Anthony Wright '22
As some of you may know, I spend most of my time at home either in my bed on Snapchat or driving in my car. After enduring arduous periods of time at Groton, I like to spend my breaks watching movies and TV shows. I know I probably should spend my time being more productive, like reading or doing SAT prep. However, there is something special about doing absolutely nothing during break that is calming to me. Breaks are the one moment where my life stops moving so quickly, and I can be fully present in the present.
So one day this summer I was doing just that, and I came across the movie Good Will Hunting. In Fifth Form, Huck [Jamison ’22] raved about how good of a movie Good Will Hunting was. So I decided to give it a try. Personally, I was a little skeptical because the title did not seem like it could be the name of a captivating movie. But after reading the overview of the movie I was reassured.
I’m sure plenty of you have watched it or heard about it. But for those of you who have never watched it, I would highly recommend you watch it. In short, the film captures the young life of a mischievous man who has the brains to study and even teach at MIT, but instead works as a janitor. Once his genius-level IQ is discovered, an MIT professor takes him under his wing to help him create a better life for himself. What really resonated with me was how much of a troublemaker Will Hunting was and, of course, the soapy love drama that was woven into the film.
Will Hunting was a young man who never had anyone who believed in him to be successful during his youth. He also never knew what emotional love felt like. Similarly, not many people have believed in me. And I too have struggled with finding and keeping emotional love. From kindergarten to sixth grade, I was bused an hour away to a wealthy suburban public school in an effort to receive a better education compared to Boston public schools. The teachers pitied me because I was just another young African American athlete to them. Thus, they had lower expectations for me compared to their expectations for my classmates. It probably didn’t help that I was sort of a menace as a kid, too. I continuously found myself in the principal’s office for being a troublemaker. Between constantly talking back to my teachers and cutting three inches off a girl’s hair because she laughed at me for spilling chocolate milk on my pants, I couldn’t keep myself from being mischievous.
During every single meeting I had with my teachers, principal, and parents, the faculty members always repeated one line to me: “Anthony, you have so much potential to be a great leader, but you cannot keep up your current behavior in order to reach your full potential.” I never really understood what they meant by this, and to be honest I always thought it was a pile of horse manure. I thought to myself: how could they think I have so much potential, but not push me to be my best self? Eventually, I became accustomed to being disruptive in class and giving half effort toward my schoolwork. I was afraid of attempting to reach this “potential” my teachers saw in me and failing.
My disruptiveness not only stemmed from my fear of failing to live up to their expectations, but also as an outlet for my problems at home. At home, I have two parents who are not married, two older half-siblings, and two older biological sisters. My parents worked a lot while I was growing up. So I never really got to see my parents, except at nighttime or on the weekends. My mom worked a full-time job while going back to school to get her undergraduate degree and two master’s degrees. My father worked two jobs, one during the day and one at nighttime. During the little time I did get to spend with my entire family, there was always so much fighting going on. Whether it was between my parents, my siblings, or both my parents and my siblings, I felt like I could never escape the sounds of shouting voices, the taste of salty tears, and the feeling of boiling rage. As the youngest, I felt isolated because there was nobody I could really talk to. My bad behavior in school turned into my outlet for all the chaos I was dealing with internally. In Good Will Hunting, Will isn’t able to reach his true potential until he meets a therapist named Sean Maguire. Sean endured similar struggles to Will during his childhood, but decided to make something of his life. Sean teaches Will to confront his past so that he can finally let himself be successful in whatever he decides to do.
Beacon Academy was my Sean Maguire. For those of you who don’t know, Beacon Academy is a small private school in Boston that allows inner-city kids to take a gap year in between eighth and ninth grade to hone their academic skills in preparation for independent schools. At Beacon, I had teachers who believed in me, teachers who pushed me, and teachers who never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself.
After getting into Groton, I finally realized that I did have it in me to succeed inside and outside the classroom. This past spring, I was elected by formmates to be one of the senior prefects. Now I say this not to flaunt this accomplishment, but merely to show how far I’ve come from being the class clown my classmates laughed at, to someone my peers respect and trust to advocate for them. To the teachers who never thought I’d be in the position I am today, I didn’t think I’d be here either. But I want to thank you for casting your doubts upon me and for holding me to a lower standard. Had you not done that, then I would have never learned about myself as a student and as a person. Without your doubts, I would not be the leader I am today. And without your low expectations, I would not have such high standards for myself.
Nipsey Hussle once said, “None of us know who we are until we fail.” As Third Form me would say, that’s big facts. It took me countless hours in the principal’s office, many bad grades, and multiple rounds of applying to independent schools for me to get here. Without these hardships, I wouldn’t be able to prove all of those teachers wrong.
From the looks of it, I’d say that Will Hunting and I are somewhat similar. However, there is one thing that I still haven’t been able to get myself to fully do. One of the most crucial things Sean teaches Will is how to open himself up to emotional love. Will comes from a life of never being able to fully reveal his identity because he is afraid of loving someone and them leaving. Well, so am I. While I did not recognize it at the time, my lack of seeing my parents created an emotional wall inside of me. I built this wall to protect me from the feeling of abandonment. This wall kept me from truly opening to anyone because I did not trust that anybody would stay in my life. Furthermore, I had this fear of growing so close to someone and loving them, but not being enough for them. Thus, I have never fully opened myself up to someone I’ve liked for the past four years. It’s been easier to just listen to their problems, and maybe, just maybe, tell them bits and pieces of what I’ve been through. So, I’ve created this habit of closing myself off to emotional connections before I get too deep. “Commitment issues” is what I call it. But now I realize that label is a misnomer because it is not so much the committing part that scares me. Instead, it is the heartbreak of realizing I am not enough for someone I care so deeply about.
As a defense mechanism, I tell myself that I will wait until I’m older to find love. But the fact of the matter is that none of us are promised tomorrow, next month, or next year. All we are promised is now, this very moment in the present. That is all we can be sure of. And so I am beginning to take on this task of allowing myself to open up to emotional love because there will never be a perfect time for me to find love and find happiness. There will always be a reason why I should wait. Will Hunting lived in the present and allowed the possibility of love to enter his realm because he never knew what tomorrow would bring. As Ellen Pompeo once said in Grey’s Anatomy, “The carousel never stops turning” in life. The sun will shine tomorrow morning whether I am happy or not, and whether I am alive or not. So it is up to me to make the most of this precious time I’m given on this earth.
I just want to say thank you to all of my friends at Groton for making me feel included at this place and for helping me out of such dark places. Thank you, Ms. Smith and Mr. Nett, for believing in me and helping me get into Groton. I will forever be indebted to you both. And most of all, thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything that you have done and sacrificed for me. I know it was not easy to raise me amidst all the things you guys had going on, so I mean it when I say I appreciate you guys. I do not blame you guys for being so busy because I know that you both just wanted my siblings and me to have a better life than you all had. I will always love you both so much.