It was my first day at a new school, but when my fourth-grade teacher walked in, gave us a sheet of paper, and instructed us to write a story on it, all of my nerves dissipated. As I wrote, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t made friends yet, or that I was one of only two Hispanic students in the classroom. When I wrote, I finally felt comfortable. I felt an ease lay over my skin, a tingle that ran through my fingers until it disappeared around the pencil in my grip.
This feeling, however, mostly disappeared as I moved through middle school. I was a STEM student, I told myself as the years passed. I liked science, and I loved math, and I was good at it. These weren’t necessarily lies - I had good grades overall - but it felt like an excuse, as though the millions of neurons floating around inside my skull had made the executive decision that English was not what a “smart” person studied.
Sure, writing could be (and was) a hobby, but never more than that, never more than something to do for fun. It certainly should not be the focus for someone who wanted to apply to boarding school, which I did. In fact, I thought, creative writing wasn’t what boarding schools valued.
Peddie gave me the opportunity and resources to explore the person I really am and want to be.”
My thinking changed when I first looked at the Peddie website. It was immediately clear that at Peddie, English was important. I could tell that the English faculty made sure to pick books that students would like, put effort into helping everyone improve through the Writing Center and faculty office hours. Teachers continued to educate themselves to ensure that reading lists and classroom discussions could be inclusive, diverse, productive and respectful.
Here, the millions of neurons realized that it was okay, encouraged even, to do what I loved: writing.
It wasn’t easy at first. I struggled to find a balance between the things I felt I should do (clarinet), and the things I now actually wanted to explore. Redefining yourself is hard, but Peddie gave me the opportunity and resources to explore the person I really am and want to be.
I had the courage to petition to join a Creative Writing course even though it meant I could no longer be in the orchestra. I wrote my way into the Creative Writing Signature Experience, earned a place as a Head Writing Fellow, and now serve as a literary editor of “Amphion,” Peddie’s (award-winning) literary magazine.
I’ll admit: I am still scared sometimes. After all, that’s a natural consequence of showing your true self to the outside world, but now I embrace the person I am and the person that I want to be.
Seventeen-year-old me, senior-year Arantxa, is happy. This year, as I plan to write my senior thesis, likely an exploration on human futility throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in literature (specifically in Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”), my fingertips feel that familiar buzz, as the excitement builds, preparing to fill the paper in front of me once more.