Each of our faculty members present a topic, experience, or special memory during daily chapel twice each year. Here, Upper Division Science Teacher Tom Blodgett presents his memories of a changing New York City and his experiences abroad.
When I was young growing up in New York City, the tall structures that you see lining the south of Central Park were not there. Many of those tall, thin buildings that look almost structurally unsound, and that have changed the skyline of Manhattan, had not yet been built. The baseball fields on 86th didn’t exist, and there was not a focus on the beautification of such parks as Riverside, Morningside, and of course, Central Park, as there is today. There is more stewardship now. People have developed a greater appreciation for nature. I remember those fields before they were perfect baseball diamonds. I remember them with endearment as dusty fields where we used to play soccer.
I remember sledding in the park in certain areas that now have metal fences, that while beautiful, would make for a hard ending to any sleigh ride. When I was very little, the MetLife Building on 45th and Park was still the Pan Am building. (Pan Am was an airline by the way.) Two generations before that, there wasn’t The Empire State Building. (It was built in just over a year.) When I was younger, red tailed hawks were rare, and now, thankfully, they are quite common. These are just a few of my scattered memories of change in New York City, as least, visually speaking.
Like it or not, change is constant. You can look back wistfully at the way things were, or you can open your eyes and recognize the beauty that exists now, and the progress that has been made. How lucky are we to be in New York City, the epicenter of change. This confluence of ideas and cultures and histories, converging into this ever-changing organism that we call home.
That's a change of a structural or visual nature as it occurs around you.
But what about the change that you either impose on yourself, or that is thrust upon you?
In running in a race for example, you can face a simple change of suddenly being boxed in by other runners. Do you weave your way out of it? Or will that push you into an outside lane around the turn which will burn your energy? What are your energy reserves? If someone you are running with picks up speed, do you stay with them or hold steady at your pace and try to make up the difference later in the race if you can?
Putting yourself in new situations will force you to make decisions you haven’t had to make before. Though uncomfortable, this is like food for your brain if you can embrace it with this understanding that “working the problem,” as NASA says, is the goal, instead of getting flustered.
Yes, sometimes it feels like you are at the mercy of all this change. Yes, sometimes you feel powerless. And yet you are as much a driver of this evolution as anyone else. You have the power to either embrace challenges or run away from them. Turning and facing something you don’t want to, or even trying something new, can be scary. Believe me, I know. But it can change your life and lead you to an appreciation you may not have had before.
When I was in college, in addition to school, I played rugby in the fall, ran track in the winter, and ran track in the spring. I then decided to take a risk and try acting, working at the American Repertory Theater in Boston. While it was scary at first, it led me to such an appreciation for the tremendous work and preparation that goes into performances. These experiences can lead to a new talent you didn’t know you had.
It would be a mistake for you to find yourself thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not going to try that,” or “I’m not good at something else,” because your talents can develop and they can surprise you.
Your mind and your imagination can grow in extraordinary ways just as your body can develop in strength and coordination way beyond what you thought you were capable of.
When I had the opportunity to go New Zealand to play rugby, that felt risky too, but I learned about the Māori culture (the Māori are the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand and were there long before the first settlers from Europe arrived) and met the most hospitable, down-to-earth people you could ever imagine, as well as people from around the world, all the while taking a risk by playing the sport itself.
We shape the world around us, and the world shapes us. We feed off of each other in a constant state of change. But, the more that you are able to recognize that the challenges you embrace or the new things you try will help you to grow as a person and broaden your horizons, the richer your experience and the impact you can have on others can become. If you stretch your brain past its comfort zone, you’re opening the door to being receptive to other types of change.
So instead of training your brain to favor familiarity, train your brain to embrace the unfamiliar. Your studies offer opportunities to embrace the unfamiliar. New York City is full of many opportunities to embrace the unfamiliar, in an ever-changing landscape of people and experiences. You are an integral part of this landscape, with the power to change you and the world as much as anyone else.
Tom Blodgett has been an Upper Division Science Teacher and Coach for Cross Country since 2011. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management.
Mr. Blodgett says, "I love the different enrichment courses I have the opportunity to teach, including painting, finance, biomimicry, track, tennis, and space exploration."