corrected on my pronunciation because Sensei was careful to correct our sounds in sixth grade, when sounds was all they were. And then the culture! I have been to Japan twice, and can’t wait to go back again. I consider Haruki Murakami one of my favorite authors, and can’t wait to take a class on his literature my senior year here (in which he usually guest lectures at least once a semester!). Thank you, Sensei, for inspiring such a love of everything Japanese in me. Thank you for giving me the memories of Fushimi Inari and a dried fish bento on the shinkansen.
I am studying Chemical Physics; the microscopic attributes of quantum chemistry that depend on physics equations and chemistry techniques. It wouldn’t be happening but for Erin’s science classes, where science had no borders, and every class was an exploration. Thank you for my understanding of toruses, for the fact that I had already read Flatland when I arrived in my Modern Physics course, for Invisible Space on the wall. But what I most remember is that you were always so much more than a science teacher. You taught exploring and questioning and logic, all packaged into three neat science notebooks and a few dozen study guides. Without you, I wouldn’t have flashcards, or binders, or study guides in the way I have them now. I’d be like every other college student, wasting time with pointless exercises and lacking an Assignment Book. Erin, thank you for everything inside and outside the classroom.
I had the wonderful experience at Odyssey of having three different math teachers. Somehow, you managed to show me that math is more than just numbers and equations, that it is more than how we can use it in physics and chemistry. To this day, drawing fractals is the best way to waste time, and always creates such beautiful borders to my notes. Not to mention the fabulous conversations they start. Jessica, thank you for sparking my passion for mathematics. Hillary, thank you for teaching me so much more than math in your classroom. The Math/Art room is still the room that epitomizes Odyssey for me, with the kiln in the corner, the Robotics hanging from the ceiling, the paint splatters on the floor, and the multi-colored equations and explanations on the board. Each of you simultaneously made math collaborative and let us each progress at our own pace. I honestly have no idea how you each did that, but I am highly appreciative of the mathematically questioning person that made me, especially when my questions spark a look of awe from my math teachers and professors.
If someone told me today that a thirteen-year-old could understand his or her true issues, and that a group of thirteen-year-olds could solve them, I’d think you were crazy. If I hadn’t gone through it myself. Milton, thank you for everything that happened in Self Science. The skills I learned in that room, of empathy, and of listening, and of addressing a problem head on, have served me well over the years. I have used them successfully to face my own issues, and to help my friends deal with theirs. Thank you for giving my thirteen-year-old self the life skills that men and women in their thirties dream of.
Thank you all for being more than teachers. For being the people that showed me the world and showed me myself. For making my middle school years the best three years of my life to date. Thank you all for being more than middle school teachers. For always wanting to know how I’m doing when I came back to visit. For letting me take you out to dinner in New York, for letting me babysit your son, for letting me become the adult I am becoming while still being able to depend on each of you for support.
Odyssey: 1. A long wandering or voyage. 2. an intellectual or spiritual quest.
For me, Odyssey was and is both these and more.
Because of each of you.
Thank you all, for everything then and now.