Tufts University is responsible for one of the most important moments in my life. Last year, while doing college applications, I encountered Tufts’s essay question:
“There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood or community – and how it influenced the person you are today.”
I sat and pondered what I was going to say. Then, my mom suggested that I write about my third grade teacher who is one of the individuals most responsible for making me the person I am today.
Rewind to third grade. I was a young, impressionable child who had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life or even the vaguest idea of what interested me. However, once I entered Ms. Billings’ classroom, my eyes were opened. The second she spoke about politics and the environment, she had me hooked – I could never go back. Although it seems crazy that a third grader could absorb or even understand any of this information, I took what Ms. Billings said to heart. From then on out, I would proudly march around my house lecturing my parents about recycling or the upcoming presidential election. Imagine their surprise when an eight-year-old attempted to teach them which presidential candidate would be the better choice.
Though it seems silly that I thought I knew more about the environment or politics than my parents, that passion, so overblown and ridiculous coming from an eight-year-old, grew and stayed with me. In high school I expanded my interest in politics and government, and this same enthusiasm drew me to CMC where I can grow and invest my time into these issues that Ms. Billings taught me about.
Before I graduated last spring, I visited Ms. Billings. Driving up to my elementary school was surreal; everything seemed smaller, the buildings, the classrooms, the playground. When I entered my old third grade classroom, I sat down in the same seat I had nine years ago, my knees knocking into my ribs due to the minuscule size of the chair. I read Ms. Billings my college essay and cried, not just tearing up, but full on struggling to make words. In that moment I was struck by the smallness of my gesture in the face of the enormity of her impact on me. How could I possibly thank this woman enough for everything she had done for me?
After I read her my essay, we talked about what I have been up to in the many years that have passed since the third grade. While telling her all that I have done, in my mind I kept circling back to the fact that I might have never accomplished any of these things if I had been in a different class. It’s weird to think about how different my life would be if one simple thing had been changed. I felt profoundly thankful that I had someone who opened my eyes up to the world and helped me realize my passions. Our meeting helped me to see how big of an impact this one woman had on my life, and also demonstrated to her how grateful I am to have known her. About a week after I met with Ms. Billings, she sent me an email saying how I not only made her day, but her year as well; that the reason she got into teaching was for moments like that.
I am so thankful that I had this experience, and I strongly encourage everyone to try something like this–to thank their role models. Whether it be sending them an email, or calling them up, thank your role models. Let them know about their importance. If there’s a professor at CMC who has had an important impact on you, go tell them how important they are to you. Do it right now – shoot them an email or go to office hours. Chances are that person won’t even realize how big of an impact they have had on one’s life–Ms. Billings certainly didn’t beforehand. Now, whenever I’m asked to write or think about who my role model is, I have no hesitation. So be grateful and let your role models know how much you appreciate them. Not only will it make them feel amazing, you’d be surprised by how good it will make you feel too.