Patrick Huang '11 (Rice University)Dear Montgomery,
If you are too busy doing that AP assignment that is due tomorrow, you should go and do that first. If you have a few minutes to spare though, feel free to spend those minutes reading about some memories and some advice from an old man. Well, an old man by your standards anyway.
It has been a few years since I have graduated high school and that connection to Montgomery is already beginning to fade a little. As I begin to recognize fewer and fewer students, I also feel less comfortable returning to visit. There is no one for me to see anymore but my wonderful teachers who have not yet retired. Nevertheless, even as the attachment begins to dwindle, the memories remain very real. Regardless of who you meet and what you do in high school, keep in mind that the memories you create and the experiences that you have are the components that will remain with you.
As I begin to reflect on my high school days, I realize that what I remember about Montgomery is rather fragmented. Putting the pieces back together, what I immediately see is a mix between long evenings doing homework, playing on the ice hockey team, and spending time with friends. Whether it was a trip to Wawa drinking one of those ridiculously over sized slurpies, going to the movies to watch an awful chick flick with Amanda Seyfried or even a quiet night lying on my bed and chatting on facebook, these are the chunks that I have taken with me. To you, this may seem rather normal if you didn't know that I was a high achieving, stressed out and overly ambitious student at the time. Grades consumed my life in high school, and yet, looking back, I couldn't even tell you my grade in my AP English classes, which were my favorite classes. I couldn't even give you an estimate. What I can tell is the significance of the books we read. I can tell you why Frankenstein is applicable to our technologically obsessed society today or why if you procrastinate, you may end up like Hamlet (not that that should discourage you from joining our fencing team, which is excellent). My experience, and not my grade, in English is why I am currently majoring in English at Rice University. Don't let your ambition dictate your experiences, let your interests determine your experiences.
I realize I am writing to a specific audience, which is why I started my thoughts the way I did. However, considering Montgomery's reputation for producing highly ambitious students, I have no doubt that this specific audience happens to be very large. If you got bored of the ramblings of an old man and want a simple message from all of this, then I will stop ranting like Tristram Shandy and offer you one. I am not telling you to give up your ambition, to forget your studies, and to become a hedonist. What I am doing is encouraging you to have some perspective and realize that sometimes you need to settle down and really consider what kind of experiences you have had so far. If everything you do is just another line to add to your resume, then you are approaching the opportunity you are given the wrong way. Take the time to find some direction and remember that life is not only about where you go to college. Everyone sees going to a top college as a buffer - even if I don't work as hard in college, I can still succeed based on the reputation of my institution. I won't lie to you and tell you that that isn't true, since as a nation, reputation plays an enormous role in determining qualifications, but I will say that if that is your sole reason for going to a good college, then you have already failed. High school, college, wherever you are, is not entirely about achievement - no one will remember what you got on that last biology exam 10 years from now - but it is also about experience. Looking back to my high school days, it is these memories that remain. It is these memories that have made me smarter, that have made me wiser and more understanding. It is these memories that have allowed me to finally figure out what I want to do with my life and comfortably settle into a lifestyle that is beneficial to both my ambitions and my health. As an old man, I can tell you with certainty that it is ultimately these memories that will remain with you too.Sincerely,Patrick HuangClass of 2011