For many, this past year was like no other, but as more moments pass that don't feel "normal," we must remember to be grateful for what is and find the bright spots when possible. If there is anything positive to take away from 2020, it's been our heightened ability to discover joy from any simple and slower moments experienced since last March and the start of the pandemic.
As we turn the page to 2021, I am excited for what lies ahead. There are lessons to be learned all around us in and out of school. They are lessons of hope, resilience, and positivity. We entered the school year in September into a territory of many unknowns. While learning in-person at school was something we always took for granted, we now appreciate it for all it provides—a supportive, safe, and joyful environment that allows our students to grow each day. As I pause to reflect on this last year, I look at one student who is especially near and dear to my heart, my son Christopher. I admire his dedication and determination throughout his highly anticipated freshman year at Kenyon.
FH Class of 2016
My youngest son, Christopher (FH Class of 2016), has been home from college since Thanksgiving due to COVID restrictions. Sadly, Kenyon chose to keep first-year students home after the fall semester. This decision had a difficult and emotional impact on my son, who was hopeful and filled with excitement about the prospect of going back after the holidays.
While I relish the joy of seeing him each day, I know his heart is still at college, and he yearns for independence as so many college students do. Nonetheless, he continues to work on creating a routine and staying fit and healthy. It has been incredible to watch him navigate the pandemic and develop ways to stay strong and productive. Christopher was never an athlete; he steered away from the field as one of the youngest in his grade, lacking his middle-school peers' confidence and agility. Never in his wildest dreams did he think of playing a sport at the collegiate level. All of that changed when he took the leap to boarding school and tackled every challenge that came his way. He rose to the occasion and took advantage of any and every opportunity to be an athlete. With grit and focus, Christopher became a three-sport varsity athlete at Portsmouth Abbey School, excelling in football, basketball, and baseball. He believed in himself, and so did those around him.
Kenyon Offensive Line
Determination throughout his high school career helped him develop a sense of commitment and dedication to fitness. Christopher wasn't strong or fast as a child. We always joke that he has my family's speed—the Spiliotes gene, which is relatively slow! He worked diligently in the weight room and focused on his diet throughout his high school years. I marveled as I watched him run sprint after sprint in our backyard during the dog days of August. He tracked his food and weight to get into peak shape for Division III play at Kenyon College. Although the NCAA canceled all games, they could practice and scrimmage, making the best of the situation. Never once did his dedication waver—true season or not, he stayed focused and earned his coaches' respect as one of the hardest working recruits. He reaped the benefits of being positive and strong—a model of perseverance at its best.
You may wonder why I have highlighted my son in this blog? Because, like many, I draw strength from my family. I know how difficult 2020 has been for him and many young adults—no senior year baseball season, no graduation, and a college year cut short. I believe that the foundation of skills that Christopher has learned at Far Hills has helped develop a confident sense of self. He has taken Far Hills' five pillars of character with him every step of the way throughout the peaks and valleys of his life thus far. Respect, Responsibility, Leadership, Kindness, and Honesty these character traits have constantly been nurtured and developed to provide the confidence to lead and succeed in his continued education and beyond. Every day Christopher still smiles and finds a way to get the job done. Who knows what the rest of the year will bring, but he is determined to make the best of whatever is thrown his way. For me, I am sad about some of the opportunities that have been taken from many. However, I am overjoyed that I get to spend more time with both of my sons, which I otherwise would not have had. I have had the opportunity to watch them both evolve into their young adult lives, and I have never been more proud.
Christopher playing baseball at the Abbey
As we return to our somewhat "regular" routine, keep in mind that we have made such progress and the future is bright. In any unexpected situation that life throws your way, remember that choosing joy isn't denying or dismissing reality. Having a positive mindset, setting expectations, and surrounding yourself with people who can see it for you and champion your success are the keys to finding happiness during difficult times as it was for Christopher. I can't help but share how proud I am of our community as we head into the new year, and oddly familiar territory as spring and the month this all began approaches.
We have grown stronger through positivity and determination from our faculty, staff, parents, and students. I look forward to the new year ahead. We will continue to push ourselves to be the best we can be with new goals and aspirations. We have already had exceptional early notifications for secondary school, and there will be more excitement to come for our graduating class and the entire FH community.
Christopher playing basketball at the Abbey
What will your resolution be? I vow to make my Peloton rides (GeeZee5 on the leaderboard) a top priority. You never regret a workout of any kind, they say! Self-care is important, so I ask you to join me in exercising, meditating, staying positive, and finding joy in all of life's moments. Let's hold each other accountable. "Believe you can, and you're halfway there!"
I look forward to our return to campus, and here's to a healthy new year!