<b>Sixth Form Commencement Address by Damon Bolesta '09</b>
William Shakespeare. Franz Kafka. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Emily Brontë.
These are the names of the great literary minds that have more or less
tormented my life at some point during my time at Millbrook. I have
grinded out essays, illustrated ideas, and discussed at great length
the impact that each of these author's works have had on my life, my
world, and the people around me.
Needless to say, working with the novels or plays these people have produced can be a bit... stress-inducing. I have spent countless nights up until the wee hours of the morning, cursing these people for being so vague and complex, and I can recount one night in particular when, in my frustration I stated, "Dostoyevsky is a stinky doo-doo head."
In these times of great stress and suffering, though, I find that I can alleviate my pains by thinking back upon another great writer who has taught me my most valued and significant lessons in life. A writer who has brought me out of my darkest times and helped me learn to appreciate the best of times. A writer who speaks to my soul and has shaped and molded me to become the man-boy I am today. This writer's name is Theodor Geisel, though I assume most of you are more familiar with him as Dr. Seuss.
Often times I find myself browsing through Seuss' collective works, and I am fascinated by all of the things that I have learned from his stories. For example, The Cat in the Hat taught me why cats are better then dogs (to elaborate on this, it's because they look good in hats). One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish taught me what tongue twisters are. How the Grinch Stole Christmas taught me about serious heart anomalies.
But I think the most important lesson I learned from Dr. Seuss and his stories was from the fourth-bestselling English-language children's book of all time, Green Eggs and Ham. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, the main premise involves a man named Sam-I-am offering an unnamed protagonist a plate of green eggs and ham, to which he adamantly replies,
"I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham."
One must ask, why does he not like the green eggs and ham? It can't be because he doesn't like eggs and ham, because eggs and ham are tasty and delicious and it would be absolutely ridiculous not to like eggs and ham. Ergo, it must be because the eggs and ham are green. It is this difference, this unfamiliarity, that keeps him at bay.
Hold onto that thought, and let's take a step back in time.
Right after my 8th grade graduation ceremony, I remember my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, congratulating me on my successes and wishing me the best of luck in my years ahead in high school. My response to her was somewhat of a panicked, "But I don't want to go to high school, Mrs. Smith. I wish I was back in your class, in 6th grade. I'm not ready to leave. I want to spend 3 more years here." She replied, "That's crazy. Why would you want to stay here? It's time for you to move on." "Why? Why do I have to?" I said, "I'm content here. All my friends are here. Things are simple. I'm happy. I don't want things to change." "You'll learn to love high school," she said firmly, "Trust me."
But I wasn't convinced. In essence, I really didn't want my eggs and ham to change. Here I was, with this big plate of scrumptious, normal eggs and ham, happy as a clam, when all of a sudden, Mrs. Smith, among others, was coming along and telling me that I need to try these green eggs and ham. Obviously, I was reluctant. They were weird, unappealing, and I had no interest in abandoning what I was used to for this new, gross looking mass of new school.
To get back to Seuss' work, the story continues with the protagonist going on an epic journey through vast landscapes, all the while Sam-I-am is offering him this plate of green eggs and ham. Sam insists and insists and insists, until finally he agrees to try them. And, as you may have guessed, he ends up loving them. (Needless to say, Seuss was not known for his twist endings.)
My story, as you can probably already tell, has a similar ending. With great reluctance, I tried my green eggs and ham by leaving home and coming to Millbrook, not expecting any kind of a good outcome. But, as you may have guessed, I ended up having the best four years of my life here. I made new, stronger friendships, had unique experiences that will last me a lifetime, and developed moral and intellectual character that define who I am today. That being said, I have also dressed up like Velma from Scooby-Doo and drove around in a sketchy van painted like the mystery machine, gone on an extensive trek through the woods looking for wild clay with my new ceramics class, marched across this campus in nothing but a towel with my dorm-mates at 7am in defense of our rights to have chairs in the communal showers, worn fake glasses during a very important speech, been awestruck by the mighty power of my English teacher's mustache (Ms. Havard...), and been part of countless more shenanigans throughout my time here.
But now it seems that it’s happening all over again. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing even the most seemingly-anxious-to-get-out-of-here seniors exclaim, “I’m not ready to leave. I’m not ready to start a life after Millbrook.”
After we’ve all learned to love our eggs and ham as they are, people all around us are insisting that we need to try a new kind of eggs and ham. Obviously, we’re a bit reluctant, though now I know that we shouldn’t be. My classmates and I have, for the most part, spent our time here wisely, and we have all benefited in some way from what Millbrook has had to offer us. Now, however, it is our time to try something new. It may seem strange to leave the place that many of us have come to know as home for one, two, three, or four years. But if we don't stray from what we’re used to, if we don’t move on to a life that we are unfamiliar with, we’ll never know how delicious those green eggs and ham may actually taste.