There is something to be said regarding invisible strings. Strings that tie our past to our future without realizing it until we finally locate a visible thread to pull on— strings that connect seemingly random and minuscule parts of our lives to parts that now define us.
The first time I flew into New York City was in seventh grade. It was for a gymnastics competition, and apparently, I did well at the meet, but I hardly remember it. However, I was so infatuated with the city that I wanted to do nothing but explore it and live in it for the short weekend we were there. My mom's boss at the time had a daughter who lived in the city and was our tour guide for the trip. She showed us all the best spots: Rockefeller center, the upper east side, SoHo, and of course, her school, The Kings College.
It's funny, I didn't even remember visiting you back then until I snooped around old photographs on my mom's phone when she came to visit me in New York. The picture is blurry, and my smile looks forced, but the sign reading "The Kings College" above my head is as clear as day. I'm sure my mother made me take the photo, and I doubt it crossed my mind that I would ever go to Kings.
Yet, here we are.
School for me was never enjoyable. Dare I say I hated it? I hated school because they took this wonderful concept of learning and discovering new things and completely ruined it with the atmosphere of judgment, suppression of creativity and strict deadlines, and basing intelligence off of a letter. I thought that school would forever be like that, but then I found you, and you changed everything. You made me fall back in love with education, real education-- not fabricated common core that I was forced to learn in high school. But critical thinking and valuable information that is applicable to real life. And in this education that you have blessed me with, I found parts of myself buried so deep I didn't even know they were there.
I've always felt I needed to be the person people expected me to be, and I hate that person. She is cold and coarse, and vulgar. Not many people like her, but I thought that was the only way I was seen. So the persona that I formed years ago became my person. Then I walked through your front doors, and you ripped off my mask and threw it on the ground, and I was scared. Scared because I now had to be vulnerable, scared because I was afraid people wouldn't like the real me, scared because I didn't even know who I was. But you helped me, took me, and you helped me turn myself into something better.
To say I was nervous about coming to kings was an understatement. I was a Christian, sure, but then again, I wasn't. I said I was, but I was going through the motion. I was scared to come to Kings because I realized I would have to confront my faith one way or another. I knew moving would either cause me to grow in my faith or leave it behind, a person can't be lukewarm in New York City, and I didn't know which one Kings would cause. There have been so many instances where my Christian friends have gone to Christian schools and walked out as unbelievers, and I wanted to believe wholeheartedly, and now I think that if it weren't for you, I would have lost my faith. But, instead of losing it, I grew in it. Thanks to you, I grew in it more in the few short months I've been here than I had in years.
To think that one day when I was eleven, I met you and didn't know how you would change my life is surreal to me. Now I'm sitting here in my Kings apartment writing this wondering how on earth I will ever be able to repay you for what you did for me. I don't think I ever will. I don't think I could even if I tried.
Ava Marie Van Hala
Ava Van Hala
Student | House of Queen Elizabeth 1 | Class of '26
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