A long time ago, in a memory lost to the infinite trek of time, I remember someone saying to me, “It matters not when you start or where you end. What mattes is the journey in between.” I was in Kindergarten when I first heard that saying, and I was probably too young to be thinking such deep and philosophical thoughts. Now, however, I can fully grasp the concept of the statement: to enjoy life to the fullest. There were many roads to take at John Thomas Dye, but, quoting Robert Frost, “I took the one less traveled by.”
John Thomas Dye had been the best seven years of my life. It is a nurturing center where I learned to write, to read, and even to tie my shoes without using bunny ears. To many, John Thomas Dye is home; to others, it is a place where they can relax and chat, but to me, JTD is an unforgettable journey. It is an adventure where I learned many valuable lessons that one could not learn by paper and pen but only by personal experience.
In Kindergarten, when I first came to this school, I did not have many friends because I was a shy and timid child. I had two best guy friends and one best girl friend, but besides that, I did not socialize much with other kids. I spent my days building sand castles in the sand pit alone and occasionally playing freeze tag with some other kids, but I never asked anybody to come over to my house; I was far too insecure and scared of rejection to do so. A year later in first grade, I had made a few more friends due to being the king of the handball court, but whenever the kids played football, I always felt left out. I would sit by a large, shady tree and observe the other boys, once again too scared of asking for fear of being rejected. My interest in the arts increased when I made a few comics about frogs with my friends, but I never showed the comics to anyone due to fear of them disliking what I produced.
However, everything changed.
On a cold, dark day in second grade, I was sitting in my usual, lonely spot underneath a tall and majestic tree. There were thunderclouds in the sky, black and menacing, and they looked as if they would start raining any minute. Oblivious to the weather, I sat there, watching the other boys in my grade play football, and I, still too shy to ask to join, remained content with watching. The boys playing football were big and loud, and I was small of stature and quiet of voice. I never thought that they would want to play football with me, but that day, someone, whose name I dare not mention, proved me wrong. A child with bright blonde hair and a happy smile walked over to me, extending a hand. At first I stared at it, trying to fathom what this possibly meant, when he smiled breezily and asked me to play football with him and to be on his team. Without hesitation, since I had been waiting for this moment, I nodded profusely. The grin on the boy’s face nearly cracked his face in two, and I believe that I was smiling like a kid who got what he wanted for Christmas. Even though rain started cascading from the sky minutes later, I knew that from now on, my journey at John Thomas Dye had changed. One boy’s innocent kindness, to me, had made all the difference in the world.
It was in the third grade when I noticed how much I changed. The constant hesitation and doubts gnawing at the back of my mind slowly ebbed away, and I started making more and more friends; none with girls, however, I believed that they had cooties back then. Gone was the boy with the small stature, enter a new kid, one with a booming voice and large size. I gained more self-confidence by the day and realized that I did not need to be ashamed of who I am. I thrived in the intricate and beautifully woven community of John Thomas Dye, and I realized that it was unnecessary to hide who I am. I learned to never be ashamed of who you are. My social life took a turn for the better, with me becoming less and less shy and more and more open. However, doubt still lingered in my mind. I played an instrument and I played it well, as everybody told me, so people started requesting that I do Music for Lunch Bunch. With the exception of one time, I never had the guts to do so, and I never participated in track events either. I knew that I was not an athletic kid, so why bother?
My friends always told me, “Why don’t you try doing an event for track? I mean, it can’t hurt, can it? If you don’t win, at least you can say that you tried.”
That was, admittedly, probably the most important thing that any of my friends told me. So, listening to my friends, I decided to try running an event in fourth grade. I won it, surprising the socks off of every kid in the grade. That day I learned that you could never succeed if you never try. It changed my perspective upon life and my way of completing tasks. I started pumping maximum effort into everything that I did and tried new things, such as new sports and activities. I found that I had talent in some areas that I never knew I had, but the beginning of my new experiences was just about to start. Just as I was starting to become confident in my abilities as a sports player, I suffered an utterly crushing and humiliating defeat. In no time I gained my confidence back, bouncing back from the defeat with a type of resilience that I never knew I possessed. I learned that you can’t always succeed the first time you try something new, and more importantly, how to bounce back from defeat. I learned how to handle stressful situations with aplomb, such as making the game ending flag pull or swinging the game winning hit, which I later applied to my real life. My sports journey at John Thomas Dye had taught me a litany of important lessons that remains unrivaled to as of today, but the most important thing it gave me was confidence.
When I was in fifth grade, I was one of those big and loud kids playing football on the new turf field. No longer was I small of stature and quiet of voice; that phase of me disappeared in third grade. Now I was one of the loudest and biggest kids in the grade, easily able to shout across the entire field without a problem. But one day, I saw a kid in my grade, looking eerily similar to how I was in second grade, sitting alone underneath the shade of a tree. Without a single doubt in my mind, I ran over to him, offering him a flag and a place on my team. Just like me all those years ago, he said “yes” with a bright smile, and I could feel my eyes crinkle with how wide my grin was, because in his yes, I knew that it had made all the difference in the world for him. Now, looking back on it, I clearly remember what I learned that day: acts of kindness, no matter how large or small, can make all the difference in the world.
A year later in sixth grade, I can only remember how close of a family the grade has become. Everybody knows each other intimately, and everybody is friends with one another. I recall a particular experience where I had, without being too specific, fractured a part of my body and seriously hampered my own ability to do everyday tasks. When I arrived at school on the first day, I was scared that I was going to have to brave the storm all by myself, but my friends proved me wrong. They helped me carry my books, copy down homework assignments, and even kept me company during recess since I couldn’t engage in physical activities. The sheer number of volunteers and people willing to use their time to help me often made me shield my eyes and blink back tears that I never knew were there. That is how wonderful and close-knit the community at John Thomas Dye is; we are family in all but name. They will always be there for me when I fall, offering me a hand to help me get back up. They will always be there for me when I am going through rough seas, doing everything and anything they can to help me through. Every time I walk down the hallways, I see people who I’ve shared dozens upon dozens, scores upon scores of memories with. A girl high-fives me so hard that I scream in half pain, half laughter, watching one of my best friends roll her eyes at me, only making me laugh harder. Then another one of my friends pick me up, offering a corny joke that makes me smile every single time. That’s the beauty of John Thomas Dye in a nutshell, and I learned that no matter what, your friends and family will always be there to support you.
John Thomas Dye was a magnificent journey, one that gave me memories to cherish and priceless lessons to remember. I cannot help but think that the road I had taken at John Thomas Dye was the one less traveled, but, at the bottom of my heart, I have come to realize that every single one of us had taken our own unique roads, our own roads less taken. Now, at my graduation, I can only smile sadly at my friends who I have come to regard as family. Some of us are parting paths; some of us are going together onto the next big journey that is secondary school.
I arrived at JTD a shy and timid child, unsure about everything. Then, during my journey at John Thomas Dye, I learned to never be ashamed of whom I am, and that no matter where I started, as long as I tried my very best, I could achieve anything I desired. But when defeat came upon me, I learned how to bounce back from it and turn the defeat into victory by learning from it. I learned that kindness could be used in abundance to people, and I knew that a tiny bit of kindness could very well make all the difference in the world. Most importantly, however, I learned that I would always be able to rely upon my friends and family. Those lessons I learned along the journey shaped me and molded me into the person that I am today, at the end of my long expedition. Now, at the end of everything, I realize that this is not the end; no, it is the opposite. This is but the beginning of my journey in life.
To me, John Thomas Dye was a grand adventure, one where I started small and ended big. And, needless to say, I enjoyed every step of it.