"A Thank You Letter To the Belmont Hill Admissions Office," by Mo Afdhal '14

Good morning, Nobles. To all those with a penchant for the grammatical construction of letters, I would like to formally apologize for not beginning this “letter” in the proper fashion with the use of the word “dear.” If we’re being perfectly honest, the word “dear” just seemed a bit intimate for this setting. After all, this is not even a letter; it is a speech.

For those who are concerned they are attending the wrong high school graduation, I want you to know that this is not Belmont Hill. This is, in fact, the Noble and Greenough School. Welcome. For those who think that I am here to thank the Belmont Hill Admissions Office for getting me through high school, you are wrong. You see, the Belmont Hill Admissions Office did not help me make it through Nobles, but they did play a large role in helping me arrive here.

In seventh grade I applied to a number of ISL schools. Among those fortunate enough to receive an application from me were Belmont Hill and Nobles. Throughout the application process, it became clear to me that Belmont Hill was my top choice. I know, weird. The truth is I had a few friends there, and I felt it to be the safe choice in this scenario. I have since come to realize that the best decisions in life are not those that offer safety and comfort, but instead those that frighten and push you beyond the boundaries you have established.

When the day that admission decisions were released finally came, I had already begun to envision my life as a student at Belmont Hill. I wanted nothing more than to start there next fall and be reunited with all my old friends. I had devoted time and effort to my application and to be honest, I thought I was a lock. I thought that there was no way they wouldn’t accept me. How could they not? I mean just look at me now!

But they didn’t. All those grand visions and dreams were cut short when I tore open my envelope to read eight words that would alter my life in ways I couldn’t possibly comprehend at the time. “You have been placed on the wait list.” Now, I know what you all are thinking, “Wait a minute. Isn’t “wait list” one word? Shouldn’t he have said seven words that would alter my life?” And the answer to that is, “no”. Wait list is most definitely not one word, so please do not question my ability to count words. As I read those words, my eyes began to water and as I burst out of the kitchen towards my bedroom, the tears flowed. In the end, I was not taken off the wait list and I was never accepted to Belmont Hill, but I definitely don’t hold a grudge or anything like that. There was a silver lining to all of this, one that I did not recognize nor appreciate until years later and it was this: my rejection from Belmont Hill helped me find my way here and without it, I would not be standing before you now. So, this is why I must take the time to formally and properly thank the good people at the Belmont Hill Admissions Office for not accepting me to their institution. Had they not chosen to deny me entrance to their school, I imagine my life would be quite different, but different does not always mean better and this is one of the few times in my life where it has served me to not be wanted.

By the time school rolled around the next year, I was dreading my transition to Nobles. I found myself struck with the harsh reality of being at a school that I didn’t really want to attend. I remember that first day quite clearly, I wore a polo shirt with jeans and a flat brimmed Red Sox baseball hat. If you are having trouble picturing this, there is photographic evidence hanging above Mrs. MacDonald’s desk in the Pratt Middle School Forum. Why I tell you this, I do not know because as those who have seen the photo can tell you, it is not a pretty sight. Despite my rocky start early on, I spent my year of middle school making great friends and even greater memories. I became comfortable in the presence of those I considered friends, but I was still limited in my interests at Nobles.

Much to my chagrin, freshman year began with another fashion faux pas, this one far more unfortunate than the last. Whether it was the first day or not, I showed up to school one day wearing a green button down shirt accompanied by a different hue of green colored pants.

The community at Nobles during that first year was strikingly different from the one we enjoy now and much of this difference can be credited to the tone and voice of the senior class. The seniors who ruled Nobles my freshman year were not as united, involved, or impressive as those who have reigned this past year. There were noticeable social divisions within the class and the entire community felt the affects of this divide. Young and impressionable as I was, I saw in the example given by the senior class and the majority of the upper school something that I wish I had not. I saw their example and I sought to follow it. I went through the next two years of high school sticking to the same group of friends that I established in middle school and freshman year, avoiding anything unfamiliar to me. Each year I ignored Mr. Henderson’s advice of taking risks and approaching the unknown with an open mind. Sorry, Bob.... Mr. Henderson. Each year I played the same sports, I ate lunch with the same friends, I went to the bathroom at the same time.

Just kidding.

The point I’m trying to make here is that my impression of Nobles in my early years was flawed. I all too willingly followed the tone set by the upperclassmen of the time and chose not to expand myself. As much as it pains me to say, Mr. Henderson’s advice was exactly what I needed to turn around my experience at Nobles.

It took a while, but finally his words took hold of me and in my junior year, I auditioned for the winter mainstage show Pink Floyd’s The Wall. To this day I still wonder how in the hell I was given a part in the show, but I was and the experience was unlike any other I have had at Nobles. I met so many kind, interesting, funny, smart, wonderful people, learned a great deal about acting and humanity in general, and had more good times than I could ever have imagined. All of this happened because I had finally opened up to Nobles and let myself become a part of the community in more ways than one. After having such a great experience exploring an aspect of the school that I was so unfamiliar with, there was no way that I could leave all that behind after just one season. I returned again the winter of my senior year for Noises Off, in which I had the extreme pleasure of portraying a brutally mean, narcissistic director whose cast consisted of two women with which I was having affairs, one old man with incredibly poor timing, one sleep deprived stagehand, one Fellow whose trousers kept falling down, a very little yet somehow tremendously loud woman, an old Hag who could not for the life of her keep track of a plate of sardines, and a rather angry man who suffered a nasty fall down some stairs. And my character was mean to each and every one of them. And I enjoyed this thoroughly. I believe Mr. Henderson described it as “Mo playing Mo, just with a British accent.” Thanks, Bob. All of this I would not have been a part of had I not decided to abandon my viewpoint of Nobles garnered during freshman year. I wish it had not taken me so long to do so. Although as many of my teachers and friends know, I often have difficulty arriving anywhere in a timely manner.

By far the best part of this transformation was making new friends in my class and the school as a whole. There are so many good people at Nobles and until I moved out of my own bubble, I really didn’t know that. While I did make many new and dear friends, I must stress that I did not forsake the bonds I had already forged.

For most of my class, the impressions I took from the first few interactions we had, were the ones that I held on to in the years to follow. Thankfully those impressions changed once I lowered my blinders and took in the surroundings. I will now illustrate for you this change through the use of examples. These examples may get playfully mean, but just go with it; everything will be fine in the end. Due to time constraints I can only give you three examples, although I assure you that, if I had the time, I could give you one hundred.

Lauren Dillon.... Where is she? Oh there she is, couldn’t see you there cause you’re so small. Much like today, I did not see much of Lauren during freshman year and when I did I’m sure all I could think of was how short she was. It wasn’t until sophomore year that she began dating my best friend Max Montgomery that I really began to spend any time with LD and, as she knows, I did not approve of her trying to steal my man. Eventually, we learned how to share Max and though it took a while, I finally acknowledged LD as a suitable third wheel to Max and my relationship. Through this arrangement I came to realize that LD was not just a short girl that  dated my friend, but a wonderfully gifted athlete, an intelligent student, and a very good friend. We get along much better nowadays and even though she’s always trying to beat me up, I know she does it out of love.

Mr. Henderson tells a story in assembly about only being a friend to someone when it is easy. This would be an accurate way to describe my treatment of Mike Southworth during freshman year. Mike went out of his way consistently to be a friend to me and I never reciprocated the gesture. I later found out, when Mikey confronted me about my shortcomings as a friend that all this was going on while he was enduring a tough time at home with his family. In the midst of what was happening at home, Mike still made the effort to go out of his way to be friendly and kind to me and I went out of my way to do the opposite. I’m glad Mikey had the courage to confront me about my mistreatment of him because by doing so, he gave me a chance to make amends and prove myself a good friend. Even after all this, it wasn’t until junior year that I got to know Mikey really well by playing his father in The Wall. While my character was not so nice to him in the play, I finally began to treat Mikey the way he treated me, as a friend. We’ve had too many good times since then and hanging out with Mikey is always a fun time, even though he does play too much Frank Ocean in the car. I’m so glad that you decided to give me a second chance Mikey, if you had not, my last years at Nobles would not have been as special as they were.

Many of you know my next example by his actual name, Justin Jimenez, but for the sake of comedy, I will refer to him strictly by his rapper name, OvaFlo. Ova and I go way back, all the way back to when I would ride the bus to and from Nobles each day. Some of you are probably saying to yourselves, “There’s a bus to and from Nobles?” And the answer to that would be, yes! There is! It is one of the lesser-known and less sacred secrets of Nobles. Each morning the bus would depart from Forest Hills train station at 7:30 sharp and each morning, I would get a call at 7:29 from none other than my man OvaFlo. Through the phone I would hear OvaFlo’s heavy footfalls on the concrete as he sprinted done the block towards the bus. I’d yell to the bus driver to hold the bus and OvaFlo would appear moments later out of breath, but smiling ear-to-ear, which made it very difficult to be annoyed with him for holding us all up. I stopped taking the bus after freshman year, but I miss those calls I would get from OvaFlo. I’m lucky enough to have been in a few Nobles performances with Ova and his talent on the stage is second only to his talent with a beat, a microphone, and his voice. Your perseverance in the pursuit of doing what you love is something that your classmates and I greatly admire. Ova, if you ever make it big in the rap game, don’t forget where you came from.

To sum up all these experiences I will say that I had many impressions and judgments about my classmates in the first years of high school, but I was lucky enough to have all of these changed by finally accepting Nobles into my life. By opening myself up to my classmates I was able to fully embrace the community here and it has been such an honor and a privilege to walk these halls with the company of such a wonderful senior class. My only regret is that I took far too long to realize how special this place is. The experiences I have had here and the people I have been lucky enough to meet have made my time at Nobles worthwhile and I will not forget either of them soon. To quote Andy Bernard from The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days, before you’ve left them.”

And now, I must say thank you. To my beautiful parents, I want to thank each of you individually. Ladies first, so.... Dad. Are you still awake? Good. You have been the best role model and father a boy could ask for. You have been patient, generous, kind, and loyal to me and for that I thank you a thousand times over. Mother, are you crying yet? Good. Your loving attitude and generous spirit have helped me countless times when I needed it most. I would not be the person I am today without you and your constant love and for that, I thank you.  My dearest sister Sophie, I am so glad you are here today to witness this glorious moment. I know this is almost three months late, but I would like to take this time to offer my formal condolences to you on the death of your rabbit Jaeger. I would have said something sooner, but the grief left me at a loss for words. Sophie you have had my back since Day 1 and I know that though at times it may be hard to tell, I have yours as well and I love you. You are a wonderful sister and an even better friend and for that, I thank you.

The faculty here at Nobles is some of the best teachers and role models in the world. I have learned so much from all of you both inside and outside the classroom and the knowledge you have bestowed upon my classmates and me will serve us well in life. You provided for us the tools we will need to become leaders for the public good in our own individual ways and for that, I thank you.

The friends I have made at Nobles will hopefully be with me for years to come and I want all of you to know that I love you each immensely. Some of you have seen me at my best and others at my worst, but all of you have been there for me in one way or another and for that, I thank you all.

And now I will address the Class of 2014 directly so the rest of you, stop listening, these words are not for you. My fellow seniors, what a remarkable ride it has been. I am so fortunate to have been a part of such an amazing and unique group of people. All of us should be proud of one another and ourselves for accomplishing what we have in the little time that was given to us here. Whatever your plans are for next year, I wish you the best of luck. Yesterday in our last Creative Writing class, Ms. Seelen spoke to us and along with talking at length about her dogs Lovey and Smush, she said something that I think you all should hear. She said, “If leaving Nobles is hard for you, then it has been worthwhile.” Her simple words resonated within me and I knew that she was right. I hope they have a similar affect on you.

I know that for me, leaving this place will be difficult, but I find solace in knowing that I will not be alone once I leave Nobles, for I will have all of you in my heart

There is a quote from the legendary Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius that I stumbled upon this spring, which sums up my feelings about our time at Nobles most eloquently. “Accept the things to which fate binds you, love the people with whom fate brings you together, and do so with all your heart.”

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"A Thank You Letter To the Belmont Hill Admissions Office," by Mo Afdhal '14