This post is dedicated to Jenny Lai and her unique, positive vision for herself and everyone around her. We met living down the hall from each other at our arts boarding high school in Natick, MA. We'd have dance parties in her room, hang out in practice rooms, explore together. She always knows what I need, often before I do. My first time in New York was with her to scope out whether we'd want to go to college there. If I hadn't gone with her, my life might've been really different. I think it's definitely high time we went back to our roots- 12 years later (last time was freshman year of college).
Walnut Hill School for the Arts feels like a secret gem, tucked a short ride on the metro away from Boston. A little oasis for arty high schoolers from all over the world who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, or so they thought. As background- I used to want to be an opera singer. My dad loved classical music and supported my yearning to be on stage. My siblings and I all took piano lessons already, so I started doing my vocal scales on the keyboard after practicing the same songs they were. I knew I didn't want to stay in Texas forever, so I presented the idea to my voice teacher, and made a tape. When I found out I got a scholarship, I presented the idea to my parents. To their credit, they let me go with some conditions, like I wouldn't date anyone, and continue to go to church every Sunday. And I followed those rules. Once I got to school, I met some great friends. To this day Jenny and a few others are still very important to me. I admire and am inspired by them a lot. Halfway through my Junior year, I had a very serious talk with my dormitory parent/ surrogate advisor/ birthday twin Ken Tighes, who said he saw me sketching every night and if that's actually what I wanted to do for college- I should start making my portfolio right away. If he hadn't helped me move to the Art Department, my life would have been (again) very different. To go back to this place and reminisce with these people was very special to me.
I remember being fifteen: hanging out in the grass snacking, sneaking into the campus center at night to drink chocolate milk, and painting for hours in my art studio space. Getting to see Jim Woodside, who was head of the Art Department and has only grown more and more into his role since I was a student, and his granddaughter Juniper, was incredible. His daughter Ruby is so great and Becca who hung out and walked around with us.
This whole trip took around 24 hours total. Took the bus down Friday night and got in super late, looked at our old art with Jenny, woke up in New York and took another bus down to Boston to ride the old red line to Natick. Ate some McDonalds but also really good tacos at a place called Southwest Grill, both inside South Station. After the afternoon walking around, we got dinner in Cambridge at Kimchi Kitchen and then I uber'd to the airport to get back home to Baltimore Saturday night. I almost teared up at the most perfect cup of coffee Mark had waiting for me when I got into the car: warm milk with honey mixed in, and fresh hot coffee poured over it.