Elli Carlson '20The following essay is adapted from MPA Class of 2020 member Elli Carlson’s Senior Speech. Elli joined MPA as a sophomore in August 2017.

I have been looking for “home” for as long as I can remember. Places I can be me, comfortably and unapologetically. Those places have changed as I have grown, and I’m sure my search will last my entire lifetime as I continue to evolve.

From a young age, I thought school would be my first home. I possessed an unrelenting love for learning, so I naturally imagined school as a haven for my curiosity. My mom frequently recounts the story of my first day of kindergarten, when I hopped off the school bus, ran up the driveway, and immediately asked her “When are we going to start the real learning? All we did was play!”

I was dissatisfied with my school experience from the get-go. So, I pushed some boundaries. For show and tell, I “borrowed” my mom’s camera and brought it to class, documenting the goings-on within my kindergarten classroom. When I got home that day, I slipped the camera back where I found it and my mom didn’t realize what I had done until two or three weeks later. It wasn’t that I was inherently trying to challenge the expectation; I was searching for more stimulation. A pattern of boredom resulting in fluke misbehavior followed me through middle school, putting me in detention and prompting disapproving looks from teachers in class.

My grades started to slip, especially in math, which was in my least favorite class. My parents were furious at my lack of completing mundane homework assignments, but I knew the problem was bigger. Only I was able to connect the dots that my worsening grades came from my least favorite teacher. I tend to match my teachers’ investment in classes, so a complete lack of concern for his students didn’t motivate me in the least.

Optimistic, I toughed it out at my school for another year, and to my parents’ pleasure, with better grades. To my dismay, my teachers’ lack of investment in me persisted. As time progressed, I became more and more discouraged to the point of reconsidering my future and a goal I had possessed for years: going to college. I knew I needed a change. I think I was seeking a new home.

Around the same time, the house with the driveway I used to ride my tricycle up and down began to feel less like home. It came to a head when my parents separated. It had been a long time coming, but this was the first time my entire family hadn’t lived under one roof. To say the least, it was a difficult transition.

Luckily, the dissipation of my home into four hollow walls largely coincided with finding a place that would become a new home for me. My MPA journey began with an eclipse, literally. I visited campus for the first time on August 21, 2017, the day of the total solar eclipse, and immediately fell in love.

Less than three days later, I walked into my first class and met some of my best friends to this day. Before the end of my first day, I met nearly everyone in the Upper School and almost every teacher. To say the community was welcoming would be an understatement. It’s disheartening to think I had never experienced a school so warm and accepting before coming to MPA, but that was the unfortunate reality of my old school. In contrast, I could feel MPA becoming a new home to me from the minute I got here.

Over the past two years, that feeling has grown into a love I never expected. From everything between joining debate, playing soccer again, renewing my love for theatre, and furthering my photography skills, MPA provided opportunities I eagerly took and ran with. But this school is so much more than just a mechanism opening doors for its students. I can earnestly say that if not for this community, I would not have made it through last year and my parent’s divorce.

I used to think home was just somewhere I could be myself. It wasn’t until I came to MPA that I learned a true home gives you what you need before you even know you need it. Nothing could have prepared me for what I went through in the divorce but thanks to MPA, I had everything, and more importantly, everyone I needed. Through the ups and downs I have experienced within the last two years, I have been lucky enough to have a solid support system here.

Three-year-old me could have never dreamt of the places I call home today. Her concept of home was limited to four yellow brick walls and the maple tree that loomed over them. She would have never thought she’d look forward to waking up at six on Saturday mornings. Never could she have imagined being inspired to complete her homework to fulfill the requirements of her favorite place on Earth, and ultimately the place she would feel most at home.

As someone who values the ability to guide my own path, I haven’t always handled change well. Through my journey searching for home, I’ve become familiar with change and learned how good change can be. Both my family and education look different than I could have ever imagined. As a result, I’m considering aspects of my future I wouldn’t have thought of let alone knew existed four years ago. We are all in the midst of searching for our next home and awaiting what is, for many of us, the biggest change in our lives thus far. Change, as intimidating as it is, is one of the best constants in life, and I know it is what has made mine so great.

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