“Disappearing Act” by Nairi Brown '16

Almost five years ago, my mom and I began meeting with an educational consultant to discuss what private schools might fit me best. I soon got my heart set on Concord Academy. The consultant described Concord as a cozy sweater, and that’s exactly what I thought I wanted. A warm, cozy, tight-knit sweater. I visited Concord, and indeed picked up on that sweater vibe. In contrast, I remember visiting Nobles and thinking, “yeah, I’m not really getting that vibe here.”

To make a long story short, I loved Concord but Concord didn’t love me. They felt so-so about me, or whatever emotion is equivalent to waitlisting somebody. To my surprise though, I got into Nobles, which meant I had to start seriously considering coming here. I won’t bore you with the details of my decision process, because I’m up here talking to you, so clearly, I chose Nobles.

Now, you have to understand that I knew nothing about Nobles. I’m not somebody with a grandparent or parent who went here. In fact, nobody in my entire family has ever even gone to private school. Even to this day, my grandfather will occasionally refer to this place as “Barnes and Noble,” and sometimes, I’m really not sure he’s joking.

So, in September of 2012, I stepped into a completely new world, and very shortly after, found myself feeling hopelessly lost. Everything that I thought I had been good at seemed to fade away. At my old school, I had been one of the “smart kids.” I got here, saw William Wang, and knew that gig was up. I had played soccer for eight years. I gave up on the idea of continuing before I even got here. I thought it was good that at least I liked theater, because I thought Nobles was really more of a sports school. I soon realized there were tons of professionally trained actors all around me. Any ideas of who I was and what I was good at were shattered. Everywhere I looked, somebody was more talented. Somebody was smarter. In my eyes, everywhere I looked, somebody was just better.

So, just as I had done in middle school, I shrunk into myself. At my old school I had felt invisible, and here, I felt even more invisible. Soon, I felt myself disappear into the background. I experienced rejection after rejection, and I began to see myself as a loser who didn’t really belong here. Maybe I shouldn’t have left my old school. Maybe I’m not good enough to be here. Maybe I should go back to public school. At least they don’t have a dress code. A quick aside — I was looking at some of the outfits I wore freshmen year, and thinking “honestly, I really should have broken dress code if these outfits were my other options.” Anyway, I continued on.

Naturally, things eventually got a little better for me as time went on, but not enough to assure me that I had made the right choice coming here. I learned how to manage my work and started doing pretty well in my classes, which was a nice change from my continual C’s in Kehlenbeck geometry. I made more friends and connected with incredible faculty. But, I still didn’t feel like a true part of this community, and I certainly didn’t feel as if people saw who I really was.

That didn’t come until late into my junior year, when I gave a NED talk — the first time. For those of you who don’t know, I spoke about living with type 1 diabetes, something I have had since I was six years old. While I thought the talk would be a good idea, I never thought it would so dramatically alter the course of my Nobles journey. Sure, I was proud of the courage I had to speak in front of the whole school, and I was relieved that people laughed. But, what that talk did for me was so much more than give people some information or a few laughs. It changed how people saw me. But, it also changed how I saw Nobles.

The reaction from this community astounded me. People, whether I knew them or not, reached out to me, and congratulated me for what I had done. People were actually interested in what I had to say. From that time on, I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be in such a supportive and caring community. People wanted me to succeed, and people actually wanted to hear my story. It hadn’t been like that at my old school. I started to realize just how special this place is, and how much I needed to appreciate my time here.

Not only that, but I had finally found a way to show the community who I really was and give them a taste of my personality. It wasn’t until then that I carried myself with a confidence that had never been there before. If it weren’t for that, I doubt I’d be standing here today.

So, what’s the point? The point is that I was never really invisible. There were always people here who saw who I really was, or at least wanted to. The only person that thought I was a loser was myself, and that is what dragged me down. That’s what prevented me from showing people who I really was. I was caught up in things like making the newspaper or getting a role in the play. But, opportunities like those only came after I was confident in who I was as a person. I had to trust myself a little more. Really, I had to like myself a little more, or truthfully, a lot more.

So, no matter who you are, what grade you are in, or what sports you do, there are people here who see you. Maybe it’s the Mr. Denning who calls you at 9 PM on a Friday night, because you just got deferred from college, and he knows you’re feeling as if you won’t get in anywhere. Maybe it’s the Mr. Hoe who notices that you aren’t acting yourself in class even when you yourself hadn’t noticed, so he checks in with you. Or maybe it’s the Mr. Sheeran, who, when the most important person in your life, your mom, is about to have lung surgery, talks with you after school for a half hour and continually checks in with you. Why? Because, despite your strong attitude at home, and despite your attempt to act tough, he knows that truthfully, you are absolutely terrified. People at this school are here for you and they care about you deeply. Sometimes you have to be vulnerable. Sometimes you have to ask for help. But most of the time, people see you need help before you’ve even mentioned the problem. They were there for me, ready to help.

I must also add that from day one I was supported by my wonderful mom, dad and brother. They’ve always been here for me, and on the days when I was sad and had no hope, they got me to keep going and to try one more day. My mom is my hero, and she has always been my biggest fan. As embarrassing as it may be, when I was struggling, my mom would joke with me about an ant who defied the odds by knocking down a rubber tree, even when everybody told him he couldn’t. That story got me through, and, to this day, my mom still calls me “ant.”

Finally, there are 123 other very special people I need to thank. I’d like to thank my wonderful class for voting me to give this speech. I am incredibly honored, especially given that any one of you could have given a memorable and special speech. I’ve never felt more “seen,” in my life, and it took you guys to help me get there, along with my parents, teachers, and lastly, myself. What I know now, and what I wish I had known earlier, is that there is always somebody looking out for you, there is always somebody that sees you. However, I have also learned that the most important person that needs to see you is yourself.

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“Disappearing Act” by Nairi Brown '16