Happy Phatak ’23 Addresses Her Classmates at Senior Night

The seniors gathered for one last time on Friday, May 12, before their Commencement the following Sunday. Following tradition, they voted for one of their own to give a speech. Happy Phatak ’23 was selected by her peers, and here are her remarks:

Good evening! My name is Happy Phatak. I am so grateful and honored to be speaking today, as this class is a class of champions, and we deserve celebration!

Tonight would not be possible without all the support from our wonderful faculty and staff. Without them responding to our late-night emails and skipping lunch periods to answer the questions we have, we wouldn’t be graduating on Sunday. They have pushed us through the highs and lows of Upper School with a smile on their face, and because of all the hard work and dedication they have put in, I think we should give them a big round of applause.

The teachers support us endlessly, and so do our classmates. One of the things I love about our class is that we show our encouragement to each other by attending class events. One of my favorites recently was the Spring Pops concert on our last day of school. As I was listening to Noah Macam sing Welcome to Wonderland, I started to think about how our school really is a wonderland. But then, then I listened to the Treble choir sing Nine to Five by Dolly Parton, and I thought, wait a minute, we have worked from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. many a night! We have definitely put in long hard hours to get us to this point right here, right now. While there may have been some dazzling elements of our MICDS journey, the effort that we have put in has prepared us to take on the next chapter of our lives. So before we head off to college, let’s look back at the steps we took to get us here and the journey we’ve already been on.

There are 20 people in the room here with me tonight who have been here together from our first day in junior kindergarten to our last day of senior year. I mean, if you think about it, some of us have been together since the dawn of time. And by that, I mean since third grade when George Herron was hit in the head so hard that the sound echoed across the playground in something we referred to as the Big Bang.

As we got older and carried on to Middle School, our class’ talents began to shine. This was apparent in school plays, the talent show, community service work, and athletics. Middle school is a crazy time in our lives, something that is true no matter where you go to school. Friend groups were constantly changing, voice cracks were getting more prominent, and braces made it hard to eat saltines in the cafeteria. We all have ridiculous stories from middle school; personally, I thought I was lost forever when the school busses left me behind on the fifth-grade field trip to the Hidden Valley Ski Resort. Thank you to Keller and her mom for rescuing me! While I may have gotten lost a few times, I did make it through our awkward years in middle school, where we rocked our side ponytails and mullets thinking we were on top of the world, but in truth, we were on top of the stage in Eliot Chapel for the spring choir performance screeching out animal noises for Mr. Roberts. No matter how crazy middle school got, we can look back and laugh or cringe at all the memories we made.

Although I realize now that middle school was actually an enjoyable experience in part because our biggest worries were filling out our moon journals in Mrs. Armstrong’s class or budgeting out our dream bedroom in math. As we journeyed through middle school to upper school, we faced COVID-19 as wide-eyed freshmen. Although, two good things came out of the pandemic. One is that I am now really good at recognizing everyone by their foreheads and ceiling fans. And the second and most important good thing was how excited everyone was to be back on campus and to be together in person again.

Getting back into the swing of walking to class instead of logging onto a new Zoom link really made me appreciate the time I had with you all. I love having impromptu conversations in passing, laughing with the person sitting next to me in class, or talking to teachers I have never talked to before. Coach Greg Foster helped me realize the importance of these interpersonal interactions during my junior year when we would talk in the library before school. His remarkable ability to connect with individuals was such an inspiration, and I now have a newfound appreciation for the little moments, thanks to the heartfelt conversations that I held with him.

Mr. Foster was the kind of person who loved community activities like the Turkey Train. Ever since Beasley, we would look up to the high schoolers who got to be part of such a cool community activity. As I was finally able to be a part of the Turkey Train, I realized that making an impact and being a good role model for the kids who look up to you is more important than how cold your hands are by the end. Similarly, being in the boat races was such a surreal experience after all those years of watching and then finally being the ones in it. The preparation process with our advisories was unexpectedly fun as we drew design sketches and researched thousands of boat-related memes for our advisory shirts. The races themselves were so spirited, and everyone jumping in afterward was such a wonderful bonding moment. I will say, as soon as we got out, I don’t think any of us have ever and will ever smell worse in our entire lives.

Over the course of our high school careers, we have not only conquered boat races, but we have also taken some challenging and interesting classes. One that I particularly enjoyed was my Modern Middle East class because I did not know a lot about the subject going in. For our end-of-semester project, part of my research was using Twitter as a research tool to read the tweets from President Erdogan, but Twitter found my research activity suspicious and I have been permanently suspended as a result.

While getting Twitter banned may have been a bit of a fail, they say that failures are dress rehearsals for successes, so I am well-dressed tonight. I certainly did not excel at everything I wanted to, did not ace every test, PR at every race, or handle every situation with perfect grace. And, honestly, sometimes when we fail, it’s hard to get back out there and do better the next time.  But what makes all the difference in the world is having this class cheering you on every step of the way. Whether they are waiting for you at the finish line, clapping the loudest in the audience of a show, or helping you study for a test, we have a class full of friends always willing to help one another out. We are a community of unique individuals; that’s what makes us so rare and different.

Some things that you guys may not know about me are that I’ve gone trekking with llamas, paraglided off a mountain, and snorkeled with sharks. Some of those moments were cool, and some were terrifying. Sometimes I would be so overwhelmed with fear that I couldn’t fully enjoy the experience; you see, I’m not always as brave as I want to be. There was one time when we went canyoning and I was standing on the top of a waterfall staring 30 feet down at a pool at the bottom of a cliff. I could either jump into the pool or use the waterfall as a slide down. I chose to slide, but once I reached the bottom, I wished I had jumped instead. Not taking that leap inspired me to take other leaps in life. There are going to be moments when you don’t have the courage to make the jump; maybe it won’t be off of a waterfall, but rather apply for a job, join a different club, or traveling somewhere new. All of the skills and confidence that we’ve gained here at MICDS will help us make those leaps.

No matter what leaps you all have taken, our class is full of all-stars; in the past four years, we’ve won nine state team titles and 16 individual titles, won art contests, released music, committed to college to further athletic careers, and so much more. Our class is spreading out to all corners of the country and beyond, off to excel in astrophysics, Japanese, biochemistry, neuroscience, theatre, criminology, and so many more fascinating things! I guess some of the cliches are true, like the phrase, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” because life is what you make of it, and I am so grateful that the Class of 2023 shared this part of our journeys together.

It is with this bittersweet moment I’d like to say congratulations, and I can’t wait to watch you guys change lives and change the world.