By Jenny Coyne ’18
This year I started journaling. Every night, after I finished up my WebAssign problem sets, English poetry journals, and French causettes, I would crawl into my bed and begin my nightly reflection. My journal was not littered with earth shattering insights or existential truths. It was not filled with the emotional toil of a teenage girl living in the suburbs. It was not a collection of doodles. So, what was it? What did I commit myself to writing?
Every night, I wrote strictly pragmatic reflections that described my daily actions; sometimes, the opening lines became rather tedious. Here a collection of my best: “Wow, I hate Church” (sorry Mom and Dad!), “What a day. It was Tuesday, but felt like a Monday” (how insightful, Jenny.), “Today was my first water main day!” (remember that?). The following pages of handwritten paragraphs document my day, describing classes, free times, sports practices, and homework.
I began writing with the intention of reading my journal in the future, jumping back in time to any specific day and being able to relive it in memory. As I was writing, this seemed like a far-off and distant goal. Spending time every night to record what seemed like the basic motions of everyday life was hard to do. However, now I have one of the first chances to reap the benefits of my strictly pragmatic journal. I want to share my journal entry from one of my favorite days of senior year: February 1, 2018.
TODAY WAS MY JOURNAL CLUB PRESENTATION! I woke up at 5:55 AM because I wanted to get to school at 7:00 for a 7:25 start. So, I showered, put on my outfit, and ate breakfast with Mom. In my new business look, I felt like a put together boss lady. I got to school at seven and made some last-minute adjustments to my slides (I actually changed the entire group delay dispersion section). Then I went down to the lab to get a beaker for the bent pencil refraction example. When I got back up to the faculty lounge at 7:05 for a 7:25 start, the room was locked, and there was no journal club member in sight. Finally, a member of the kitchen staff came in, and I started rearranging the furniture. Too bad that wasn’t done earlier!
As 7:25 approached, people started to trickle in, and guess who was the first to arrive? Jamie! With minty mint tea! BOI! A lot of my other friends came too: Josie, Shruti, Alexis, Sana, Clyde, Helen and Kevin Ma, Kassidy, Naiyah, and more! It was so cool to have so many of my friends there to support me. Wow, I love Pingry. I really wanted people to come, but I didn’t want to seem self-important. The presentation itself went well. I started out with an Oprah meme and diffraction grating glasses. Then we talked about light as a wave, reflection and refraction, and finally the paper itself: “A broadband achromatic metalens for focusing and imaging in the visible.” My presentation was just about 30 minutes long, a little too long, but I had fun! I was so touched that so many of my friends came (and brought my favorite tea!).
After the presentation I was floating on a high. Mom, Dad, and I went out to Starbucks for breakfast. We saw Mrs. Simon, mother of Alli Simon, and we talked about Handbells. At school, I had physics, Chinese, and math, along with a credit union meeting, iRT, and practice. A long but super fun day!
Because I loved presenting at Journal Club so much, I think that I might want to be a professor when I grow up. So now, I have three things: work at NASA, be an architect, and be a professor!
There are a couple of conclusions that I can draw from this entry, most of which are fairly obvious and you, as a reader, probably expect to see in a senior reflection. 1) At Pingry, I fostered amazing friendships that grew into real networks of support. 2) Clubs at Pingry, like Journal Club, give us all opportunities to deeply explore our interests and share our findings with others. 3) Starbucks is literally a breeding ground for Pingry connections. Talking to Mrs. Simon about Handbells was a highlight of my day!
To me, this journal entry reveals something much bigger. This journal entry was just another day in my life. When I was rereading this entry, I was shocked by the tone of normalcy. Besides the capitalized introductory sentence “TODAY WAS MY JOURNAL CLUB PRESENTATION.” and the “Wow, I love Pingry,” nothing in the entry communicated anything extraordinary. I never once said “This was an amazing day.” To me, presenting on premier scientific literature at 7:30, going out to breakfast with my parents, attending classes, meetings, and swim practice constituted a standard day. Looking back on it, February 1, 2018 would be considered an amazing day under nearly any circumstances other than my Pingry student perspective. It was a day that I decided academia could be a career, a day in which I was able to spend time with my parents, and a day in which friends loved and supported me, but to me it was a day that was filled with what seemed to be normalcy.
At Pingry, the extraordinary experiences are so often that they appear normal and average. In what universe does a seventeen-year-old hustle from optical physics to millennium handbells to the financial world to cancer mutation to swim practice? At Pingry, you can do it all, and it seems normal. However, on February 1, 2018, I groaned as I sat in bed and dreaded writing my entry for the day. I did not consider that day to be particularly extraordinary, and I even questioned if anything noteworthy had actually happened. Today, I know the answer. It is only with the perspective of time—and those seemingly tedious and dumb journal entries—that I have been able to appreciate the extraordinarily ordinary life that Pingry gave me.