Taking a Chance: My Holderness Story

I’m a fairly shy person. Or, at least, I was more shy before I transferred to Holderness my junior year. To some of you that might sound crazy. I’m always up in front of the school, almost to the point where it’s probably annoying. Sorry about that, by the way.


But, in fact, I wasn’t always like this. When I was in middle school, I never spoke out of turn, I kept my head down, and I never stood up for myself (still working on that one). When I was in seventh grade, my school held a small poetry recitation contest. I was terrified at the thought of speaking in front of people, but I wanted to send some sort of message to my peers. It was something that interested me. I went up on stage, got halfway through “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, and forgot my lines.


The worst part of that wasn’t forgetting the words, or embarrassing myself, or the constant self-suppression of my voice thereafter. It was that I wasn’t able to share the message I wanted to send and better my interest.


And I would never get the chance to try again.


If you’ve read the poem, you might be able to discern why I chose it. At that time, I didn’t even realize why it drew my subconscious mind. But I really was the “caged bird.” And boy, was I singing for freedom.


After continuing through the system for four more years, I took a chance and transferred to Holderness for 11th grade.


I came on that first day thinking I wanted to reinvent myself – completely change the way I acted and saw the world. I swore I would be extroverted. I swore I would be outgoing. I swore I would get better at sports, and take myself a lot less seriously. I wanted to leave every part of my past self behind me. No more daydreaming, no, that would never get me anywhere.


I remember watching the fall play that October and seeing pure happiness in every cast member. Everyone in the show had a smile on their face the whole time. They seemed so passionate about what they were doing, and you could tell from the creative ways each actor portrayed his or her character. At the time, I had no idea that many of these people would become my best friends.


That January, I learned that Holderness participated in Poetry Out Loud, which I had no idea about when I applied. I remembered what happened four years earlier and I was hesitant to try it at first. I needed to be practical now that I was at a new school. I already knew I was bad at this,


So why did I feel so compelled to try again?


Everyone in my AP Comp class was excited about the program. They would ask me what poem I was reciting. We would practice together in class. It was very strange to me – completely different from the individual lifestyle I was used to. I browsed the website and picked “On Quitting” by Edgar Albert Guest because it correlated with something I went through in my past. It wasn’t that ambitious of a choice. It rhymed, so it was easy to learn. At that time, I didn’t know I was capable of memorizing anything more difficult than the easy rhymes of “Caged Bird.” Nevertheless, “On Quitting” meant a lot to me, and that was the reason I ended up doing so well with it. I like to speak about my values. Holderness has helped me learn that this is what I am meant to do.


I decided to audition for the spring musical that year, not quite because I loved theatre, but because those same happy cast members from the fall play encouraged me to try it. I wasn’t a singer, I wasn’t a dancer, and I had never been in a show before. But my peers and teachers were so supportive that I barely felt nervous about trying. They took a chance on me, and I took a chance on myself. Now, I have a part in this year’s musical, conveniently singing about that very same message as Rosie in Mamma Mia. The Holderness theater program has offered me an incomparable family. I am so grateful.


Senior Thesis has given me another opportunity to share what’s important to me. I finally was able to pursue my dream of writing a novel. This was something I knew I always wanted to attempt, even when I was back home. But of course, I never really got the chance to try. Although it was a unique topic, my Holderness teachers fully encouraged me to do it. Students often asked about how the writing was going, genuinely interested in my progress and what I’ve decided to write about. I am still in awe in the amount of support I received in everything I’ve done here, as well as the amount of support I’ve had the chance to offer others here. I’ve learned that school is not about working hard only for yourself, but about working together as a community so we all become our best selves.


I eventually realized that Holderness wasn’t changing me. It was enhancing me. It was bringing out the parts of myself that were always buried inside and dug them up, like some sort of lost treasure. The supportive environment, the kind teachers, and close friends that Holderness provides made it so easy to come out of my shell. Without Holderness, I never would have discovered these parts of myself that are now a staple part of my identity. I have grown into a more unique version of myself, one that is not afraid to try new things and be proud of what I love to do. So thank you, Holderness, for taking a chance on me.